Raising A Board Gamer?
What was your first memory of playing board games as a child? I’m thinking before Monopoly and before Cluedo, and for me it was probably the frustration of snakes and ladders. Rolling a dice, and moving a number of spaces with zero skill and being fully at the whims of the luck of a dice, where being about to win could turn into being last just because you rolled the wrong number and that kind of game can easily cause a feeling that board games are something that are just based on pure luck.
When thinking about what games to first play with my son, I was drawn to My First Castle Panic for a number of reasons, firstly it was a co-operative game meaning we would share in victory or defeat together and secondly although there is some luck in terms of the cards and monsters drawn, I wanted a game that would help him to learn basic strategy. By choosing the right cards at the right time, together we can win and he feels a sense of accomplishment through actively participating in the game.
In My First Castle Panic, a very simplified version of Castle Panic which can be played by children 4 and up (or I think even younger if you’re willing to be patient), you will be working together to stop monsters hitting the castle and wall protecting it by taking it in turns to play cards matching the shapes and colours on the board if those spaces are occupied by a monster. Each player starts with a card and on your turn, starting with the youngest player, you draw a card and if you can play a card. A great feature of this game is that all players can ask another player to use one of their cards on their turn, encouraging cooperation and sharing from the beginning, knowing that you are all working towards the same shared goal.
If you can match a monster with one of the cards played, with colours and shapes for easy matching, then it gets thrown in the dungeon, which is designed around the insert of the box. At the end of each turn all the monsters remaining on the board move along and a new monster is drawn, some which have a few simple abilities like jumping to the front or moving all the other monsters along. Manage to clear the pile of monsters before they reach the castle and you win, have both the wall and the castle reached by the monsters and you lose. It’s simple and quick to learn and the whole game plays out in around 10-15 minutes which is great for younger children.
Luck is still present in the game, and sometimes you might just not draw the cards you need or draw a difficult monster that throws off your strategy but it usually feels manageable. What this game does so well is teach children to cooperate together to try and win, by sharing cards and thoughts about which monsters should take priority and in doing so it teaches some really basic elements of strategy.
The art is bright, cartoony and vibrant, with clear iconography and a simple one page set of rules with handy reference cards explaining the different symbols on the monsters. The 3d castle and wall on the board stand out which adds to the feeling of giving you something to protect in the game rather than just being a square on the board you are trying to stop the monsters land on. One minor criticism of the components though is that the cards feel a little thin and can be prone to being bent by small hands although the price point for the game is low and you shouldn’t be expecting thick cards at this price.
Panic At The Castle
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this as an entry point into playing games with your kids if they are young enough. My Castle First Panic may only have a shelf life of a couple of years before they move on to more complex or fulfilling games but as a starting point it is great and reflecting upon my opening to this review, it is such a huge step up from the first board games I played. I can’t imagine my son still wanting to play this once he’s 6 or 7 but for now it’s a wonderful introduction to the world of board games, teaching him the foundations of waiting for turns, cooperation and strategy and on those points this game does exactly what it sets out to do and if he enjoys it and keeps asking for another game, well that’s the best seal of approval I can give it.