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Tips for Playing Castle Panic, a Tower Defense Game

I love board games and card games, particularly ones that allow cooperative or solo gameplay.

Defeat monsters in this fun tower defense game

Learning a new board game can be difficult, especially if you don't have any seasoned players in your group. There are so many rules to remember, and the instructions rarely give you the tips you need to win consistently.

While I learned Castle Panic by watching Wil Wheaton's TableTop, I felt like they didn't cover much strategy. I've been playing this game using the solo rules for over a year and I've only lost once. So here are my tips so you can play Castle Panic like a pro!

(Note: these tips are for playing the base game, not the Wizard's Tower expansion.)

The game

The game

Set-up tips

Before you start to play...

  • The instructions say to stack the monster tokens, but that's not such a good idea. Always use a cup or other container that allows you to mix the pieces up thoroughly. You don't want to get Draw 4 Monsters followed by Draw 3 Monsters two games in a row! (It may sound far-fetched, but it actually happened to me. It was NOT fun.) On TableTop, they used a big coffee mug; I use an old margarine container.

  • When you're positioning the first set of monsters, always divide them up so that you have one goblin in each color block (red, blue, green) and one troll or orc in each color. That way, the harder monsters are spread evenly and you won't have more than one in any color. The last thing you want is a troll AND an orc in the same color if you don't draw any defense cards for that region. (This tip is more critical if you play solo or with two players; the more players you have, the more likely that someone will have a card you need.)

Playing tips

  • When it's your turn, the first thing to do is decide if to trade a card with another player or discard and draw a new one from the deck. I usually do both, because it's rare that I can use every card in my hand. Trading is the more valuable option since there's less risk: you can see what the other players have and judge whether any of those cards are useful against the monsters on the board. Discarding is chancy, since you have no idea what you'll get, but I still recommend you try it if you're holding a card that's of no use on your current turn -- especially if you've got a troll or a boss that's threatening a wall or castle. There are some cards (brick, mortar, missing) that are worth holding until the right opportunity, but don't be afraid to discard them if your defensive needs are urgent!

  • When you're ready to play your cards, start with the ones that can only be played a single way – for instance, a red archer when there's only one monster in that ring. Once you've got the obvious pairings of monsters and cards out of the way, it's easier to look at what's left and decide how to play the cards that could be used against more than one target.
  • This may seem obvious, but you aren't limited to playing one card per monster. (For instance, you can hit a single troll with two archers and a hero to wipe it out.) If you have a troll or a boss getting near a wall (or worse, an unprotected tower), use any card you can on that monster first! Monsters are very hard to kill once they get into the tower ring, so you want to be sure to stop the toughest ones early.

  • On a related note, don't pass on damaging a big monster in the knight ring because you plan to hit it in the next round. I've had the bad luck of doing that in order to eliminate a smaller monster and then drawing a "monsters move" token that caused the troll to move an extra time -- thus losing me a wall and then a tower.
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A close-up of the game board

A close-up of the game board

Trick the deck tips

  • I give Wil Wheaton full credit for this tip, since I learned it from Tabletop. If you have both Draw 2 Cards and Scavenge in your hand, you can play Draw 2 Cards and follow up by playing Scavenge -- only you scavenge Draw 2 Cards from the discard deck, allowing you to play it again and draw another two extra cards. This is a great way to beef up your hand in a pinch!

  • When might you want to hold rather than play Draw 2 Cards? Before you give in to the instinct to use this card, consider your hand. Do you have enough ammunition to defeat the current crop of monsters on the board, or can you at least neutralize the immediate threats? If so, you might do better to hold that card for the moment. Here's an example. On the board: Orc in Green Knight ring and Goblin in Blue Swordsman ring. I have a blue Hero in my hand that will defeat the Goblin. I also have a Green Knight and Green Hero, which will kill the Orc. So I'm playing three cards this turn and will be able to replenish those cards. If I play Draw Two now, I'll get two extra cards, but then I won't draw as many to replenish my hand. Since I don't need extra cards immediately, I'm better off holding the Draw 2 for a later round.

  • When the deck runs out, don't shuffle until you're ready to draw a new card. That way, any cards you play up to that point will end up in the re-shuffled deck and therefore be available to draw again. While that advantage may seem trivial, it's very important for certain rare cards like Draw 2, Scavenge, Fortify, and Drive Him Back – you want to maximize the odds of getting those cards another time.

Castle Panic on Wil Wheaton's Tabletop

Still feeling unsure about your playing ability? Watch Wil Wheaton and friends play a round on Tabletop!

© 2014 C A Chancellor

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