Armello is a wonderful representation of what a digital board game should look, sound, and play like. From easy to learn rules to a well written and told story.
Armello is a digital board game, initially released on Steam in 2015 and recently released for Nintendo Switch back in September. It presents itself excellently as an approachable and fun experience. Unfortunately, the copy I received was not the full version, so I won’t be able to address any of the multiplayer aspects of the game.
When you first start playing Armello, the tutorial is there to help you learn the rules and how to play the game. Before you start huffing about that, understand that this is really well done. It has the player engage the rules actively through chapter. Each chapter is played from the perspective of a different character, which gives the player an opportunity to learn different play styles, as well as learn about the game world as the story advances.
The characters and story are excellent fantasy. Armello’s story is dark and tragic, while remaining a family-friendly and engaging experience. I would compare it to a Disney style of storytelling, where magic and fantasy grip the player and hold them in the game world. Throughout my time with Armello, I found myself playing, over and over again, each time with a different character to experience the game in a new light.
You can also adjust the rules of the game and create your own custom game experience. This was great for me as I played multiple times, as I said above. These options allowed me to change Armello to fit my play style, as well as hinder my play style and try for a more harsh game. These options also allow you to change certain physical features of Armello, such as changing the seasons.
For all of its strengths, Armello lacks the most in one element- balancing. While I can understand the differences in character strengths and weaknesses, I found myself in certain situations unable to complete a task entirely. For example, I needed to complete a peril in order to progress to my final quest, taking down the king. However, it was a wit (one of the ability scores in the game.) challenge. This would not have been a problem, except for the fact that it required me to roll four specific icons. This is usually a simple roll of the dice, maybe burning a few cards. However, I only ever had two dice to roll, and burning cards actually just takes one of your roll-able dice makes it the result you need. So no matter what, I could only ever have two needed results. This was frustrating as it made it impossible for me to complete the task and I ended up losing due to the time running out. This may have been intentional, but I don’t think there should ever be tasks a player simply can’t complete, especially when so close to winning. (INB4 “Butt-hurt” replies… Yes. Yes I am.)
Overall, Armello is an amazing title and compliments the Nintendo Switch very well. I think it’s an excellent addition to anyone’s library, and with a few expansions to the game, maybe some specifically for the Switch, I could see Armello becoming a must-have title for the console. I highly recommend this title to anyone who love fairy tale-like fantasy and board games with lots of story elements driving the fun.