Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower Expansion Review

People complained that Castle Panic was too easy.... the designers listened - and they came up with Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower. (In this review, I will assume you are already familiar with Castle Panic. If you are not, I recommend reading about it first (the link was to my review of it), as I will be focusing more on the new elements that the Wizard's Tower introduces, and not rehashing the basic game.)

Going from Castle Panic to the Wizard's Tower is (in video game terms) like going from the "Normal" difficulty setting to the "So Insanely Difficult That You Won't Win Unless You Never Do Anything But Play This Game" difficulty (I think Halo had these difficulty settings - though they called the second one something else.. "Legendary" maybe?). Basically, you take the basic game of Castle Panic and you add a lot of nasty monsters. Plus, you remove some of the standard, "easier", tokens and replace them with more monsters. Oh, and on top of all of that, you have "mega" monsters (which are insane - like the Hydra that for each point of damage you deal to him causes two Imps to show up in the Forest). Fortunately, you have been smart enough to employ a wizard (do not let him die!), and so he is helping you in your fight. Basically, the big differences to the gameplay are that 1) there are a ton of big, nasty monsters, 2) there is a wizard deck that you can draw from when performing a discard and draw action, 3) things can catch on fire. Since I've covered the first two, I'll briefly mention fire. If a monster is caught on fire, then he takes a point of damage at the end of each movement phase. If your structures catch on fire three times, they are destroyed. Also, when on fire, structures do not damage monsters that attack them - though they do catch those monsters on fire.

The first new element of the Wizard's Tower are the new monsters. I like the new monsters - I think that they add quite a bit of variety to the game (though it can be annoying to have to look up what they do on your cheat sheet every time one comes out in your first few games). There are monsters that are immune to damage in certain rings, but can be killed by one hit in other rings. Other monsters can climb your walls, move two spaces at a time, bring out imps, have four damage, and several other things. Also, the Wizard's Tower introduces the "mega" monsters. These monsters are the Superman of monsters - and the game would be harder, even if they weren't included! Each game that you play, you randomly pick 3 of the 6 mega monster tokens (using their "harbinger" tokens, which have the standard triangular shape so that you will still pull tokens randomly from the new monster bag). All of these "mega" monsters have more than three hit points, but they also have some extra abilities - some of which are especially powerful, like the Hydra (mentioned earlier) and the Basilisk, which prevents you from being able to perform the "discard and draw" phase of your turn.

The wizard's tower and mega monsters
The second new element of the Wizard's Tower is... the wizard's tower. One of your standard towers is replaced with your fancy new wizard's tower, and as long as it is not destroyed, you can draw cards from the wizard deck when you perform the "discard and draw" action. These cards are crucial, and without them, you would have no chance in the game. These can allow you to rebuild towers, hit every monster in a single space for one damage (very useful if you just killed a Hydra and it spawned 8 Imps), prevent monsters from moving for a turn, and many other things. I think that this is a neat element, and the wizard fits thematically. However, I'm not sure if I prefer the separate deck, or if I would have preferred the new cards to simply be added to the standard castle deck. (As a note, there are also a few cards that are added to the castle deck - mine were just barely larger than the original castle cards so that they didn't shuffle especially well. This was probably my biggest complaint with the entire expansion.) Overall, I don't think that it takes anything away by having separate decks - and it forces you to protect your wizard's tower more than the other towers, so it probably is better to be a separate deck.

My only victory - it was close!
Finally, there is fire. I have played several games, and I have only ever seen one structure be destroyed by fire. However, I have seen several monsters be heavily damaged by it. I guess it wouldn't make much sense to have the monsters affected but not the castle itself (unless it was "poison" instead of fire). However, in my experience it feels like adding the fire to the castle seems a bit like busy work, since you probably won't lose your structures to flames. Fire is a helpful thing for slowly killing large monsters, though. Also, fire is a way of allowing the dragon to make more sense - he doesn't directly attack your castle, but he breathes fire on it. In summary, I like that you can slowly deal damage to monsters, but I think that fire is fiddly on the castle structures.

Overall, I give the Wizard's Tower expansion an 8.5/10. (Oh, yeah, I really have no idea how to score expansions.) I gave Castle Panic an 8.0, but now that I've played with the Wizard's Tower, I don't think that I'd ever want to go back and play the basic game without it - which I guess is really the trademark of a great expansion!

While we're talking about expansions, some other expansions that you might want to read about are Thunderstone's Wrath of the Elements Expansion, Nightfall's Martial Law Expansion, and Lord of the Rings: The Card Game's Shadows of Mirkwood Expansions.

Finally, I would like to brag... I have defeated the Wizard's Tower expansion... once.  And, more finally (and for my amusement), here are some other ways you could describe the difficulty of the Wizard's Tower expansion:

"Like Trying to See Through a Blindfold While Being in the Forehead with a Taser"
"Like Trying to Defeat Superman in an Arm Wrestling Contest while using a Prosthetic Arm"
"Watch me Die!" (this was an actual difficulty setting in Doom 64)
"Like Trying to Make an NFL Team as a Freshman in High School"
"Playing Call of Duty on XBox Live"
"Beating Tiger Woods in Golf Using Nothing but a Putter"
"Hitting Off of Nolan Ryan While Standing ON Home Plate"

I would like to thank Fireside Games for providing me with a review copy of Castle Panic: The Wizard's Tower expansion.

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