These days, I don’t have a lot of time for gaming. With two very young kids and a new job, I’m usually just wanting to watch the same show over and over again each night. (That show, if you’re interested, is Taskmaster. You should check it out.)
I do still get the chance to join in our monthly community board gaming sessions, and that’s been great. But even more exciting has been my daughter’s growing interest in playing games together. Over the past year or so, she has grown tremendously in her ability to listen to rules and follow them, with only a few adjustments to tilt the rules in her favor. Yeah, we’re still working on our skills with handling disappointment.
Starting Them Early
For her 4th birthday last month, I got her a few new games for us to play together. One was a variant of Pretty, Pretty Princess, and that has been quite popular, but mostly just for taking the jewelry and making daddy wear it around the house.
But another title that she has enjoyed is My First Castle Panic, a game published by Fireside Games in 2019. Taking a more light-hearted spoon to the tower defense game, it was my hope that this could be a good progression from some of the HABA Games we’ve been playing together. After a few games together, I’ll say that although it’s not perfect, I’m still happy it’s in our growing collection of games for younger players.
Cute Little Ravagers
In MFCP, you are working as a team to command a few pint-sized warriors. Your goal is to take out the monsters that are headed on the path toward your castle. If you fail to take them out, they’ll destroy your wall, then the castle itself.
Play works simply. On your turn, you draw a card, then play a card. Each card you draw features a warrior plus some shapes in various colors. If you want to take our enemies, you must play a card that features the shape on the space where they stand.
We’re All in This Together
This could be challenging, especially since I never had more than just a few cards. Fortunately, you’re all working together, and everyone keeps their cards faceup. If your think it would be better to use a teammate’s card, go for it.
Playing a card removes a monster from the board, then they all move up and a new monster is added. Some monsters have special abilities, like moving the rest of the line forward one space. Others can jump to the front of the line, quickly causing some panic as they might be unexpectedly near your castle wall. Play continues until your castle is destroyed (ya lose) or you take out all the bad guys (ya win).
This Is a Perfect Time to (Castle) Panic!
Many elements of MFCP work really well with the demographic for whom the game is intended. My daughter really likes the artwork on the cards and monster tiles. The rules are the same for every turn, so she knows what to do.
My favorite aspect of the game is that everyone plays with their cards faceup on the table. This allows you to work together without all the hassle of having to keep some information secret. My daughter loved when she could use my cards instead of her own to take out a baddie.
There’s also some nice variety in the game so that it’s predictable from session to session, but still not exactly the same. You never know when the three bad guys are doing to show up with the special powers, so there’s always a little excitement as you place out the next enemy.
This Is No Time to Panic
Unfortunately, this randomness also leads to the game’s biggest shortcoming. This game can be quite tough, but it’s because it’s based so much on the luck of the draw. You’re only able to take our one monster reach turn, so I’m certain cases, the board can quickly get a little crowded. You also start the game with just one card and then start to draw, so sometimes early in the game, you can’t take anyone out.
If you try to plan your turns, you can sometimes make sure you’re holding the enemy back. Other times, though, some bad enemy draws (especially if you have to draw multiple in the same turn), can throw everything off and quickly lead to game over.
In the sessions we’ve played, we’ve either been very lucky with some card draws, or I had to cheat a little to make sure the right card came up so the game could keep going.
I understand it’s a kid’s game and luck is usually part of that, but I think this needs a little more balance. In First Orchard, when we lose, it’s really close. Here, you could lose before your defeat half of the enemies. You never want a game to feel unfair when you’re playing with younger kids, and at times, that’s what you get with this game.
Maybe some house rules, like everyone starting with one of the special boot cards (which allow you to remove anyone from the board and put them back into the bad guy stack) could help provide more strategy and prevent the awful luck that can plague games like this.
Have Fun Storming the Castle!
Now I will say that my daughter has enjoyed our playtime with this one. She loves throwing defeated bad guys into the dungeon, and she is always excited to use the girl warriors. She likes that she knows what each bad guy does based on the symbols on their tiles.
And yes, I can keep making house rules as long as I need to so that we have fun. But really, I just wish the developers had spent a little more time fine tuning everything so that luck couldn’t be as devastating as it occasionally can be.
But for now, this one will stay on the shelf, and we’ll likely bust it out every couple of weeks. And even if it may not be designed quite how I would like, it’s still a great entry point game for my daughter. We’re playing games together, and that’s really what matters to me.
- Fun art style
- Easy to understand rules
- Predictable gameplay
- Good cooperation
- My daughter loves it
- Too random at times
- Can end too quickly because of the randomness