I first played Castle Panic, the tower defense board game, many years ago. I enjoyed it well enough, but it was lighter than I had hoped and I never picked up my own copy because of that.
Now, many years later there is a new second edition of Castle Panic. There’s also a new big box edition that includes all of the previously released expansions, plus a brand new Crowns and Quests expansion. So, I figured it was time to give Castle Panic another shot.
Will the second edition updates and the new expansion content win me over? Read on to find out.
Disclosure: Thanks to Fireside Games for sending us a review copy of this big box and giving me a reason to give Castle Panic a second chance. Some links in this post will be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What you get with the Castle Panic Big Box
The entire Castle Panic series is the brainchild of designer Justin De Witt who has designed the base game and every expansion released for it. The game’s featured a number of artists over the years, with the new second edition featuring all new, brighter and more diverse artwork versus the original edition.
All versions and editions of Castle Panic have been published by Fireside Games here in North America, with this new big box coming out just last year in 2022.
Castle Panic is a cooperative, castle defense board game for one to six players. While the base game is pretty light and simple, only taking an hour or so to play, each expansion ups both the weight and the playtime of the game.
Castle Panic Big Box Second Edition includes almost everything ever published for Castle Panic over the years, in the new updated Second Edition format. This includes the base game, Castle Panic, plus The Wizard’s Tower, The Dark Titan, Engines of War and the brand new Crowns and Quests Expansion. You also get seven promo cards and six promo towers.
All of this comes in a rather large box with a well designed plastic insert which you can check out in our Castle Panic Big Box Unboxing Video on YouTube.
The component quality here is excellent and there are a lot of components in this game. It’s going to take you some time to punch it all, but using the box top as a guide you will end up with everything neat and organized and separated by expansion.
Having all of your Castle Panic stuff sorted this way makes it pretty easy to swap expansions in and out.
You also get a comprehensive rulebook with the rules for the base games and all of the expansions all in one place, as well as additional information on mixing and matching all of the stuff you get in this big box.
A look at each part of the new Castle Panic Big Box
Due to the sheer amount of stuff you get in the Castle Panic Big Box Second Edition, I’m not going to attempt to explain how to play game and each of the expansions. Instead what I going to do is give a high overview of play and a summary of what each expansion adds to the base game.
Castle Panic (The Base Game)
The core game of Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defense game where players take on the role of heroes trying to defend their castle from what sometimes feels like never ending waves of orcs, goblins, and trolls. Your castle has six towers, each protected by a single castle wall. The castle sits at the center of the board which is made up of six different arcs in three colours. In each arc there are four range rings. These colours and rings match with various castle cards that you play to damage the monsters in those rings.
The game starts off with some set monsters out, but after each player’s turn new monsters will be added from a bag of monster tiles. The players must coordinate their efforts to defeat every monster in the bag as well as any on the board. This needs to be done before the last of the castle’s towers fall.
In addition to basic hit cards the players will also be doing things like repairing damaged walls, building fortifications, pushing enemies back, etc.
The monsters have some tricks up their sleeve as well. Some of the tiles in the monster bag are events that do nasty things like advacing all monsters in a single arc , having you draw additional mobs, or having giant boulders roll across the battlefield to take out your defenses (as well as crushing any monsters along the way).
There are also four boss monsters that you will have to defeat. Each of these are extra strong and/or have additional effects when they come into play. These includes nasties like the Healer which heals all the monsters currently on the board, or the Goblin King which forces you to draw three additional monsters after you draw them.
The base game of Castle Panic is quick to set up and easy to learn. Gameplay is pretty straightforward and there is a very high level of randomness in the game. It’s a great game for kids, families, and those looking for a casual game night.
Castle Panic The Wizard’s Tower
The Wizard’s Tower is the first expansion for Castle Panic. It adds a significant amount of new stuff to the base game. You get forty nine new monster tokens, which include nineteen new monsters, eighteen imps, six harbinger tokens and six mega bosses, plus a Wizard’s tower, ten new castle cards, twenty-two Wizard Cards (which is an entirely new deck) and new player reference cards.
The Wizard’s Tower replaces one of your six starting towers. You can no longer draw Wizard Cards if this tower is destroyed during play. You normally collect Wizard Cards when discarding to draw before you action phase, or any other time you are told to draw cards. These new cards have very powerful effects, like hitting everything in one ring, repairing walls cheaply, or pushing enemies back into the forest.
You are going to need these spells to help deal with the new Mega Boss Monsters. Each game of Castle Panic using The Wizard’s Tower expansion has you randomly select three of these mega bosses. They come into play when their harbinger tokens are drawn and are represented by special tokens on the board. Each mega boss has it’s own unique rules for what it does when it activates and these include some really nasty effects.
This expansion also introduces rules for flying monsters that can only be hit by fire or archers. Fire affects both sides of the battle, with your walls and towers tumbling when they get three fire tokens on them, and enemies taking damage each turn from any fire tokens on them.
You also get some new Castle Cards, including cards that let you change the colour and range of other castle cards, a double strike that lets another card go off twice, and more.
Overall The Wizard’s Tower adds a significant amount of player options and new strategies to Castle Panic. All of these new features do slow the game down though, so expect to spend more than an hour each game when using this expansion.
I strongly recommend using this expansion if your group is full of experienced gamers.
Castle Panic The Dark Titan
The Dark Titan is a smaller expansion for Castle Panic. It includes seventeen new monster tokens, three support tokens, a new Mega Boss Monster, five new castle cards, new refence cards, a cavalier token with stand, plus tokens and cards for use with Agranok.
Agranok is the dark titan alluded to in this expansions name. He’s a new main villain that you will have to defeat. You get six different levels of difficulty to choose from when including him in your game.
When playing with this expansion, a set of herald tokens are tossed into the bag which each do nasty things when drawn. Once the third herald is drawn Agnarok enters play.
Agnarok is the toughest thing you will ever face in Castle Panic. It will take a coordinated effect to take them out.
To help the players out, this expansion also includes the cavalier and new support tokens. The cavalier enters play through a castle card and can do some fighting for you. The support tokens show up like monsters but give you a bonus once they reach the castle.
New castle cards include Barrage, which lets all players make a coordinated attack on one specific spot, and Burning Oil, which hits all monsters in a Swordsman arc. New baddies include the Dark Sorcerers and one of my favourite monsters of all of the sets — the Boom Troll!
Adding Agnarok really changes the feel of the middle part of a game of Castle Panic. It also adds some complexity and game length, but not nearly as much as The Wizard’s Tower. This expansion is great for mixing things up and adding some replayability to Castle Panic.
Castle Panic Engines of War
This expansion has a ton of new stuff. You get a new Keep Token that you put at the center of your castle as well as Catapult and Ballista tokens that go on this Keep when built. There are also various other defense tokens int his expansion, like spring traps, pits, and barricades.
You will also find thirteen new monster tokens, including three nasty siege engines, Engineer and Task Tiles to keep track of what you are building, and sixteen resource cards that are used to build these new war engines.
Players now start with resource cards in their hands and can draw and trade them like other cards. These are used to build the various new traps, barricades, and siege weapons.
The siege weapons are placed on your Keep which can be turned once each turn so that these weapons can hit multiple enemies but only in one arc.
Of course it’s not just the players who get new toys. There are two new Mega Boss Monsters, the three new enemey siege engines come packed with three orcs each, and the enemy Forward Camp means you have enemies spawning closer to the castle then ever.
Of all of the Castle Panic expansions this one adds the most new rules and player options to the game. We found using this expansion significantly increased the playtime of Castle Panic, especially when also combined with The Wizard’s Tower.
Castle Panic Crowns & Quests
Crowns & Quests is the first all new expansion released for the second edition of Castle Panic. While it does come in the Big Box you can also pick it up separately.
This expansion really changes up Castle Panic, almost to the point of being a totally new game, though it can also be used to add some asymmetry to the base game and its expansions.
Things you get with this expansion include; twelve character cards, eleven standard quest cards, seven end game quest cards, six new order of play cards, seven Apocalypse Stones, six Outposts, six Portals, six success/fail tokens, six tower indicators, six Vulark’s Blast tokens, three Evacuees, one Ambassador, a flag token, a power token, an obelisk token, on obelisk board, a scout token, three scroll tokens, a tracker token and a bunch of stands.
The first thing that this expansion adds is optional asymmetry. This comes from the twelve Character cards. At the start of the game players are dealt two each and pick which character card to use. They also get to pick which of the six towers their character lives in. If that tower is destroyed the character has to move to another empty tower, if there aren’t any empty towers then that character is lost and you can’t use their abilities anymore.
This part of Crowns and Quests can be combined with any of the other Castle Panic expansions. Though it is suggested that you use some of the optional More Panic rules along with these characters, as they do make things easier for the players.
The much bigger and more impressive part of this expansion is the whole quests thing. When using the Quests from Crowns and Quests, instead of having to destroy all of the monsters on the board and in the bag in order to win your game of Castle Panic, you instead have to complete two quests. One standard quest and one endgame quest.
Each of these quests is represented by a large card containing all of the rules you need for that quest. This includes changes to set up, what monsters go in the bag, victory conditions, and more.
For example, one standard quest we completed had us start the game with six ogres surrounding the castle. While they were on the board no other monsters were drawn, we just had to take them out to complete the quest. Another quest features the Apocalypse stones which slowly advance on the castle with Monsters spawning from these stones instead of in the forest as usual.
Most of the final quests, on the other hand, are less about fighting monsters. They tend to have the players cooperating and contributing resources in the form of cards to do things. For example one final quest we faced had us committing troops to close up the caves where the monsters were coming from. Another endgame quest had us building outposts at the edge of each arc and only when the castle was surrounded by outposts did we win.
While there is a lot of new stuff in this expansion, the actual rules for each quest are pretty stright forward. The new abilities are clear and easy to understand and, except for a bit of sorting in order to find the right tokens for each quest, this is probably the easiest expansion to add to Castle Panic.
In addition to all of these expansions you also get a set of promo towers that you can swap out for your regular towers and some new cards that you can toss into your castle deck.
Using either of these is optional, but all of the promo abilities do help the players out. Be careful to not make things too easy on yourself!
If you do choose to use some promos I suggest you also use one or more of the More Panic rules to help balance things out a bit.
How did my return to Castle Panic go?
My first game of Castle Panic was so long ago that I don’t even remember exactly when it was. I know it took place at Hugin & Munin, which is a local game store that has been closed for many years.
I remember my impression of the game being pretty positive, but feeling that I didn’t need to own it. I remember it being lighter than what I usually like in a game and very random. I felt like luck played as much a role as our decisions did. So I never picked it up.
Over the years I had heard that the various expansions for Castle Panic added decision space for the players, reduced some of the luck involved, and in general, made the game more appealing to hobby gamers.
Now here we are, several years later, with a new version of Castle Panic. Not just that but a new Big Box edition with all of the previous expansions and even a brand new expansion that adds my favourite thing to the game, asymmetry.
So did this new version of Castle Panic win me over?
I gave it a good shot, playing the game and each of the expansions multiple times to try to get the full experience. I even managed to play it with a few different groups of players. In the end, while some of my original feelings remain, I was won over.
Starting with just Castle Panic and no expansions pretty much matched my memories of the game.
However, I appreciate the new, more inclusive, higher action and higher contrast artwork. I also like the inclusion of more variants to adjust the difficulty, improvements in solo play, and the slightly clearer rulebook.
When we get to gameplay, things still feel far too random for me. Too often you feel like you lost the game solely because of a bad pull or card draw and not because of anything the players did or didn’t do. I’ve also had games where we felt like we played terribly but still won.
I don’t have a lot of interest in playing Castle Panic with just the base game rules again. That’s just me though. I still think Castle Panic stands up as a great game for younger kids, for family game nights with kids, and for very casual beer and pretzel game nights.
Once I added The Wizard’s Tower to my games of Castle Panic I became much more impressed. This expansion gave me some of the meat I felt was missing from the original.
Having more choices each turn and more cards that interacted with the other players gave me the feeling of control that I felt was missing from the original.
While the game is still highly random and you can still lose due to a series of bad rolls, pulls, or draws, that now feels more like a feature than a flaw. The new monsters also added a lot more variety to the game which made it more interesting and less repetitive.
All of these increased options does come at the expense of time. Once you toss in The Wizard’s Tower you are no longer looking at a nice quick, light, one hour filler game.
With The Wizard’s Tower, Castle Panic becomes less kid friendly both in complexity as well as playtime. I feel it is better though for families with older kids, those with more time to play, and experienced gamers.
For me and the people I usually play with, this is the “must use” expansion for Castle Panic, which I usually include even when using other expansions.
The Dark Titan expansion for Castle Panic, I can take or leave. While I love the new support tokens (I like that you can pull something good from the monster bag) and I loved some of the new enemy tiles, the whole Agranok big boss fight part just didn’t quite work for me.
However I do appreciate what they have done so the boss doesn’t show up too early and I love that you get six different difficulty levels to choose from. That part is great for replayability.
After playing with all of the expansions, when we now sit down to play Castle Panic and we are trying to decide what to use and what to leave in the box, The Dark Titan usually stays in the box.
A part of this is that when combined with The Wizard’s Tower it just feels like a bit too much variety. It often feels like every monster you pull from the bag has its own special rules and there’s a lot more to potentially forget about and mess up while playing.
I think The Dark Titan expansion works best on its own as something you can add to base Castle Panic to make it more epic and add variability to the game.
Next we come to Engines of War, which I was worried was going to be too much. I was starting to feel that while each expansion was adding more complexity and player agency to Castle Panic, I was worried that tossing in anther one was just going to make it feel bloated.
I was surprised when we added Engines of War that this didn’t actually happen. While Engines of War adds a lot of new things to the game, something about those additions just felt like they belonged. Everything flowed well with the rest of the game.
As someone who does enjoy heavier resource management games, my favourite part of Engines of War was the saving up resources to build various defenses. This aspect alone really made it feel like your decisions and contributions made a lasting impact on the game.
While everything here does work well together, and it didn’t bloat the game like I feared it might, this is still one expansion too many for your average family game night. There are now resources to keep track off, all kinds of new ways to damage and deter the enemies, and those enemies now act in different ways due to things like siege engines and encampments on their side.
Castle Panic with Engines of War requires more focus. It’s much less of a beer and pretzels style game. It’s longer and more engaging, which appeals to gamers like my wife and I, but it may start to feel more like work than fun to some groups.
That leaves Castle Panic Crowns and Quests which really does change up the entire feel of the game. At this point in my rediscovery of Castle Panic and exploring it’s expansions, I really felt that we had moved quite far away from the tone and feel of the original. This is for better or for worse depending in what you want from a game on game night.
Playing Castle Panic with Crowns and Quests felt like a trip back to the beginning, full circle back to where we started. As we added each expansion to the base game, we moved from a family friendly, quick light game, to a longer, more focused, more player skill based experience. Playing Crowns and Quests felt like returning to the original Castle Panic, but an improved version of it.
Crows and Quests returns to the shorter, more frantic, gameplay of the original Castle Panic experience but also adds in a lot more player agency. To win a game of Castle Panic with Crowns and Quests requires more cooperation between players than ever before.
In addition, the scenarios are designed to remove some of the randomness of the base game. Every quest seems very beatable, though not in any way easy. The variety of quests also adds a huge amount of replayability to the game.
Then there’s the promo content, the new towers and additional Castle cards. To me these are all nice to have but not really needed. There are some cards we like that we just tossed in the deck and others we leave in the box.
We found the promo towers are great for when you are finding the game just a bit too hard and will often include them in a second game of the night after we lose the first.
One thing that hasn’t come up yet, that I do think needs to be noted, is that you can freely mix and match these expansions. Especially the first three. Crowns and Quests specifically notes that it should only be combined with any one other expansion but you can just mix them all together.
When doing this though you are going to have to spend some time setting things up. There are two pages of charts in the Castle Panic Big Box rulebook that let you know things like what monster tokens to include in ever possible expansion combination, the starting hand size and number of cards you can pass, what monsters start out on the board, etc.
The box insert is good for keeping the expansions separated, but it can still be a pain to split everything up at the end of the game. What I suggest is putting the game set up for whatever expansion combination you plan to play next. Just leave the proper monster tokens in the bag and sort the rest of the stuff appropriately.
After playing everything in The Castle Panic Big Box in a variety of combinations, I now have my box set up with The Wizard’s Tower Expansion ready to go.
For our usual game night I will grab that out of the box, give everyone characters from Crowns and Quests, and then decide what we want to do next.
Sometimes we just play with that set up. Other times we draw some quests and play that way. Less often we will instead grab Engines of War for a more strategic game night.
One of the best things about this box is this ability to mix and match. Due to the way each expansion brings different things to the table, the game can be adjusted to best fit the people you are playing with.
Overall, this is a fantastic box for Castle Panic fans. I think it’s well worth picking up if you’ve played and enjoyed Castle Panic but don’t own it yet. This is a great way to get everything all at once. While it may be expensive there’s a lot of stuff here to make up for that cost.
This is also a great way for someone who has some or part of the first edition of Castle Panic to upgrade their collection. Donate that old copy to a school, youth center, or library, and pick this one up. You get the improved graphic design and artwork, better quality cards, and at least one new to you expansion with Crowns and Quests.
Due to the price of The Castle Panic Big Box, I wouldn’t recommend anyone picking it up unless they have already tried the game. This isn’t a box you should pick up just to give the game a first shot. That said, if you do give the game a try before hand, if you can, make sure to go beyond just playing the base game and try an expansion or two as well.
One thing I haven’t done with my copy of The Castle Panic Big Box is to put it all together and try every expansion mixed in. It’s not recommended by the designer but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.
The other thing I’m tempted to try is to toss out all of the recommended card and monster token mixes and instead just take all of the castle cards from all of the sets and mix them together and then take all of the monsters tokens and use all of them too.
If you have tried either of these things I would love to hear how it went! Tell me all about it in the comments below.
- A COMPLETE ALL-IN-ONE COLLECTION: Castle Panic Big Box includes the base game (Castle Panic), 4 expansions (The Wizard’s Tower, The Dark Titan, Engines of War, and Crowns and Quests), and 13 promo items in the new 2nd Edition art style