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Reviews - The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle
by Allan Sugarbaker

Storming the Castle gameThe Princess Bride: Storming the Castle
Published by Playroom Entertainment/Toy Vault
Game design by Aaron Watson
54 Path tiles, 54 Tactic cards, 1 Castle tile, & 4 character tokens

This review has previously appeared at Game Cryer, where I serve as editor. I have made slight revisions to this version.

The Princess Bride is one of the few movies that holds a special place in the hearts of gamers. Toy Vault and Playroom Entertainment know this, so they created The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle card game. In this game, players assume control of one of four characters from the film and race to negotiate a difficult, sometimes shifting or expanding path of locations from the story. At the end of each player's path is the Castle, and the first to enter it is the winner.

Largely an exceptions-based game, Storming the Castle won't expand your gaming horizons, but fans of the movie will enjoy the well-presented trip down memory lane. The game is straightforward, the rulebook is clear, and player interaction is at a reasonable level. This quick-playing licensed game could benefit from a wider variety of cards, but still manages to be an amusing game to bring out between other, more involved titles.

Getting started
The game sets up easily - without looking at them, 2-4 players each draw a number of Path Tile cards that varies according to the number of participants. Path Tiles are game cards of settings from the movie that each player must journey through in a race to the Castle. The Castle Tile is placed, and each player then reveals and places his Path Tiles one at a time, starting at the Castle and working back. Each player ends up with a path of cards showing scenes from the movie. Once placed, the order of the Path Tiles cannot be changed, except through the use of another card.

Players then each take five Tactic cards, which provide either Equipment or Action cards, and a token of one of the characters from the movie. Before each new turn, any player can discard and replace Tactic cards before starting the turn. These cards are essential for both moving along the Path Tiles and for slowing down opponents.

Each player gets three actions per turn, which can be any combination of the following:

  • Play an Action Card
  • Move a space along their Path
  • Draw a Tactic card, then discard one card

All but two types of Path Tiles have requirements a player must meet before entering the tile. These requirements are listed at the top of the Path Tiles, under the name of the tile. For example, "The Pit of Despair" Path Tile lists its entry requirement as "Noble Cause", an Equipment card that must be discarded (a free action) in order to enter. In general, these entry requirements make sense - the "Cliffs of Insanity" require either the "Climbing Gear" or "Rope" Equipment cards; "Miracle Max's" requires either the "Noble Cause" or "65 Silver". Using the required cards, players can move along their respective Path Tiles and approach the Castle.

To win, a player must successfully enter the Castle before anyone else. The Castle doesn't require any cards to enter, but entering can only be achieved as the first action of a player's turn. That is, unless the player uses a "Four White Horses" card, which will move the player to the next space while ignoring entry requirements. Ah, exceptions.

Players would do well to advance along their Path Tiles when they can. A number of Action cards can derail progress toward the Castle, either by sending character tokens back a few tiles, making the player skip a turn, adding entry requirements, or stealing cards. A particularly nasty card is "Shrieking Eels": if a character token is currently on "The Florin Sea" Path Tile, "Shrieking Eels" allows you to add two extra Path Tiles alongside it, which the character must complete before continuing.

While the cards depict full-color still shots from the film on high quality, glossy stock, there's heavy repetition of card types. There are only ten types of Path Tiles, all but insuring each player's path will have duplicate locations. This is a shame - dozens more locations could be plucked from the film's rich plotline, engaging our gamer nostalgia more thoroughly.

"I do not think it means what you think it means."
The rules, a mere four pages, are brief and easy to understand. In fact, the method of play is described in the first two pages, while the rest of the rules text is given over to rulings on specific card situations. This may seem like a warning sign to seasoned gamers - games that spend most of their rules telling you the exceptions often have clunky or broken rules. Fortunately, nearly all rules exceptions are printed on the cards in question as well.

In a few instances, the game's exceptions are exceptionally convoluted. The "Dagger" Equipment card can be used to enter a "Cliff Top" Path Tile without needing to discard it. A "Dagger" card also lets players skip the next Path Tile when leaving a "Cliff Top", but in that case it must be discarded - unless the space being moved to is another "Cliff Top". For the few unusual scenarios like this one, confused players will be happy to note that the rules have things covered. Oddly, a lowly Dagger is one of the best items in the game, which explains why there are only two of them.

A few questions come to mind after playing. Why no "Inconceivable!" card? No "Brute Squad" or "I am not left handed" card? No "Dread Pirate Roberts has come for your souls!" card, or at least a Holocaust Cloak? Why weren't these ideas listed among the game's assets? It's hard to say. If this game were successful enough, an expansion detailing other movie events, including events that happened inside the castle, could be published. Then the famous lines from the movie could be included, to the delight of avid film buffs.

Actually, The Princess Bride begs to be made into a full Talisman-style board game. Buying special gear at Miracle Max's place, engaging in sword fights and wrestling giant brutes - it would all work well in a board game setting. But that's a separate rant for another time.

Overall, The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle is a fast-paced, light strategy game with a heavy dose of luck and plenty of gorgeous movie stills to peruse. Kids can easily jump into this game with minimal adult assistance. In an all-adult session, some friendly sabotage can turn this fanciful race into a competitive grudge match, provoking bold declarations of "To the pain!" or "As you wish", and threats of poisoning with iocane powder. While not a deeply strategic game, Storming the Castle is still an amusing quest to pull out once in a while.


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