What is this game about?
Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defense game in which you (and possibly some friends) work together to battle evil monsters who are trying to destroy your castle. The premise is simple: Destroy all monsters in the onslaught and win, or fail to protect your castle and lose every tower. Every turn, random monsters are drawn from a cup/bag. Some are run-of-the-mill goblins and orcs, but others are more challenging boss monsters with special effects. It is also possible to draw special events that add a little spice to the proceedings.
To battle the monsters, you deploy castle cards from your hand. You can discard (or trade) and replace limited numbers of cards to battle the monsters more effectively. You can also work together to rebuild your castle walls and fortify your defenses.
While the base game is fairly vanilla, there are several expansions that make Castle Panic more interesting and challenging. I personally feel that The Wizard's Tower is a must-own—it adds harder monsters, but also fun magical spell cards and the possibility of fire damage to both yourself and your enemies. For added spice, you can try The Dark Titan, which adds even more difficult enemies but also a cavalier to help you, and Engines of War, which adds in some sweet catapult action.
How does it play solo?
Castle Panic explicitly caters to solo players and has built-in solo rules. It plays very smoothly as a solo game, without the player having to control multiple hands of cards.
Castle Panic is not necessarily a game that experienced gamers will favor for solo play. The base game quickly becomes easy to beat, although there are some ways to handicap yourself and make it more difficult. That said, I very much enjoyed Castle Panic when I wrote about it in 2016, and I still enjoy it. The expansions, especially Wizard's Tower, add some fun and variety that truly improve on the base game. If you mix in several expansions with brutal monsters, you can really ramp up the difficulty.
I wouldn't say that Castle Panic is a go-to solo game for me, especially not at this point—my tastes are continuing to evolve as I spend more years in our hobby. It is, however, a permanent part of my collection. I still pull it out sometimes as a "comfort game" when I want to unwind. And most importantly, it's a great game to introduce to newer gamers. I have played it with friends who are new to the hobby and with endless numbers of students, and it's a hit every time. I also highly recommend Castle Panic as an entry-level game for solo players. It can be made sufficiently challenging to grow with you a while after you have mastered the base game, and it's very easy to learn or even to teach yourself. Castle Panic has an extremely clear and well-illustrated rulebook, which makes it accessible to gamers in general and to new soloists in particular.
Do I recommend it?
If you are looking for an entry level solo game or a game that can be enjoyed both solo and with your family, then Castle Panic is a very good choice. Just make sure to pick up at least the Wizard's Tower expansion. Once you add that one in, you won't want to play without it.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars — I love it.
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.