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[Review] Camelot

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  • Tom Vasel
    Absolute chaos. A descent into unbridled madness. Anarchy in a board game form. I think that Tom Jolly s Camelot (Wingnut Games, 2005 - Tom Jolly) could
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2005
      Absolute chaos. A descent into unbridled madness. Anarchy in a board
      game form. I think that Tom Jolly's Camelot (Wingnut Games, 2005 -
      Tom Jolly) could easily fit any of those descriptions. Our first game
      was a madhouse, and subsequent games were no different. Camelot has
      made some news since the main mechanic of the game, the "Lightning
      System", was patented - something odd for a board game mechanic. Was
      the patent warranted, and the game any good?

      Opinions are going to vary widely on the game. Some of the players
      absolutely hated the speed and chaos of the game. Others, including
      myself, reveled in it and had a blast! Either way, the Lightning
      system, which I found quite innovative, certainly prevents downtime,
      as players struggle to play the game as fast as they can. I found the
      insanity full of merriment, but it's certain that Camelot is not for
      everyone. Still, if you have someone who is afflicted with "analysis
      paralysis" (takes forever to do their turn), then Camelot is a lot of
      fun to introduce them to!

      The theme of the game is based on the fact that there were many
      "Arthurs" in the days of ancient England, and each player uses their
      "Merlins" and others to try to get their "Arthur" to claim Excalibur.
      A mapboard is placed in the middle of the table, depicting a hex grid
      of England, complete with stone, forest, and water hexes. An
      Excalibur token is placed on a hex near the middle of the board, and
      each player takes fifteen adventurer pieces (five Arthurs, four
      Galahads, four Lancelots, one Merlin, and one Morgan) as well as four
      other tokens (teleport, fireball, death touch, and entry hex) in their
      color. Players place their pieces face up in front of themselves, and
      two players are randomly determined to get one each of the two "Turn"
      tokens. Players, in turn order (starting with a high roller), place
      their entry hex somewhere on the board - on the edge and at least five
      spaces away from another player, and the game is ready to go.

      The way the "Lightning" system works is thus: When a player has a
      turn token in front of them, they take their turn. After finishing,
      they pass the turn token to the next player on their left who does not
      already have a turn token. Therefore, if a player takes a long time
      on their turn, the other turn token can pass right by them, and they
      lose turns as a result! On a player's turn, they simply place and/or
      move two units on the board, starting from the entry hex. Each
      character has different attack, defense, and move values:
      - Arthur: Move 2, Attack 1, Defend 1, Range 1
      - Lancelot: Move 1, Attack 2, Defend 2, Range 1, Sweeping blow
      - Galahad: Move 1, Attack 1, Defend 1, Range 3
      - Merlin: Move 1, Attack 1, Defend 1, Range 3, Teleport, Fireball
      - Morgan: Move 1, Attack 1, Defend 2, Range 2, Death Touch, Resurrection
      Players may move but not through water, rocks, or trees. If a piece
      is next to an opponent's piece, they may not move away unless both
      players agree to disengage. Players may not move through other
      pieces, even their own.

      Players may declare attack, but must do so before they move. They
      can declare as many attacks as they wish, as long as the attack is
      possible. For an attack to succeed, a player must be able to EXCEED
      the defending player's defense number with one or more pieces. Ranged
      units are blocked by trees and rock, but not water. If the attack
      succeeds (everything freezes for a moment to check), then the defender
      dies and is removed from the game (not permanently, if Arthur). If
      the attack does not succeed - because of some oversight by the
      attacker, then one of the attacking pieces is killed. Each unit can
      only attack once per turn (except Lancelot, who can attack all
      adjacent units with one attack, rather than two.) Merlin and Morgan
      also have special attacks (fireball and death touch) that they can use
      for more damage, but the counter representing those attacks is then
      discarded. Also, Merlin can discard the teleport token to move
      anywhere on the board.

      The first person to get the sword (which only an Arthur may carry)
      back to their starting hex is the winner! If the Arthur carrying the
      sword is killed, then the sword drops to that hex.

      Some comments about the gameā€¦

      1.) Components: The artwork on the box is pretty cool, and the
      humorous theme just has me chuckling at the insanity of it all. The
      counters themselves are hexes - each teams with a different background
      color. The hexes have useful information on them - swords and shields
      to show fighting values, and triangles to show movement. How to move
      and fight with each piece is fairly intuitive, but even if not,
      another large hex is provided that shows the stats of each piece. The
      two large turn hexes are fairly durable, which is good, because they
      are being thrown around the table at a fast clip for the entire game.
      The only problem I had with all the hexes was that they didn't punch
      very well and needed to be clipped to look nice. A pile of extra
      hexes were included in the bag - I guess you could add dozens of
      variants if you like. I had to bag everything so that it stored in
      the box, but once bagged, everything fit under the four-way folding
      map board. Camelot's components aren't stellar, but they are
      passable. Everything fits inside the small box, which is very similar
      in size to Fantasy Flight's Silver Line.

      2.) Rules: The rules come in a four page booklet, and explain the
      game fairly well, although I think they could have been better
      written. Movement wasn't very clear, although Mr. Jolly did clarify
      it online. Still, the game is fairly easy to teach, although the game
      doesn't make for the best teaching atmosphere. See, when I teach
      games, I still end up teaching the rules during the first several
      turns. In Camelot, the game is moving at such a feverish pitch that
      it's difficult to keep track and make sure everyone's following the
      rules. Some rules questions came up, and the game does allow for a
      "time out" to answer rules questions. We used this a LOT.

      3.) Speed: People who like to take a long time during their turn will
      HATE this game, as there is a constant pressure to hurry, hurry,
      hurry. In the games I played, people were getting passed
      continuously, and sometimes players moved, simply to move. Shouting
      and yelling occurred, punctuated by occasional (okay, frequent)
      attacks and "time outs". You can't take your eye off the game for a
      second, because there is something happening at all times.

      4.) Benefits of speed: There are some good benefits to this type of
      speed in a game. For one, I would never play a game such as Camelot
      without it - it's a little too wargamish for me, even though I do
      enjoy the "capture the flag" type theme. But when you add in the
      speed, it's just my type of game. Secondly, the "analysis paralysis"
      types who can be quite annoying in a tactical game such as this,
      simply can't afford to be slow. And if they do insist on moving
      slowly, the rest of us can do our turns quickly!

      5.) Disadvantages of speed: Obviously a game like this is going to
      annoy the snot out of a person who likes taking at least a little time
      to think. It's also hard to plan any kind of long range strategy, as
      things happen too fast for you to do anything but act and react with
      your troops. Also, it's entirely possible for people to cheat; and no
      one may notice, because they are watching their own pieces. Now I'm
      not so worried about intentional cheating with the players I game
      with, but accidental rule violations can happen frequently; and
      because the game is moving at such a break neck speed, no one may see
      them.

      6.) Variants: There are several variants included in the game, along
      with corresponding pieces. In one of them, players vie for the
      "accoutrements of kingship", four different items, rather than a
      single sword. In another, coins worth varying amounts are scattered
      around the board, and players hurry to get fifteen points worth of
      gold so that they can "buy" the kingship. If you thought the game was
      chaotic, these variants don't make it any less so. It's like playing
      football with multiple balls in play. Interesting, but the basic game
      pleases me just fine, thank you!

      7.) Strategy: The game is too fast to have any.

      8.) Tactics: Players must remember to always be moving their Arthurs
      into position to pick up the sword. Several times, players would get
      caught up in a war with another player, while the others battled over
      the sword. Destroying your enemies is NOT the point of the game, yet
      players often feel it necessary, because it's so easy to get involved
      in. Mostly, there isn't much involved in the game, other than "He's
      got the sword! Get him!".

      9.) Fun Factor: For me, the game was outrageously fun. Everyone
      shouts at the same time, yelling about the rules, who has killed who,
      who has the sword now, where are the turn tokens, what can Merlin do
      with the teleport?, etc. I don't normally want this level of chaos in
      a game, but every once in a while, it's just fun to let it all go.
      Camelot is sort of like Pit combined with a simple tactical war game.
      Sound fun? It does to me.

      This is certainly a game that will be divisive. I think it's either a
      like it or hate it type game, because some of those who played swore
      they would never touch it again. Others said that it was a fun
      experience, but they had their fill. Still others, including me,
      thought that it was a hilarious game and were willing to play again
      easily. Which group do you belong to? It depends if you're in the
      mood for a frenzied, fast war-type game in which speed is important
      and strategy isn't.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games."
      www.tomvasel.com
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