Updated: Oct 24, 2020
Designed by Matthias Cramer and published by Pegasus Spiele, Castle Rampage is a head-to-head two-player tower defence card game.
The game is deceptively simple. Players each have two face-down stacks of cards. These represent their gate and their castle. Each turn, you can play a card to add to the defence of either your gate or your castle (the card is added to the bottom of the stack) and one or more cards can be used to attack your opponent's gate. With a few exceptions (ie: cards with special abilities) you can only attack your opponent's castle when you have eliminated all the cards defending their gate. The winner of the game is the first to eliminate all the cards defending their opponent's castle.
The cards all sport attractive art by Christian Fiore. Each shows that card's defence values when in either at the gate or castle. Those cards that can be used for attack also show an attack value. Some cards have text that sets out any special abilities that card has; these are usually subject to a condition such as discarding other cards from your hand.
If a card is played in attack, then the top card of the gate (or castle if that has been successfully targeted) is flipped and its numerical value is compared with the strength of the attacker. If the defence value is higher than the attack, the attack card is discarded and the defence card returns to its face down position at the top of its stack. If the values are tied (a not infrequent occurrence) then both cards are discarded. If the attack strength exceeds that of the defence then the defence card is discarded and the next card flipped, comparing its value with what strength remains from the attacking card, and the process continues.
If you think this sounds like a rather light superficial contest then you're in for a surprise. There are key tactical judgements to be made over whether and when to play a card for its defence value and when to throw it into attack. Unsuccessful attacks at least reveal the strength of the top defending card, so you get to know when it's worth attacking and when an attack will simply be a waste of a card. There's no hand size limit, so you're able to store cards that may be useless on your current turn. After a few teasing feints to test each other's strength, players will increasingly be building up their hands so that they can launch powerful combo attacks using 'Attack Scheme' cards. These are so strong that they are certain to burn through several defending cards but they can only be played by discarding cards with specific icons on them.
Castle Rampage takes around 20 minutes to play. We've had a lot of fun playing it, so it's earned itself a regular place in our bag of filler-length games.