A board game based on a song? Well there can’t be many of those, and more specifically a game based on a song by a German Power Metal band! Armata Strigoi is a fully cooperative game, designed by Marco Valtriani and Paolo Vallerga, where players represent members of the Powerwolf band working together to defeat the Strigoi (vampires).
The game depicts the Powerwolf assault on the vampire fortress, with each of the 2–5 players taking a miniature and individual hand of cards. Each round players select a card which shows their movement and attack along with any special abilities, and then these cards are resolved in order, with the two vampires moving and potentially attacking between player turns.
Players encounter various monsters inside the fortress, and by defeating them can gain weapons and skills as well as additional cards. Also, players can add blood tokens to the altar and when this reaches a level determined by the number of players they can then fight the Vampires. Once one of these is defeated, the remaining vampire goes into rage mode and the fortress begins to slowly crumble around the players with platforms being removed every time the remaining vampire is struck.
The components are incredible to look at, with some well-made and unique miniatures, good quality cards and interesting boards depicting the fortress. The player action cards are of an excellent size and all the information on them is quick to read and clear, with some excellent artwork from Alan D'Amico and Zsofia Dankova to complement rather than detract from the experience. Some of the tokens take some looking at to clearly see what they depict but once players are used to the symbols (this takes about one playthrough) then everything is clear.
The rules aren’t the easiest to follow – the rulebook doesn’t always follow an obvious order and it sometimes takes some searching to find a specific rule. This means that, at times, the game feels a little more fiddly than it needs to be, and there are lots of processes that need to be applied, at times complicating what should be a more straightforward experience. Despite this minor grumble tho', once players are familiar with the rules, the theme comes through strongly.
In our two-player games, we found victory to be fairly easy – there are lots of ways of negating the Strigoi vampires and the risk they represent, and collecting blood tokens for the altar seemed to happen quite quickly. Players can often use cards from hand to negate effects like damage, and weapons were easy to collect, meaning we were ready to take on the Strigoi early in the game and never really felt like we were at risk of losing. This might suit players tho', but, if need be, it's possible to increase the challenge. Although the box states otherwise, playing solo is easily possible – I managed this by covering up the initiative number for each deck and playing each Powerwolf to an individual rather than group-focused goal.
The game looks stunning on the table and the quality is excellent. Kudos to publishers Pegasus Spiele. The platforms give added drama, and work neatly by rotating without disturbing components. The outcome is determined by a mixture of the randomness of drawing the right tokens for encounters against the tactical manoeuvring of the Powerwolf players, and strikes a good balance between fun and focus.
(Review by Steve Berger)