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    Armello: Whatever you do, don’t call them furries

    Digital boardgame conversions are nothing new. There are any number of corporeal boardgames that have seen new life on digital platforms we’ve all played some version of Monopoly on PC, Ticket to Ride on iOS, or one of the many incarnations of Magic. These conversions come with some advantages as the computer takes on menial table tasks, but aside from some flashy animations, the experience remains largely the same.

    There has been a trend in recent years for the creation of digital boardgames that don’t have a corporeal counterpart, games that understand the freedom that comes from letting go of physical pieces and boards.

    Armello is one such game, and its creators at League of Geeks in Melbourne have a strong grasp of what it means to stop worrying and learning to love the machine. “The big thing we wanted to do was to make things more literal,” said Trent Kusters, director at League of Geeks and head designer on Armello, “boardgames are heavily abstracted, and rely on the player to project everything around them. Chess is a perfect example: You have a knight, which is a very basic horse shape, and that is meant to tell the tale of this valiant knight, riding around the field of battle with a lance, protecting his king and queen.”

    By creating Armello in the digital realm, League of Geeks is free to more closely tell these tales. Instead of static pieces moving around a wooden board, we see named characters walking through forests, smoke rising from settlements, and sickness in the eyes of the king, representing the ultimate goal of the game.

    Armello’s striking, whimsical art direction belies a complex set of intertwined systems that form the tools players need to achieve one of the game’s four victory conditions. Players take the role of one of four characters, all vying for the throne of Armello. The current king is stricken with Rot, a disease which brings the afflicted more power the closer they come to death. Each player will choose a strategy based on the strengths of their character, the observed strategies of the players around them, and the cards that fate has dealt. Players can achieve a prestige victory by performing acts of valour, with Spirit Stones to cure the king of his illness, by killing the king and taking his place, or by gaining more Rot than the king and slaying him with ease.

    Armello will be in Steam Early Access until mid-year, but given its startling level of polish, you would be forgiven for assuming it was finished. The rough edges only show themselves with close inspection, in the form of balance and player agency issues. League of Geeks is well aware of many of these issues, and is working hard on feedback gathered from its Early Access and Kickstarter patrons to improve the game.

    So, take the time to check out one of the Australian indie scene’s crowning jewels. Armello is special, and will only improve with age.

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