A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season. I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December. These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child. For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here. And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.
I’m going to admit that I debated whether or not to include Castle Panic on this year’s list due to the recommended age level (10+). But I really think that children as young as 7 or 8 could play the game after playing a few rounds with parents or older siblings.
A friend gave our family Castle Panic as a gift last year, and it quickly became a favorite during the winter break. Not too long before that, we had become obsessed with playing Catan, so we opened Castle Panic expecting something similar. Although there are some similarities (cards that can be traded and the importance of strategy), there is one huge difference – Castle Panic is a cooperative game. In other words, all of the players must work together to slay monsters before the castle towers are destroyed. This took a bit getting used to, as Catan is a game where players selfishly hang on to valuable pieces while in Castle Panic selfishness will almost certainly result in everyone’s defeat.
The main reason that Castle Panic may be rated 10+ is that there are a lot of rules. The first few times we played, there were many rule book consultations, and that does require pretty fluent reading ability. However, children seem to be quite good at remembering the rules – particularly when adults break them – so I don’t see that as a huge obstacle as long as adults aren’t expecting the children to play this on their own right out of the box. Several commenters on the Amazon reviews seemed to agree with me on this point. The only other sticking point that some people might have is that there are monsters to be destroyed. This could pose an ethical problem for some, I suppose, and a nightmare concern for others. To the latter point, I would say that the monsters are no worse than the ones you would see in comic books or a Marvel movie so I guess that can be your measuring stick.
The game can be played as a solitaire game, but I don’t think that is quite as much fun. There also is a competitive version where one player can earn the most points. But our family prefers the plain “Co-Op” version (2-6 players) and cheers heartily when we defeat the numerous monsters against all odds.