I swear this game is beyond cruel and actually ventures into the realm of pure evil. First you have to battle your way out of the fortress and then – on the slim chance that you make it – you have to fight the equivalent of a demented demigod. Still, amazing art and great fun to play even if your coffee is still piping hot when your characters are killed.
Dark Castle is an odd one, really. It’s a very strange mix of a Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebook (think House of Hell meets Keep of the Lich Lord) but presented as a game of illustrated cards that represent each individual encounter. This should make for an extremely short game but there is an interesting mechanic built into the game that makes the combat quite unique and methodical. You can play solo using two characters or team up with friends, each deciding who opens the next door based on what condition you’re both in.
Generally speaking, it’s a simple and reasonably playable game with an absolutely horrific difficulty curve. It really is that tough to win. This is mainly because the encounter cards consistently deplete your stamina, leaving you fairly spent as a warrior by the time you reach one of the three endgame bosses who – as I said before – are like demigods in obsidian armour.
I’ve played Dark Castle around ten times since I first bought it, making it one of my least played games. I’ve also tried to defeat it with my son. So far, I’ve only succeeded in reaching the last door twice. I died almost instantly on both occasions.
I have to say, though, that for a black and white presentation it really is quite a good looking game: the art is unlike anything else I’ve seen in boardgames and makes it instantly recognisable on the shelves of the bookstores and game-shops.