Castle Panic Second Edition: What’s New?

Foreground: Castle Panic Big Box with draw bag and gameboard Background: old Castle Panic box, board, and draw bag
Foreground: Castle Panic Big Box with draw bag and gameboard
Background: old Castle Panic box, board, and draw bag

When Justin and Anne Marie DeWitt released Castle Panic in 2009, they had no idea what was going to happen. They did it all by themselves, according to an interview featured on Polygon. Here we are, fourteen years later, and Castle Panic is a smash hit. It has sold thousands and thousands of copies, and is the cornerstone of the Fireside Games catalog.

Justin and Anne Marie have been hard at work over the last few years developing Castle Panic Second Edition, a new version of the beloved game with all-new art, a custom six-sided die, and an almost completely rewritten rulebook.

Fireside Games generously provided The Family Gamers with a copy of their Castle Panic Big Box, which is a complete treatment of Castle Panic as it currently stands. All of the art from the second edition and all three previous expansions; updated to match the new styling of the game. And, of course, it includes the latest expansion: Crowns and Quests.

We’re going to look, piece-by-piece, at all of the updates to the game, from the game board to the rulebook. Let’s see what we find!

The Board

At the center of most tabletop games is the main board, and Castle Panic is no different.

Old (left) and new (right)

There aren’t a lot of significant departures in the central game board (literally, they’re identically sized), but there are a few excellent quality of life improvements here.

  • The parchment backdrop of the corners is lighter and less textured, making the text easier to read.
  • Updated background art to give the board a richer, more three-dimensional effect.
  • The number medallions are now a much higher contrast to the rest of the board, helping them to stand out.
  • The Order of Play numerals are now 1-6 images that mirror the images on the Order of Play cards
  • Each third of the circle (red, blue, green) has its own icon (triangle, circle, square). This helps with accessibility for players unable to discern the colors easily.
  • Each of the different soldier rings (archer, knight, swordsman) has a different icon as well. This helps younger readers!

The Tokens

When we said Fireside updated every piece of art, we meant it. They’ve refreshed everything, from the monsters to the tar token. Even the fortify token looks new.

This is actually one of the few places where I think a mistake was made. I would have liked to have seen the soldier icon or the color icon on the tiles that represent plagues or movement that affect solder or type or location.

Largely, though, the art is better, clearer, and more detailed than the original edition.

The Cards

The cards in Castle Panic Second Edition feature substantial upgrades in both art and creature comforts, too.

The most noticeable upgrade on the Castle cards is the move to full-width art, completely removing the borders of the first edition. Fireside also switched to simpler, more readable fonts. Every card has an all-caps serif font for the titles and a sans-serif font for the descriptions.

Any color Archer / Blue Swordsman / Red Knight / Green Hero
New cards have full-bleed art, better icons, and more diversity. They’re also easier to read.

The new graphic design is much better, too. Every card features the color shape and soldier icon in the upper left corner. This is a great way to tie in the new graphical elements of the board with the cards in a subtle way that improves accessibility. Each Castle card also now has a “type” associated with it: Hit, Special, or Resource. This makes it a lot easier to refer to these categories of cards with other game mechanics. Finally, the human characters are more diverse, both in skin color and gender, a welcome consideration for all modern games.

Red Swordsman /  Nice Shot, Barbarian, Tar / Mortar, Brick
Cards divided by “type”

The Rule Book

I can’t do a one-for-one comparison of the old rulebook to the new, as I purchased each expansion as it came out, so my rulebooks are separate. Fireside put all four expansions into one box with Castle Panic: Big Box. That means a single rulebook.

However, it’s clear the entire rulebook was reviewed for this second edition. Slight word adjustments for clarity, graphical changes in how examples are displayed, and even some new sections in the rules for special terms show these tweaks are peppered throughout

The new rulebook is clearer, with more art

With the expansions, the rulebook changes seem even more significant. The Wizards Tower and The Dark Titan had half and quarter size rulebooks, since their game boxes were smaller.

Old Castle Panic rulebooks
The rulebooks for the expansions were… awkward.

By combining them into the larger format rulebook in the Big Box, everything gets a little more space. There’s way more art in the newer rulebook too, and the reading experience is much less cramped. It’s just better in every way.

Final Thoughts

Truthfully, if you already have all of the expansions for Castle Panic, my cheapskate side thinks you don’t need to spend another $100 on a game you already have. While there are some adjustments in descriptions, and certainly some helpful tweaks to usability, there aren’t any momentous changes that dropped my jaw.

But I’m also just a Castle Panic fan, not a mega-fan. If you need to have everything Fireside Games has ever released in this series, it’s a worthy second edition! The collection of a lot of little tweaks absolutely makes the Castle Panic experience superior.

I wish they had sprung for slightly larger cards, and as previously noted, better handled the iconography on the tiles, but those really are nits I’m picking with regards to a terrific revision of an already excellent family game.

I really enjoy Castle Panic and I’m so glad to be able to have this latest edition on my shelf. Oh, and did I mention the super sweet cleanup guide on the inside of the box cover?

Castle Panic Big Box inside lid and organizer

Castle Panic Big Box shows the love and care the team at Fireside Games put into this evergreen title. If you’ve ever considered picking up a copy of the base game and you haven’t yet, this is an excellent entry into the game. To be honest, with four expansions in the box this is a pretty good value for the amount of time you’ll spend playing it.

Get your copy of the Castle Panic Big Box directly from Fireside Games, on Amazon, or from your friendly local retailer.

Fireside Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Castle Panic Big Box for coverage of the game.

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