One of the best developments to come out of Star Trek Panic is a better understanding of the whole Panic line. It would drive us crazy when we’d be at a convention happily demoing and we’d overhear this conversation between two friends walking by.
Friend 1: Ooo, Dead Panic. What’s that?
Friend 2: That’s just Castle Panic with zombies.
“No!” we wanted to say, “It’s a whole different experience! Come back! We’ll show you!”
Now, friends are debating which variation in the Panic line is their favorite. That, of course, means they are talking about the differences among the games. To help the discussion, here are the ways each game connects and differs in the Panic line.
Overview: Castle Panic is the cornerstone of the Panic line and what started it all. It’s a friendly, cooperative tower-defense style experience that appeals most to light gamers and families. It’s often referred to as a gateway game, a game that can be used to introduce new people to the board game hobby. It’s the nicest of the Panics.
How It Plays: In Castle Panic, you work together to defend the 6-tower castle in the center of the board against the monsters coming out of the forest at the edge of the board. The board is set up in colored concentric rings that the monsters move through to get to the castle in the “bull’s eye.” You use cards to hit and slay the triangular-shaped monsters in specific rings and colors. It’s like a conveyor belt of evil! When the monsters are hit, you rotate them down to show how many health points they now have. To win, you must slay all 49 monsters and have at least 1 tower left standing.
How It Forms the Foundation: The concentric-ring design of the board, the triangular-shaped monster tokens, playing cards to hit/slay the monsters, and rotating the tokens to track damage are the elements shared by all of the variations in the Panic line. Beyond that, the ways that the other themes integrate with the system (changing objectives and rules and introducing additional mechanics) create unique experiences.
Overview: Dead Panic is the first variation in the Panic line and has a much more cinematic feel than Castle Panic. The way players excitedly retell the game afterward sounds more like a movie. The new mechanics make it a better choice for people with some experience playing modern board games, although this is not a brain-burner by any stretch. The lack of gore in the art makes it a good choice for families who enjoy a little zombie-slaying together as well. Our favorite memory of demoing this game was to a father and son, who had this exchange.
Son: Dad! I can’t believe you killed me with a chainsaw!
Father: Son, I had to! You were a zombie!
Dead Panic has also had a surprisingly strong appeal to tween girls. Something specifically empowering about cutting down all of those undead coming at you.
How It Plays: In Dead Panic, you play as characters in the game with special abilities. You search the hunting cabin in the center of the board for items and weapons you can use to hold the zombies at bay while survivors attempt to bring radio pieces to you. After assembling the radio pieces, you have to call the rescuers and make it out into their van in the woods to escape to safety. If you die in the process, you return as a zombie and fight against your former teammates. Players who have experience with Castle Panic often make the mistake of trying to defend the cabin. You will die doing that. This game is all about escaping the zombie apocalypse while you can.
How It Differs: In addition to the introduction of characters that can move around the board and have abilities, the possibility of dying and returning on the opposite side of the battle, and the change in objective, Dead Panic also includes Event cards that change up the conditions of the board each round. And instead of simply marching straight toward the hunting cabin (as monsters move toward the castle), zombies are attracted to humans and will rotate toward any in their line of sight. Those changes create a completely new experience. No one has ever played Dead Panic and said, “Yeah, that’s just like Castle Panic.” Usually, they breathlessly jump up from the table and yell, “I can’t believe we made it out!”
Overview: Munchkin Panic is most like Castle Panic in its basic play. That was a decision to introduce Munchkin players to the foundational Panic mechanics before throwing them into the full Munchkin-meets-Castle-Panic experience that the More Munchkin Mini-Expansion provides. We should have known better. No need to coddle a Munchkin player after all!
How It Plays: In the basic setup, you work together to defend the castle towers against the Munchkin monsters emerging from the forest. Unlike in Castle Panic, these monsters are carrying treasure. When you slay the monsters, you draw cards from a treasure deck that you can combine with the Castle cards for stronger attacks. The Castle deck also now includes Curse cards that you can use to thwart opponents and end up with the highest monster-point count. Playing for individual points is one way to play Castle Panic, but it is the ONLY true way to play Munchkin Panic.
How It Differs: The differences really shine with the More Munchkin Mini-Expansion. (Did we mention that it’s included in the base game? It is! I know, right?!) With the expansion, you no longer have to defend that needy castle. It’s all about the points. In fact, if you are in the lead, you might want to play Monster Enhancers to help take down some towers and end the game quicker. Now the card combos take on a deeper dimension, and the negotiating gets intense. No polite, mutually beneficial trades happening here. It’s all about the art of the deal! You also pick a character based on the Races and Classes from Munchkin and use their ability to gain an advantage. Unlike Dead Panic, though, the characters do not appear in the game and are not in any danger themselves. Why risk your own skin?
Star Trek Panic
Overview: The latest entrant to the Panic line has brought a whole new level of excitement. (Munchkin Panic is a little jealous. Dead Panic is eating brains—again. Castle Panic just wishes everyone would get along.) The objective here is to fend off enemy threats while trying to complete 5 missions. It comes with a model U.S.S. Enterprise that players maneuver (what?!), the enemy’s attacks are ranged, and the defensive responses are based the direction the Enterprise is facing. There might also be a little cloaking going on . . .
How It Plays: Players work together as members of the original Star Trek crew, with special abilities drawn from their functions on the T.V. series, to defend the Enterprise while completing 5 missions. The missions are based on episodes from the original series and the classic Klingon, Romulan, and Tholian enemies provide a lot of the Star Trek flavor.
How It Differs: The prime difference (see what we did there?) is in the change in objective. You must complete missions while defending the central structure (in this case, the Enterprise). Completing a mission may require committing certain cards, maneuvering the Enterprise, and more. It borrows the concept of how character abilities work from Dead Panic, but the actual abilities are based on the world it’s set in (Star Trek, for those not following along). There is no discarding. You get what they came to space with. (OK, you do get to draw and trade each turn.) During the Play Cards phase, you may also maneuver the ship 1 space clockwise, counter-clockwise, or forward. And a lot of decision-making goes into whether to use cards in defense/repair of the Enterprise or in completion of the missions.
The best thing about the Panic line variations is that you don’t have to choose. Let your mood pick your Panic. Up for a friendly, welcoming game? Castle Panic’s the one. Ready for a heart-pumping, edge-of-your-seat, “will-we-make-it-out-alive?!” time? Dead Panic will do the trick. Need a back-stabbing, treasure-grabbing good time? Munchkin Panic pairs nicely. Feeling bold, adventurous, and ready to reunite the crew? Star Trek Panic does the job. It’s all about choosing your experience.
For more on the differences between Castle Panic and Dead Panic.
Here’s a teaser for Star Trek Panic (that attention-hog).
And for how-to-play videos of all of our games check this video out.