Res Arcana by Game Designer Tom Lehmann
In a high tower, an Alchemist prepares potions, using vials filled with otherworldly fluids. In a sacred Grove, a druid grinds herbs for a mystical ritual. In the catacombs, a necromancer summons a bone Dragon… Welcome to the world of Res Arcana! In it, life, Death, elegant, calm, and gold are the essences that fuel the art of magic. Choose your mage, gather essences, craft unique artifacts, and use them to summon Dragons, conquer places of power, and achieve victory! In Res Arcana, each player is a mage, vying for power against their rivals. Each player has a personal deck of just 8 artifacts to work with. Can you use them efficiently to claim monuments and places of power before your rivals seize them? Designed by Tom Lehmann and richly illustrated by Julien delval, Res Arcana offers a unique gaming experience!
Now we find the goblin brothers as they have just completed a spirited contest …
Yeah, yeah. I thought I had you that time. Stupid Celestial Horse! So, we’re supposed to tell the folks out there in the webiverse if this game is worth their hard-earned dwarven-mined gold. So what’d ya think? Yes or no?
Oh, sure. Well, I liked … um, what’s it called again, Grump?
Res Arcana. By Tom Lehmann … you know, the guy who made Race for the Galaxy.
Oh right. *Ahem* Well, I liked Res Arcana. By Tom Lehmann. Who made Race for the Galaxy. Even though it doesn’t have any goblins in it. Or fruit pies. But it did feel like a Res, alright. We were Res-ing all the way ta the 10-point line! And I’m faster’n you. Heh.
No, no. Res, Gryn. Not Race. It’s Latin.
Ohh … You mean like El Chapo?
No, no, that’s Latin-o … never mind. Annnyyywaaayyy … why’d you like the game, Gryn?
Grrr. And why ELSE did you like the game?
Oh, cuz I got to be a mage, er, actually a Druid, like our grandpa Grype. Remember him? He talked ta squirrels a lot.
Yeah, I don’t think that made him a druid, though. He just had low blood-sugar … So, you were a druid, and I was an alchemist, and there were eight or so other choices, like scholar and witch and necromancer and so on. And then we got to duel, right? First to 10 points wins.
Yeah, and we had magic books and potions that made essences, like Life and Death and Gold and Fire …
It’s not Fire. It’s Elan. It’s in the rules. More than once.
Oh. Okay. Suuuurrrre. Elan. And Water …
No, it’s called Calm, not Water.
I swear! It’s in the rules!
Arright, Calm, then. And so ya got these Essences and, taking turns til someone passes, ya use them and yer powers and magic items to make more Essences and buy Places o’ Power and Monuments and craft artifacts from yer deck.
Sounds like a pretty straightforward economy game.
Sure, but ya also got a little bitty deck of artifacts that are yers, so ya gotta think hard about what ta make and what ta “sell” fer more essences. Oh, and ya gotta also think hard so ya don’t eat the Essences. They look like little candies, but they’re made’a tree, I think. And’re tastier than plaster, but not as tasty as candy.
And how would you compare it to other games, in terms of style and genre?
Those’re big words, Grump. I mean, as ya play, yer building one of them “engines” that I keep hearin’ about. Like the ones that make candy. But yer tryin’ to make an engine that gets faster ‘n faster at makin’ the Essences you need to buy the Monuments …
… things like Great Pyramid and Hanging Gardens …
… and Places o’ Power. Those have the points that yer Res-ing ta get.
I was surprised how well the theme held up here, to be honest. Like, of course, the Cursed Forge needs you to spend “Death” to keep it operating, and of course it turns Fire and Gold into victory points. And of course the Dragon’s Lair lets you play Dragon Artifacts for cheap … Did I mention this game has dragons? You can attack your opponents with dragons!
Yeah, but I liked how it wasn’t any sorta major attack. Like ya couldn’t totally ruin anybody’s day with the dragon. And there’re ways to defend yerself. I don’t like “take that” too much.
That’s cuz you’re soft, Gryn. Kill or be killed. It’s a warg-eat-warg world. Early bird gets the wyrm. Et cetera … That’s Latin again, by the way.
I thought ya sounded like El Chapo!
Sigh. So, you’re saying it’s a tactical game, yes? Because you have a random draw of three artifacts to play, and you only draw one from your deck each round, and have to make the best tactical decision to beat your opponents to the things that grant victory points?
Yeah, but, and here’s the kicker, if ya play with the Drafting Rules (which ya oughta, fer realz, as far as I’m concerned), there’s all this strategery that goes inta pickin’ the right eight artifacks to go in yer deck. It’s brilliant how yer kinda playin’ the game before yer actually playin’ the game, if ya know what I mean. Like that other game … Seasons. I like that one, too, but there’s no candies … and you kept telling me Winter wuz comin’ …
So, if I’m following you here, Gryn, you like the game of wiz-robes who are using their powers and a shared pool of magic items to control creatures and locations and items to show off how cool they are. It’s a tactical, engine-building game that sneakily inserts strategy into the drafting system and allows its theme to draw you into the fantasy/history/mythology of the setting. Does that sound right?
Yeah! Plus, it does all that in about an hour so it’s tense. But, in a fun way! Like ya mightn’t wanna goof around and play that pretty Nightingale, when ya could discard it fer the two Life essences ya’ll need when yer opponent’s Wind Dragon comes a’knockin’. Or maybe ya need to go ahead and play the Ring of Midas ta get the Gold ta buy the Obelisk ta get the six random Essences that come with it ta buy the Coral Castle ta check fer victory before yer opponent passes ‘n wins! Er, or somethin’.
Yeah, that scenario sounds vaguely familiar …
If it helps, I didn’t really plan it like that. It just sorta happened.
No, that does not help, Gryn. Ok. was there anything you didn’t like about Res Arcana?
Well, I thought the Druid was pretty lame, really. No offense ta Grandpa Grype (or his squirrels). When ya play him, yer countin’ on creatures to be plentiful in yer deck, but that’s sorta a crap-shoot, even with the draftin’ option. I guess it’s good ya get ta pick yer mage after ya draft. I also found myself not really carin’ about which magic item I got ta pick each round, cuz they didn’t seem really useful. Sometimes they’re great, but only sometimes.
Gotcha, gotcha. Anything else?
Well, not that I had this problem, heh heh, but it looked like, if ya got behind, ya stayed behind. I dunno if there’s a great way ta catch up after a slow start. Maybe a more … experienced … player coulda managed it.
I got your experienced player right here, you big oaf. Would you recommend Res Arcana to the audience of folks out there?
Oh yeah, absolutely! It’s fun and everything! I give it four ‘n a half El Chapos out of five.
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Rating: 7.9 out of 10
Playing Time: 20-60 minutes
Complexity: 2.64 out of 5