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Tyler Durden
United States
Missouri
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Introduction

Arcane Academy puts you in the role of a child wizard in the world of Gossamyr, where complex mathematics are the language of magic. You are competing with fellow prodigies to cement yourself amongst the greats and rise too the top of your class.

This is a 2-4 player game that takes 30-45 minutes to play, with a very fast and simple turn structure. The gameplay surrounds simple card play, that when purchased grant you victory points, immediate effects(Blue spell cards), and ongoing abilities that can be triggered periodically (red item cards). This is blended with a very unique engine building/tile laying/spacial mechanism.

Each player starts the game with three cards in hand, a small amount of the two different resources and a player mat in front of them with 12 spaces (4x3 grid) that players will fill with tiles to create new available action spaces. Your player mat begins with the 5 basic actions available, because though there are five different actions, you will only be doing one of two things on your turn.

ACTION #1 - CAST - Exhausting one of the action spaces on your player mat that can potentially trigger chain reactions with other tiles placed adjacent to the action being taken. The tiles have these little connection icons along the sides that can be connected with other tiles adjacent too them to trigger multiple tile/actions simultaneously. So what are the 5 different abilities of the tile/action spaces???
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1. Add Tile - This allows you to add a new tile to your mat from the reserve(There's always 4 to choose from, so a new one is drawn from a bag after you've chosen one)
2. Purchase card/complete assignment - This allows you to buy one of the four cards from the public card reerve or one of the three different cards that you hold in your hand. There are two different types of cards. Blue cards are spells that grant you an immediate effect, possibly effecting other players.
Red cards are item cards that are placed in your play area, these can be activate on subsequent turns to give you ongoing effects.
3.Use items - This allows you to use the "red" items cards just mentioned. Some item cards have an icon matching that of the tile's action icon ( a wand casting) that grants you those ongoing card abilities.
4. Collect shard - This allows you to take a number of shards(red resource) that are then used to craft items (red cards) on subsequent turns.
5. Gain Will - This allows you to increase your will (blue resource) that is used to complete spells(blue cards) on subsequent turns.


ACTIONS #2 - REST - After you've exhausted a large portion of your player mat you will have limited actions available so you will need to "rest" for a turn to clear off all of your exhausted action spaces, refreshing your board for the next turn. You may also discard a card and draw a new one.

The game plays continuously in a clockwise order until someone has completed eight cards/assignments, after that there will be one final turn for each player.
The players will add up their victory points/prestige from their completed cards in front of them, most prestige wins the game!

Gameplay
Arcane Academy hits the ground running. This game's immediately engaging from turn one and did not let up the entire time we played! Very intuitive, it's light in the sense that on a turn you have quite a few strategic avenues but there are so many fun, equally beneficial actions to take, your turns feel deeply rewarding. You will become engrossed in other players turns and this keeps you engaged at all times. Love when games keep the other players turn intriguing and full of suspense. The game has a nice gradient in gameplay variability, involving the engine building, too then completing cards. You're ultimately scoring VP with completed cards by the end of the game but you start the game focusing on your resource engine--the player mat, trying to synergize the "play a card" and "take a tile" action spaces, with the "take shard" and/or "will power" action spaces to create powerful combos. This is an awesome little puzzle that drives every upcoming turn, especially when you have one action space that lets you trigger 3-4 other adjacent action spaces! The imbedded action spaces that you start the game with offer minimal resources but the tiles that are drawn from the reserve and bag are much beefier and have great potential for stellar combinations.
While the engine building puzzle is very compelling, you have to remember that completing cards is the way you will win the game. Most cards have a VP amount in the bottom right corner of the cards but these cards also let you add additional prestige/VP points to your already existing cards that are in your play area. Some item cards (red cards) allow you to gain benefits when all players, including yourself, rest or clear their board on a given turn. In a 4 player game the resting action will happen often and you can create engines that stem from whether or not other players take certain actions, but its also very intuitive and easy to keep track of. One time use spell cards(blue) give some nice "take that" player interaction and/or big resource grabs. Extremely tight, clean game design, that gives quite a wallop in a short play time!

Production
Great component quality by IDW! I do not own many IDW games but i've heard from multiple sources that sometimes their games can lack in this department. Not in this case, this game looks awesome on the table. The player boards and action tiles are very bright and colorful, the shards(red resource) are these big chunky crystal pieces that feel satisfying to collect and the cards are high quality with a great design on the backside. Even better though are the front sides of the cards, this is where the art really shines. The item and spell cards look fantastic and brings this theme to life. Almost every item card's different and has unique artwork that ties the mechanisms and theme together beautifully. The spell cards also look amazing, there's just less variety. STELLAR TABLE PRESENCE!
The only negatives in component quality are the player mats, they're pretty thin card stock and the dials to keep track of your will power look and feel low quality. This is far from an issue for me but its worth mentioning for some that are worried about having thick cardboard for most everything but cards and crib sheets.

replayability
medium - High replay value.
Tons of card variety, really cool item card abilities that can be used as unique actions each game, drawing tiles randomly from a bag to create the reserve will vary your play-mat engine building each game and a good amount of player interaction will keep your turns tactical.
Could see this game receiving an expansion fairly quickly.

Final thoughts
This game is incredibly fun! Turns move so fast and every decision you make feels deeply rewarding. Easy to teach and once you understand all of the game elements, a game will only take around 30 minutes to play. Linking the tiles to activate multiple actions on a single turn is the best part of the game to me. You're often times exhausting a single action space but when that single action space suddenly turns into activating multiple other actions, it feels magical in comparison to previous turns. I can see many people looking at this theme and assuming it may not be their type of game, and if Eric Lang was not one of the designer, I may have been one of those people, but I'm SO glad I checked this one out.

You should too.






Eric Lang is a beast of a game designer

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Jonathan Franklin
United States
Seattle
Washington
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designer
As is Kevin Wilson!

Excellent review. I'm looking forward to playing it even more after reading your comments.
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Tyler Durden
United States
Missouri
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Not sure if ive played any of his designs but thanks for giving him a shout out
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