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Subject: Worth a play just for the scoring rss

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Tim Stellmach
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City building is a common boardgame theme. We see it in Puerto Rico, Caylus, and Citadels, to name just a few. Or maybe you're ostensibly building just a single monument, as in Alhambra, Amyitis, or Cleopatra and the Society of Architects. Whatever the geometric pattern or scoring sequence you want to pose for players, it seems the construction industry is there to answer your thematic needs.

Arkadia is Rüdiger Dorn's entry into this pool, and a nominee for the 2007 Spiel des Jahres. The centerpiece of the game is a set of stackable castle pieces, with different colors on the top that determine scoring opportunities. These are arranged on a plot in the center of the board, around which go building tiles of various shapes, plus assorted worker figurines.

(To digress briefly into mythology, Arcadia is traditionally a utopia of pre-urbanized pastoral life. Or a prefecture in Greece. In this game, never mind all that; Arkadia is apparently a city, and you're building it.)

On each player's turn, they will be placing either a building or a collection of workers. Workers must be arranged around an existing building; buildings can be abutted to an existing building, worker, or the castle plot. The building tiles are laid by playing a card from your hand, showing the shape of the building, and the color of scoring token ("seal") with which to mark it. Workers can be placed freely, in any numbers you care to take from your supply, so long as they all adjoin to a single shared building.

Whenever all spaces around a building are claimed (whether by workers or other buildings), it pays out seals of its assigned color. One goes to the player who triggered this event, and one per worker goes to that worker's player (with neutral-colored workers which pay out to nobody also playing a part). So strategic play involves maximizing the buildings touched by each of your own workers, the opportunities to be the one to finish buildings, and the value of the seals you'll hold.

Here we get to what I think is the heart of the game, creatively speaking, which is the scoring mechanism. Remember those stackable castle pieces? They determine how many points those seals are actually worth. However many castle pieces are showing of a given color, that's how many points the seals of that color are worth. A new castle piece is placed whenever a building pays out, and the game goes through phases of building a second and third floor, which obscures old pieces and shifts the old values. There are no fixed times for scoring, outside of a single reckoning at the end of the game. Instead, each player decides for himself when, in this series of opportunities, are the right moments to turn in seals for points. This action is tied to the mechanism for recruiting more workers, so there's also a tension between building up seals before scoring, and investing in the future.

Arkadia is basically a geometric game, and I'd say the familiar city-building theme barely lifts it out of the realm of the abstract. However, the conflicting incentives keep the choices meaningful, and the responsibility involved in the scoring mechanism keeps you on your toes. Had the 2007 prize not gone to Zooloretto (a particular favorite of mine), I'd not have thought it out of place at all to see Arkadia get the Spiel des Jahres.
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ronaldinho @boardspace.net
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I hardly find Arkadia, Caylus, and Citadels to be similar at all. They are only cosmetically similar (city-building), if even that.
 
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Manchuwok
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
I hardly find Arkadia, Caylus, and Citadels to be similar at all. They are only cosmetically similar (city-building), if even that.


Did you read more than the first paragraph?

Nice review.
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Tim Stellmach
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drunkenKOALA wrote:
I hardly find Arkadia, Caylus, and Citadels to be similar at all. They are only cosmetically similar (city-building), if even that.

Oh, I agree. My point is that the city-building theme is common partly because of the wide variety of game mechanics that can be mapped onto it.

How you feel about that probably has a lot to do with how much theme matters to you in the first place, and even then you could legitimately find Arkadia's theme either sadly unoriginal or comfortingly familiar.
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Mike Holyoak
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timstellmach wrote:
Had the 2007 prize not gone to Zooloretto (a particular favorite of mine), I'd not have thought it out of place at all to see Arkadia get the Spiel des Jahres.


I agree. But I think I like Arkadia even better than Zooloretto.

Nice review.
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Paul
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Good review.

As a big fan of city-building games, I was looking at some of the yucata games that I haven't tried yet, and this seemed interesting.

From reading the rules, it doesn't seem like it's very luck-based (despite drawing cards in order to build buildings), as you can get seals from other people's buildings. I'm usually a fan of games where people don't encroach on each other's space, but it seems pretty necessary in this game. In that way, reminds me a little of Inca Empire, except in Arkadia it looks like you almost need other people's help to finish buildings.
 
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