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Subject: The Alchemy of a Board Game - Arcana (Revised Edition) rss

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Dan Cain
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I know I don't do many reviews on this site, but I like to think that when I do they get a pretty good reception. This time though I am going to be doing something a little bit different than what I normally do. Normally I would go into great detail about components, the gameplay, the theme, etc. and then sum up my feelings and give the game a final score. This time though I am going to be reviewing a game I have already reviewed. This time I am going to be telling you what's new, what's different, what's worse, and why you may want to pick up this version of the game. So enough of the preamble, let's get on to what you have come here to read:

The Alchemy of a Board Game Proudly Presents:



(Thanks Eric!)


Arcana (Revised Edition)


A short note to you, the faithful reader:
If you have not already done so, you should take a few minutes and read through my review of the original version of Arcana. This review will be focusing on how this new and revised version compares to the original version, and not on how the game is played. Gameplay, theme, and other basics of the game can be found in that review, and you will need to be familiar with those basics of the game to understand much of what follows.



With the imminent release of the revised edition of Arcana in the next couple of weeks I thought I would take a few moments to give you a rundown of what you will find in the new version, since I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at GenCon this year.

What's Better:
Honestly pretty much everything, but let me give you a run down and some visuals so you can see for yourself.

Card Layout



As you can see the layout has changed, and I definitely think for the better.

- The major arcanum for each stake card is denoted by a bright yellow background making it much easier to read and tell which arcanum you need to be winning with.

- The icons for each arcanum are also much easier to see as well.

- I know some were complaining that the stave represented military power, and the dagger represented political power in the original version, well you will be happy to hear that in the revised edition those have been switched and are now known as the staff and sword (respectively).

- You will obviously find the same great artwork you found in the original game, and now it really has a chance to shine.

- There are some additional icons on the cards as well. In the upper right corner you will find an icon that makes it very clear what type of card it is (Relic, Personality, or Location).

- Not only have the Stake cards been redesigned, but every other card in the game as well. Overall the colors are bolder, the icons clearer, and the artwork really takes center stage this time around.

- The Objective cards in the original version just said "Win 3 Stake Cards from X." That wasn't really thematic. Now each Objective Card has what you will be doing by winning those 3 stake cards. Not really a game changer, but as a fan of the Cadwallon universe I really enjoy the additional text.

The Headquarters



Sometimes the Headquarters would come up, and be completely useless in the original version. Considering this was the only Building each Guild started with that could be quite frustrating. In fact I even made an error in my original review for what to do when you drew your HQ on your first draw of the game. Often times you would find yourself with 25% of your cards for the round being useless.

- The Headquarters cards now allow you to go through both your draw pile and your discard pile to choose an agent to play. In the previous incarnation you could only take Agents out of your discard pile. This is HUGE, now your HQ will remain one of the most powerful cards in your deck throughout the game. Gone are the days of the useless HQ!

- The rulebook has also been clarified so that any Personality Stake you have won becomes one of your Agents. In the original rulebook this rule was not really all that clear, and this sometimes caused problems with a few people on whether or not you could use won Personalities with your Headquarters.

Guild Uniqueness

One of the only complaints of the original version of Arcana that I wrote about in my first review was that the Guilds didn't feel all that unique because only 3 of the 11 starting cards for each Guild were unique to that Guild.

- In the revised edition every card in each Guild is unique to that Guild. Now instead of having 4 Pixie Emissaries all fighting for the same Stake, you will have 4 different and unique characters battling it out for each stake card. The values are pretty much the same, but at least each Guild card has its own artwork and name to increase the feeling that you are controlling one of 6 Guilds in Cadwallon.

- Not only are do the Personalities in each Guild get their own artwork, but each Headquarters card has its own artwork as well. Each HQ has a very fitting piece of illustration to go with the Guild it belongs to, which you can easily see in the image above.

Rulebook & Printing Errors

Another major complaint from most people with the original version was the unclear nature of the rulebook. I can honestly say that the rulebook has been rewritten and is much, much, clearer.

- There are examples throughout the rulebook that illustrate gameplay. A breakdown of the cards is also given at the beginning of the game.

- The Harlequin has his own section of the rulebook so that new players can better understand this powerful character, and there is an example of play with The Harlequin.

- You can see in one of the pictures above that the Personality Stake "Gidzzit" has been corrected. In the original version he had his gold value highlighted in yellow, which confused many many players. In the revised edition his card has been corrected to make his major arcanum Cups.

What's New

Dust Games and FFG have gone the extra step and not just improved what was in the original version of the game, but have also added a whole slew of new advanced rule options to play with. I am here to tell you that all of them are worth playing with. Every card in the game also has a letter icon in the bottom left corner of the card to indicate which rules you play the cards with. "A" cards are the basic cards used in every game, "E" cards are used with Leaders.

Leaders



- Leaders! Now this was an awesome idea, and I think it is implemented in a great way. Now you not only can send out your minions to control the districts of Cadwallon, but you can choose 1 of 3 Leaders at the start of the game that have powerful special abilities which will help you throughout the game. The special abilities are either always in effect, or once per round effects. Most of them are pretty powerful and range from reusing bought Militia from other players at the end of the round (probably my personal favorite) to being able to play face down into an enemy district. Fans of Cadwallon: City of Thieves will recognize the lady in red in the picture above.

Events



- In this advanced rule the Ducal Jubilee card is placed somewhere in the bottom 4 cards of a 13 card deck. Each round of the game you will draw an Event card at the start of the round. These event cards will change how you play during the round. These range everywhere from playing 6 cards for the round, to not allowing any bribery for the round, to all players playing their cards simultaneously. This is another great idea that gets implemented in the revised edition. For pure players of Arcana you may want to avoid this rule as it adds a good amount of chaos to the game. But for players who like a nice change up every now in again in their game this is a perfect advanced rule to play with. The events are all fun and make the game play unique from round to round. The one downside to the Event Deck is that if you think you are in the lead you can't speed up the end of the game by making sure the neutral district stakes are taken every round. With that being said, I highly recommend this advance rule.

New Guilds



- Another one of the few complaints I had of the original version was the lack of the ability to play with 5 or 6 players. Unfortunately the game is still only 2-4 players. But fortunately there are two more Guilds you can take charge of in the game. The new Guilds are the Fortune-Tellers Guild and the Guild of Architects. The Fortune-Tellers ability allows them to win ties on Stakes whose major arcanum is Cups, and Architects win ties on Location stakes. Like I said, according to the rules you shouldn't play with 5 or 6 players. However, considering there are now 6 Guilds that can be played, and more than enough Stake cards to make up enough Districts for a 5 or 6 player game, you can see where I am going with this. I haven't had a chance to try 5 or 6 players, but as soon as I do guess what we are playing?

Choose Your Own Starting Deck



- Imagine being able to choose what your starting deck is made up of in Dominion or Thunderstone. Crazy right? Crazy brilliant. Another top notch advanced rule is the ability to choose what 11 cards you start with in the game. You can see the extra cards you can choose from for the Guild of Ferrymen in the image above. Feel like having a few more Relics to bribe with? You can choose the extra 2 Relics that come with the advanced rule. Want stronger Agents that aren't as versatile as the ones in the basic game? How about a couple of Agents that have fives or sixes in just one of the arcanum. Like being able to take actions during the round with Locations? Yup, you guessed it, there are two new ones to choose that you can take advantage of. Most of the new Relics are unique to each Guild. I chose to upload the Ferrymen cards because I love that their Relics are actually transportation to be used in the city of Cadwallon.

What is Worse

Honestly there is even less to complain about with the Revised Edition of Arcana from the Original Version. But...

- If I had to pick something I would have to say the change in box size. I know there are more cards in the game now, and it will have a bigger presence on shelves in retailers, but honestly there is so much space in this box it is ridiculous.

- Bribery has changed, and I don't know how I fully feel about it yet. In the new rules if a bribe is unsuccessful then the Relic and agents stay on the Stake card, and can be used in another bribe attempt later after you have played more cards onto the stake (another Relic, or Agent). While I think I know why they made this change (to make one of the most unique mechanics in the game happen more often) I can't help but feel that it is easy way out. I like the bribery in the game, and I liked how it was done. Oh well, I guess they just moved my cheese, and I need to get over it. Or I could just play it the way it was originally implemented.

Philosopher's Stone Score

I can't say enough good things about Arcana (Revised Edition). I loved the original, and this version kicks up a few notches and just makes everything better. You will get better cards, more great artwork, more rules, and more guilds. I was originally worried when Dust Games moved from AEG to FFG last year, worried that the Dust Games that I love (which is a good portion of them) would get lost in FFG's HUGE catalogue. This game's production proves to me that FFG/Dust Games partnership is going to be turning out pure gaming gold for years to come. I salute you both Dust Games and FFG!

My two minor minor complaints are really nothing at all.

Arcana was already in my Top 10, this moved it up a few more spaces.

If you haven't played Arcana but enjoy trick-taking games, or deck-building games I would highly recommend you give it a shot. It is a unique blend of those two types of games, and really is kind of original in the Deck-Building genre. If you didn't like the original version of the game, I suggest you give it a second go and use the advanced rules to make the game much more strategic. If you already enjoyed and own the original version, I highly recommend you pick up the Revised Edition. Really every person who reads this review should go out and buy Arcana (Revised Edition). That way maybe they will come up with more stuff for me to use in an expansion or two.

Final Score

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Mikkel Øberg
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Well, you convinced me to buy the revised game, even though I already own the original.
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Byron
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Hopefully the extra space in the box is just a sign of good things to come? whistle
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Wade Nelson
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Great review. I've been on the fence for a long while about the first edition of this game, but the revised edition and this review have pushed Arcana into "I want this" territory
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Dan Cain
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LordHellfury wrote:
Is the event deck a seperate deck drawn from each round or is it part of the center deck that the Ducal Jubilee is part of? It wasnt clear from reading and there is no downloadable rulebook yet.


The Event deck is a seperate deck that gets drawn from. Like the Militia Deck in the Original version.

And there definitely more to "sink your teeth into" in this version.

LA
 
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Dan Cain
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someotherguy wrote:
You should explicitly spell out the differences between the new and old bribery rules so that players can try both and choose which they would like to use.


The difference is that in the original version you had one chance to bribe, if it was unsuccessful, then the Relic was discarded. This time around, if it is unsuccessful it is kept on the Stake card, and more Relics/Agents can be played onto the Stake card for another attempt at bribing the Personality using the same Relic.

LA
 
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Tomas Hejna
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lastalchemist wrote:
someotherguy wrote:
You should explicitly spell out the differences between the new and old bribery rules so that players can try both and choose which they would like to use.


The difference is that in the original version you had one chance to bribe, if it was unsuccessful, then the Relic was discarded. This time around, if it is unsuccessful it is kept on the Stake card, and more Relics/Agents can be played onto the Stake card for another attempt at bribing the Personality using the same Relic.

LA

So the Relic can be used later by anyone - or the players have to mark the owner of this Relic somehow?

In either way, I think I will still prefere the original version, with mine addition of a second option on bribing the enemy Agents to retract from their current Stake to their discard pile - in that way, this mechanics keeps used more often as well
 
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Wade Nelson
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XehutL wrote:
lastalchemist wrote:
someotherguy wrote:
You should explicitly spell out the differences between the new and old bribery rules so that players can try both and choose which they would like to use.


The difference is that in the original version you had one chance to bribe, if it was unsuccessful, then the Relic was discarded. This time around, if it is unsuccessful it is kept on the Stake card, and more Relics/Agents can be played onto the Stake card for another attempt at bribing the Personality using the same Relic.

LA

So the Relic can be used later by anyone - or the players have to mark the owner of this Relic somehow?

In either way, I think I will still prefere the original version, with mine addition of a second option on bribing the enemy Agents to retract from their current Stake to their discard pile - in that way, this mechanics keeps used more often as well


The small-box (first edition) rules for Arcana are in the BGG files section for the game. I grabbed the PDF just so I can try Bribery both ways when I eventually get the game.
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Andy Andersen
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I just won the original game in an auction and now I may have to buy the revised one. Great.

A fine review.
 
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Tomas Hejna
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lastalchemist wrote:

The Headquarters cards now allow you to go through both your draw pile and your discard pile to choose an agent to play. In the previous incarnation you could only take Agents out of your discard pile. This is HUGE, now your HQ will remain one of the most powerful cards in your deck throughout the game. Gone are the days of the useless HQ!

The rulebook has also been clarified so that any Personality Stake you have won becomes one of your Agents. In the original rulebook this rule was not really all that clear, and this sometimes caused problems with a few people on whether or not you could use won Personalities with your Headquarters.

Yes, in this way the HQ are really Very Powerfull cards now. We played it previously that they could affect only the base Agents, not the won Personalities... Quite a big jump in my eyes.

Quote:
One of the only complaints of the original version of Arcana that I wrote about in my first review was that the Guilds didn't feel all that unique because only 3 of the 11 starting cards for each Guild were unique to that Guild.

In the revised edition every card in each Guild is unique to that Guild. Now instead of having 4 Pixie Emissaries all fighting for the same Stake, you will have 4 different and unique characters battling it out for each stake card. The values are pretty much the same, but at least each Guild card has its own artwork and name to increase the feeling that you are controlling one of 6 Guilds in Cadwallon.

Does this mean that there are all of the previously same basic Agents unique now in a terms of new images OR both the images & names?
 
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Dan Cain
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All agents, including those form the basic decks, and the advanced build-a-deck decks have unique names and art. The only cards that are completely the same now are the "Tresure" Relics, and the "Hideout" & "Meeting Place" Location cards from the advanced deck. Even the "Headquarters" cards in each Guild has it's own unique artwork.

LA
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Tomas Hejna
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lastalchemist wrote:
All agents, including those form the basic decks, and the advanced build-a-deck decks have unique names and art. The only cards that are completely the same now are the "Tresure" Relics, and the "Hideout" & "Meeting Place" Location cards from the advanced deck. Even the "Headquarters" cards in each Guild has it's own unique artwork.

Aaaah, what a pity.
Having the alternate locations for each guild unique & with different effect would be awesome. But harder to balance, of course...
Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to this version. Thank you for your review
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Michael B. Hansen
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This looks really promising. It will be fun to experiment with all the bells and whistles. But i am glad i still have the old version, it seems somewhat less intimidating and therefore easier to use as a gateway game.
 
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Architeuthis wrote:
This looks really promising. It will be fun to experiment with all the bells and whistles. But i am glad i still have the old version, it seems somewhat less intimidating and therefore easier to use as a gateway game.


Shouldn't be inimidating at all, especially how the rules are all laid out in the Revised edition. Want to play the basic game? Just use all the cards that have an "A" in the lower left corner. All the advanced rules are presented at the end of the rulebook, in their own section.

LA
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Tomas Hejna
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I have one more question - were the locations "The Quays", "Peer's Palace", "The Automaton" and "Temple of Uren" revised from their inferior effects? Or they are the same as in the first version? I used them very rarely before I house ruled them to be 1 card more effective.
 
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Great review! Looking forward to picking up the revised edition. The original is still one of my favorite card games and I'm sure the revised will easily share that spot.

T.
 
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Ugh. Waiting for this one to be released is torture.
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I was a little disappointed that the Guilds shared certain Leader abilities, but after playing a couple games, I think I prefer the game without Guild Leaders, especially since the "move an agent" ability seems to be excessively good.
 
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A friend of mine has sent us the older version of Arcana to try out since I didn't know it. Glad to say it's something we will play more than once! And some of the "complaints" we found about it seem to be mentioned/resolved in this newer version which is great news (always good to know the creators listen to feedback)!

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Is Arcana a good game for two players?
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I think Arcana plays great at 2, 3 and 4 players.

T.
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Thanks for the great review. Sadly this game has too many low rating scores due to the flawed first edition. The revised edition is several orders of magnitude better and your review does a good job of explaining why. Thanks!
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Matthew Scott
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Thanks for this review. I've now decided to pick up a copy. It is a real shame that there is no news about this for some time. Dust Games appears to have dropped off the map so maybe that explains the lack of noise around this game.
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