Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 12 March 2019

Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty Bitty Deck Size:- Res Arcana

Game: Res Arcana

Publisher: Sandcastle Games

Designer:  Tom Lehmann

Year: 2019

Res Arcana is a 2-4 player card game in which players take control of dueling mages. Victory can be obtained by summoning powerful dragons that can weaken your foe's resolve, or by using your magical essences to claim places of power which can then be further charged with magical arts. Alternatively you can amass gold to build monuments to your glory or combine all 3 into your winning strategy. Whatever your game plan is it's a race to be the first to 10 victory points at the end of a round, though if multiple players reach that lofty height then the player with the highest number of points will claim victory.

The game begins with each player being handed a deck of 8 cards (though there is a drafting variant if you want more control). You then look at this deck, shuffle it and draw 3 cards before selecting one of your 2 mage cards to represent you. hopefully all this lets you build up something of a strategy, but if you want a bit less variability there are 4 default starting hands to ensure all players get a balanced and viable start. After this each player will take turns choosing one of the available items, these cards are only kept for a round but give increased income or extra powers.

The duelist has created an engine that should allow him to produce a good amount of gold, there is a lot of symbology in the game but it is all extremely consistent, you won't struggle to understand what your cards can do.
Once everyone is set up the round begins with the first player doing 1 action. The second player will then take 1 action and so on. There is no limit to the number of actions 1 player can do so long as they have the resources to do them. Actions are typically playing an artifact card by paying it's cost in essences, discarding a card to gain essences or activating a card to perform it's ability. Artifacts are hugely varied with some giving you turn by turn incomes, some letting you store resources on them (only available next turn) and others to attack your opponents draining them off their essences, unless they have the ability to block the attack. Hopefully you'll manage to build up your artifacts into an engine that produces the gold or essences you need to buy some of the places of power or monuments available. These are where most of the game's points come from. Once you run out of actions you pass, the first player to pass gains the first player marker (worth 1 point), then draws a card and trades in their item for another. Once all player have passed the round ends and unless somone has 10 points a new round will begin.

Res Arcana is a game filled to the brim with replayability. Not only is there a huge deck of artifacts which you only see 8 each per game, the places of power are all double sided changing the routes to victory dramatically. You'll have to use your knowledge of your deck as some of these places of power are reliant on you having certain card types, or at least high production of specific essences. Be prepared to evaluate and then play to your deck's strength if you want to win!
Res Arcana comes with a host of different items, mages and places of power to keep each game different. As well as lovely wooden components for the magical essences you'll need.

Res Arcana does a great job of presenting a competitive mage duel, it brings a excellent engine building system with tight resource management as you eke your way towards that 10 victory point goal. Like any good engine building game you start off with very limited decisions and end the game with comparatively huge income and options. Res arcana manages to create hugely different strategies by presenting each player with only a handful of cards for the whole game. While there certainly is a chance to get a better deck than others We've always seemed to have extremely close game so clever use of what you have can make every card useful, even if it's just to discard to essences! Overall Res Arcana is simple to play, but deep in it's variability and strategy, which for me makes it a brilliant card game which I Highly recommend picking up.


Res Arcana was a preview copy provided by Asmodee UK.

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