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ARKADIA

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Ravensburger/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up, 45-60 minutes; $44.95)

 

Arkadia (aka Die Baumeister von Arkadia in the Ravensburger edition) is the newest offering from designer Rüdiger Dorn, probably best known for Goa (Summer 2004 GA REPORT), putting players into competition as architects seeking to increase their prestige and influence as they construct a city and the castle at its core.

The large gameboard shows the countryside and, at its center, the building site for the castle is placed. The site is a rectangle with 10 spaces for castle pieces. 88 “seals” (cardboard circles) in four colors represent four noble families (red = cloth merchants, olive = spice merchants, black = carpenters, silver = silversmiths) who have commissioned the game’s architects. There are 11 workers in each of the 4 player colors as well as 24 beige “neutral” workers, a large assortment of cardstock building pieces in various shapes and sizes which correspond to the 40 Build card deck as well as a supply of gold pieces. There are 28 plastic castle pieces, each featuring one of the four colors of the noble families, and these are placed in the three supply areas of the board: 12 (3 each of the four colors) in the first two supply areas to be used to build the first and second floors of the castle respectively with the four remaining pieces placed in the third area for use in building the third and final level of the castle.arkadiabox

Each player gets a screen (in his chosen color) and four pennants which hang on it. He also receives three of his workers and is dealt four Build cards. Three of the remaining Build cards are placed face up beside the game board with the remainder becoming a draw deck. Now play (with the youngest being the starting player) begins.

On a turn, a player has two choices. He MUST either play a build card and place the building on the board OR place one or more of his workers. (After that, a player has the option to turn in one of his pennants and score.)

Buildings are placed on the board by following a simple procedure. Each Build card displays a building shape and a color. By playing the card, the player takes the corresponding building piece and must place it on the board so that it either touches a building already in play or the castle site (horizontally or vertically, NOT diagonally) or is next to a worker (again NOT diagonally). A seal matching the color of the card played is placed on the building. In addition, should a played building cover any of the encampments shown on the board, that player receives one of the beige neutral workers for each encampment covered. Now the player draws a Build card to replenish his hand, either from one of the three exposed Build cards or from the top of the draw deck. (Exposed cards taken are immediately replenished from the draw deck.)

A worker may be placed on any unoccupied space, horizontally or vertically, around a building where he remains for the entire game. Should a building be completely surrounded (again, diagonal spaces do NOT count in this), that building is completed and a complete building triggers distribution and scoring.arkadiapcs

The player completing the building takes the seal that is on the building as his reward. In addition, he AND any other player who has workers surrounding the building receive one seal per worker from the supply. (Neutral workers NEVER receive a seal.) Now, the active player chooses from the building supply a castle piece which he will place on the appropriate level of the castle covering one of the spaces in the castle site. (The first level must be completed BEFORE the second level may be constructed.) This continues until all 10 spaces of the first level are complete. The remaining two castle pieces are moved to the third supply site.

At the end of a move, a player may turn in one of his pennants to score. Scoring involves turning in as many of the seals he has garnered (in one or more colors) and getting paid for them. The value of the seals is calculated by multiplying the number of seals in a color by the number of castle pieces currently showing the same color. (For example, if the player has five red seals and there are three castle pieces with red seals on display, that player receives 15 gold.) Each time a player scores, he retrieves two more of his workers from supply, now available for placement as the game continues.

The game ends once the first two levels of the castle are completed. Any further castle pieces built come from the third supply site and are used to create a third level. At that point, each player has one more turn to increase his score. The player with the most gold wins!

There is a pleasing duality to Arkadia. One aspect is the planning and placement of buildings on the board which makes you think of The Princes of Florence (Fall 2000 GA REPORT). Another is the careful construction of the castle which rewards you with gold IF you can get the right color seals in the right position at the right time.) But it doesn’t stop there.

The game looks good as the 3D castle takes center stage. The tug of war facing you virtually each turn between wanting to place a building and wanting to place workers creates tension and some tough choices. Interaction between players is keen too as you try to place your workers in position to benefit from OTHER players completing buildings, all the while keeping in mind that you have to look ahead as to what castle pieces are available and are going to be available so as to maximize your multiplier factors when you do decide to score. You have four pennants to use to score before the final scoring. USE THEM! Wait too long and you will not only miss out on a scoring opportunity but you will be unable to use all of your workers. Fewer workers on the board means fewer seals to be won which means fewer gold to be scored. A potentially fatal condition to your hopes for victory.

Arkadia is well crafted and nicely balanced (particularly for four players), a gamer’s game deserving of its Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) nomination. – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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