Reviewed by Herb Levy

THE ARRIVAL (Cryptozoic, 2 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 75-90 minutes; $40)


In a time long forgotten, the sinister King Balor of the Evil Eye rules the luscious emerald isle of Erin aided and abetted by the Formori, a supernatural face of fierce monstrous beings. But that rule is now being challenged. In this Martin Wallace design, The Arrival of mighty Tribes who wish to claim this land for their own triggers a battle between these powerful forces.

The game is played on a large board showing Erin, divided into areas. The four castles of Baldor are placed in their northern spaces. Formori tokens are shuffled and 8 of them randomly placed face up on the four castle and four linked spaces. The deck of 54 “Earning” cards are shuffled and divided into 3 piles of 18 cards each. A “first player” is randomly chosen and then, each player chooses one Tribe Leader card as well as 2 Building Disks, 2 Blockers and an Overview board in their chosen color. Now, in counterclockwise order from the first player, everyone takes one Building Disk from supply (in their color) and places it at any open port location on the board. There are two scoring tracks and each player places Tracking Tokens in their color at 4 on the Honor Track and 0 on Corruption.

There are two phases to each game turn: Earning and Action. 

In the Earning Phase, starting with the First player, everyone takes one of the cards from the top of one of the Earning card stacks. The backs of each card give an indication of what may be on the other side of the card. This is done until all players have four face down cards in a row in front of them. Then, players must choose what they earn for that round. 

Simultaneously, all players flip over their first two cards. Every card is divided into a top, middle and bottom with different “earnings” possible in each section. Now, also simultaneously, all players take one of their Blockers and places it on one of the three sections. Now, the third card is flipped and another Blocker is placed on one of the remaining, unblocked, sections. Finally, the fourth card is flipped. Players will collect ALL of the resources found on the UNBLOCKED section of ALL FOUR cards!

Honor Points gained are recorded on the Honor Point track. Building Disks, Swords and Shields are collected from supply. Formori tokens shown are taken from supply and kept face down for the time being while Corruption equal to the numbers on the Corruption symbols on the unblocked cards are added to that player’s Corruption track. Tactics tiles (up to 6) based on icons shown are taken too.  The Earning cards of this round are then discarded and the Action phase begins.

Each player may perform two actions each turn (except for the first turn of the game when only one action is allowed). Possible actions include Build, Repel, Spread and Shield.

Build allows placement of one Building Disk in an unoccupied location connected to one of a player’s locations or on top of a previously placed disk. (A stack may be no taller than 3 disks.) Repel is a form of attack using a number of Swords against Formori or Balor’s castles as specified on the Formori token or castle provided that player is directly connected to the area of attack. (Otherwise, it may cost 2 Honor Points.)  A successful Repel earns Honor Points OR the loss of 1 Corruption. (Defeated Formori are removed from the board; defeated castles are turned face down as a “Castle Trophy”.)

Spread increases the Formori on the board. The active player picks an area connected to any Formori on the board (or a castle). Formori tiles from their supply (the precise number involved determined by Shields in the province PLUS Building Disks there PLUS 1) are mixed and one placed. (Remaining tiles are placed into the General supply along with Shields and Building Disks in that province.) The Shield action allows the Tribal Leader to place a Shield (from his/her supply) into a province where that player has at least one fortified area. (The Shield limit in a province is found on the map.) Shields protect against Formori attack. 

In addition to these four actions, the active player may take advantage of any of these FREE actions which include:

Using a Tactic Tile – Tactic tiles offer some sort of advantage including additional Honor Points, swapping positions of Formori and more. 

Using a Castle Trophy – Discard a won Castle Trophy out of the game and remove up to 3 Formori tokens from that player’s supply. 

Or Pass – If no Formori tiles are in Tribal supply or cannot be placed in a legal manner, that player may pass and choose up to 3 resources (Building Disks, Swords and/or Shields). All other held resources (except for Castle Trophies or Tactic Tiles) are returned to general supply. 

The first player to pass becomes the first player next round. Play continues until one of two conditions is met. If, at any time, the Corruption level of a player reaches the specified limit (from 17 to 25 depending on the number of players),  the game is over. That round is completed and we score. Otherwise, play continues until 4, 5 or 6 rounds (again, depending on the number of players) are finished. 

If ALL Tribal Leaders have fortified more locations that places held by Baldor’s Castles and the Formori, the Tribes have won! To determine which Tribe Leader is the winner, calculate the value of fortifications (based on the province value). To that, add the total of Buildings, Swords, Shields and Tactic Tiles in a player’s supply and divide by 3 with that number determining additional Honor Points. The player with the highest combined total claims victory! Tie? Then the player with the least corruption wins! (Corruption is not a new element in game design and has appeared in several games including Cleopatra and the Society of Architects [Summer 2006 GA Report] and serves as a counterbalance to continual combat without consequences.)  But if the Formori control more (or an equal amount) of areas than the Tribes, the winner is the player with the LEAST Corruption. Tie? Then the player with the most Honor gets the edge.

The Arrival is a reworking of Modred, an earlier Wallace design, previously released in limited quantities at the Essen Game Fair by Game’s Up in 2016. This edition upgrades the art (although some of the color choices are problematic as similarities can cause counters to blend into the board making them easy to miss) and adds a new Advanced Game variant where Tribal Leaders are chosen via a draft with each Leader having a different and unique ability that may be used throughout the game. 

The  Earning Phase involving the determination of which part of chosen cards is to be blocked is an approach that simulates the “fog of war”, something not generally found in Euros but is a significant factor in wargames. “Fog of War” mainly means players do not quite know just what power or forces are at the command of opponents and must make adjustments based on this imperfect intelligence. In The Arrival, players themselves are unsure precisely just what and how much they will have at their disposal and must rely on their “educated” guesses, a tantalizing design element in the game. 

The semi-cooperative nature of the game coupled with its dual paths to victory creates an interesting dynamic: Leaders win if Baldor’s and the Formori’s grip on locations is broken and this has to be done by all working more or less together towards that common goal. But, since only ONE Tribal Leader will emerge as the true victor, that cooperation is tempered. Even more so as players may “hedge their bets” if they feel their combined efforts will fail and attempt to win by being the least corrupt!

The Arrival feels like a mix of Euro and wargame which may, in fact, narrow its appeal: too “war” for Euro fans and too “Euro” for grognards. The game is presented as a “family game” but may be too involved for traditional “family” play. Wallace tends to create games with intriguing decisions and this is no exception (particularly in the Earning Phase) but with such contrasting elements involved, this is most definitely a “try before you buy”. – – – – — Herb Levy

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