[The following is a review of the card management game Res Arcana based on the digital implementation of the game located on the Boardgame Arena website. The photos in the review and the price quoted reference the non-digital game.]
Reviewed by Chris Kovac
RES ARCANA (Asmodee/Sand Castle Games, 1 to 4 players, ages 12 and up, 20-60 minutes; $39.99)
Res Arcana is a game designed by Tom Lehman of Race for the Galaxy (featured in the Winter 2008 GA Report) fame. This time the theme is about dueling mages using artifacts to generate magic victory points (first to 10 points wins the game ).
Unlike my reviews in the past, this one is solely based on a digital version of the game since restrictions due to COVID have limited my face-to-face gaming severely. Playing the digital version of the game, while not the same social experience as a face-to-face boardgame, does offer a different way to continue playing games while under lockdowns. Now on with the review.
The game has a theme of dueling, playing the card version rather than the digital game (the digital game sets up the game automatically), first randomly put out the double sided five places of power (each side is a different place of power) in the middle of the table, accessible to all players. Shuffle the monument deck and put it face down above the places of power. Flip two cards face up as your starting monuments. Shuffle the artifact cards and deal eight to each player as their artifact deck. Deal two mages to each player as well. Players then after looking at their deck and mages, choose one mage (each mage has a special power which can be used each turn during the course of the game) and after shuffling their artifact deck get four cards as a starting hand. Give player one of each essence (resource) token (elan, life, death, calm and gold). Each player gets a reference card which explains the symbiology on the cards. Players then choose a starting player who get the first player token (worth one victory point) who starts the game and play proceeds clockwise from this player.
Each turn consists of three phases which are:
- Collect essences from various artifact cards which have a collect ability or from cards which generated resources during the previous turn. This is done simultaneously.
- Starting with the start player and going clockwise each player gets too due one of the five following actions:
a) Play an artifact card from your hand adding it to your active cards in front of you. You must pay the resources listed on the top left of the card in order to play it down.,
b) Claim a monument card or place of power card. Monuments cost you four gold and give you victory points and usually some combination of essence tokens and special power. Place of power cost the amount of resources listed on the top left corner of the card. Places of power give you victory points by converting essences into other essences which count for points on the card.
c) Discard a card from your hand for one gold or two essences of your choice. d) Use a power on an active mage, artifact, magic item, monument or place of power. After using this power tap the card sideways to show that you have used it. Most cards can only be used once per turn unless “untapped” by another cards power.
d) Use a power on an active mage, artifact, magic item, monument or place of power. After using this power tap the card sideways to show that you have used it. Most cards can only be used once per turn unless “untapped” by another cards power.
e) Pass in which you end playing for this round. You then discard you magic item and pick another from available magic items, untap your tapped cards and draw a card (if possible). If you are the first to pass you also receive the first player marker which allows you to go first in the next round.
3. Check to see if anyone has won the game by having ten or more victory points. If two or more people fulfill this condition then the person with the most points wins. Ties are broken with having the most essence markers. If nobody has won then start a new round with the first player.
To win at Res Arcana, you need to use one’s deck efficiently to generate victory points and generate resources to buy places of power cards and monuments cards to get additional victory points. If you are too slow in assembling your point engine, other players may buy the places or power cards you need out from under you or use creature artifact cards to attack you and drain your resources making your point engine inefficient or in the worst case inoperable.
Once you have assembled your point engine, efficient use of card powers and the right use of magic items at the right time can help you win the game. Once you understand how the icons work, the game is fairly straight forward to play with little downtime. The rule book is well written and easily understood. I prefer using a draft to initially assemble your artifact deck as it allows you to better customize your point engine strategy rather than relying on the random draw of cards.
I would recommend Res Arcana to gamers, especially fans of deck builders and point engine games although the games moderate complexity may be a bit high for casual or family gamers. Overall a good eight out of ten for me. – – – – – – – – – – – – – Chris Kovac
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Other Spring 2021 GA Report articles