Part 2 of my XCOM: The Board Game coverage will have to wait. I'm yet to sufficiently explore the different player counts. It's such an interesting game. You can read the first part of my review here, if you missed it. To fill in, I'm going to tell you about a fun new game called Arcadia Quest.
Arcadia Quest is a light dungeon-crawl board game from Cool Mini Or Not. It's a big giant box, heavy as a mug, full of beautiful little miniatures and thick cardboard tiles. It's a lavish production – the kind of production that Kickstarter has afforded the hobby. Cool Mini Or Not has really been able to go to town with the miniatures – they are beautiful sculpts – and the artwork throughout the game's boards, cards and rulebook is of the highest quality. It's a big, expensive, luxury item.
Is it for you? Let's take a look.
The board game world is hardly short of a dungeon crawl or two. Let me list some ones I love. You like lists, don't you? Of course you do. You are a child of the internet.
HEROQUEST – The old classic. Still a fun ride when you get it on the table.
WARHAMMER QUEST – An incredible, expandable dungeon adventure sandbox. A masterpiece.
DESCENT – From the brilliant, intimidating first edition to the fun and streamlined second, Descent is an essential game.
CLAUSTROPHOBIA – A brilliant 2-player dungeon crawl with some fresh ideas and very streamlined gameplay.
SUPER DUNGEON EXPLORE – The videogame themed one-against-many monster bash. It's a wonderful game, full of colour and excitement.
SPACE HULK – The GOAT.
THE DARK NAME THAT SHALL NOT BE SPOKEN – There's another game that I won't talk about yet, because I've got something special lined up to tell you all about it very soon.
Hey, and that's only SOME of them. There are loads of dungeon crawling games out there, where players take some characters and run them through some dangerous places. We are very well served in that area. What does Arcadia Quest bring to the table? I mean, in terms of it being a dungeon crawl game. If indeed it even is one.
Well, for a start, unlike many dungeon crawl games, Arcadia Quest doesn't need anyone to take control of the bad guys. Just like Warhammer Quest and the D&D Adventure Game System, the enemies have behaviours that will trigger when certain game conditions are met. This allows every Arcadia Quest player the opportunity to play as the good guys, building a little guild of their own.
There are 12 hero characters in the game – enough so that all four players can have their own team of three. The game can be played as a campaign, or scenarios from the campaign can be played through in single sessions, and the objectives are always quite simple. Every scenario has some quests that must be completed – usually there are a couple of scenario-related quests (PvE) and quests that involve killing a character from another player's guild (PvP). Every quest, kill and objective rewards the player with coins, and at the end of each scenario the person who has completed all the quests and has the most coins is the winner.
The gameplay is extremely simple. On your turn, you can activate one character. They can move three spaces and attack, or attack then move. You choose a weapon your character is holding and exhaust it, placing a token on the weapon card. Then you roll the number of dice printed on the card. Rusty Sword? Three dice. And if you roll sword symbols, those are hits. If you roll a critical hit, that's a hit and a re-roll. And then, if you haven't completely killed the monster, it gets a swipe back at you, controlled by the player to your left.
And that's the basics.
In truth, there isn't a great deal more than the basics. Movement, attack rolls and defence rolls. The game is purely tactical, with players all trying to mow down enemies and complete objectives, while making sure to throw some obstacles in the path of opposing players. Monsters are triggered by player activity near to them, and there's never any real need to keep checking the rulebook to see how that stuff flows. It all becomes second nature very quickly. Everything in this game could be distilled down to a page of rules.
Where the game gets interesting is when two guilds are going for the one objective. Let's say one of the quests is simply this – Kill Three Monsters. If two players have completed two quests each, and are both chasing the Kill Three Monsters quest, everything tightens up in a very satisfying manner. Heroes face off against heroes, trying to block progress towards any monsters still on the board. Special abilities are used and dice are chucked and laughs are in abundance.
Here's how the campaign works – when a scenario ends, any characters who died get things called “Death Curses” and these weaken characters for the next scenario. That's fair enough, I think. It's only for one round and it gives every single death an extra bit of pain. Between scenarios you can spend coins on new weapons, armour and abilities from a huge deck of cards. As players progress through the campaign, they choose which scenarios to face. You can easily play the campaign again and again and meet different scenarios and experience different gameplay through the different weapons you acquire. Players who win scenarios will also find that they have additional bonuses later in the campaign, and everything is pulled together in a very cool way. It's replayable, fun, and a whole campaign could easily be blasted through in one long night of gaming.
In truth, this game isn't a dungeon crawl at all. It wears those robes, sure, but it plays like a lovely little tactical skirmish game. The hero characters have great abilities that set them all apart, and make the process of building your guild a real pleasure. The battles are short and thrilling, and as you get new weapons and skills you will be gagging to get out there onto the board to show them off.
It's a big, expensive luxury item. But it's a lovely game. It plays well with adults and kids, there's a ton of content in the box, and it looks gorgeous on the table.
I'm glad we're getting back to these simple, fun-first designs. As much as I love Descent 1st Edition, the game is a BASTARD to play, with pages and pages of rules and errata. Arcadia Quest is not as great as Descent (or as great as any of the games I mentioned on that list earlier) but it does its own thing extremely well, and it will keep a place in my collection for those times when I just want to enjoy breaking some heads with cool swords and spells.