The Gamer's Codex

The Gamer's Codex

Arcana Revised Edition: Look at all the Shiny!

Arcana Revised Edition
From: Fantasy Flight Games, Dust Games
Reviewed by: Steve Constant

In the City of Cadwallon, only one game can be so pretty but so confusing to play!

Everyone knows the game of Poker, I assume? Players use a standard fifty-two card deck, known as a French deck, to create combinations of cards that are partly or completely hidden for the duration of the game and revealed to determine a winner. The rules can be simple or complex. Bets are placed. Averages-to-win are employed. Fooling your opponent is sometimes required to win.

Now, give each of the players a motif of a Guild, the betting system doesn’t use real money but collects Stake Cards, and drape the cards in the most beautiful modern fantasy artwork. This is Arcana Revised Edition

Arcana Revised Edition, and its predecessor Arcana, are deck building games that are along the lines of Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer and Dominion. To be honest, I knew nothing when I picked up Arcana Revised Edition except for the outstanding art that covers every inch of the game. There are individualized art pieces on the game box, the rulebook, and over three hundred cards.

‘But!’ You say, ‘Magic the Gathering cards have unique artwork on each card? Why not play Magic?’

Because I value eating and having a bank account. Also, Arcana Revised Edition’s art keeps it unique styling through each piece even though they used nine artists. It doesn’t look drawn-together from a last minute on-a-shoestring budget. I appreciate that aspect of game design.

When I started playing Arcana Revised Edition I needed all my experience in gaming just to try and figure out what was going on. For starters, I didn’t know the name of the city the game is based in until I started writing this review. It just doesn’t matter. And for a lot of the fluff of the game, it is just that – fluff. Relic cards? No, they are just 1-point victory cards. Personality cards? Nope, they are used to win stakes. The ‘Ducal Jubilee’ Card? Please, just means I need to go all out in this round because the game is over.

In the most basic rules of Arcana Revised Edition the objective of the game is to be the leader of guild, that comes with a unique power and followers, in attempts to win stakes. The number of stakes depends on the number of players at the table. Stakes between opponents are always played blinded and one-on-one, where the opposing players do not know what cards they are playing against each other. There is also a ‘Neutral’ stake between all players at the table that is played with all cards placed face-up. Each round players draw four cards from their deck and assign them as they see fit. At the end of the round all cards are revealed and stakes are rewarded. Stakes are won by playing the most Arcana that is on the stake card – Staff, Sword, Cup, or Ducat. Stakes won are added to the winning players deck and the process is repeated until the Ducal Jubilee card is uncovered from the ‘Neutral’ stake.

The expanded rules allow for customization of the player’s guild, adding of guildmasters, adding of the city militia, adding of objectives, adding of random events, and adding of tactical discards. All or none of these rules can be used during the course of the game.

Conclusion? If you got lost reading my description of how the game is played, you’ll be lost playing the game. It is best to have an experienced player at the table to help new players into this card game. The Game Designers recognized this fact. They created a lettering system to help new players know which cards to use. Though, I would have figured they would realize it was a bit too much when they reached the ‘F’ rules set.

But! When you are familiar with all of the rules this game it is extremely enjoyable and fast to play. Anyone who knows Fantasy Flight Games knows that are infamous for games that last an incredibly long time.

Note: The first major difference between Arcana and Arcana Revised Edition is the expansion of guilds from four to six. The second major difference is the labeling of cards for all of the difference rules sets available. I highly suggest purchasing the revised edition if you are interested in picking up this game, though the packaging is larger.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary

Arcana Revised Edition
From: Fantasy Flight Games, Dust Games
Type of Game: Card Game
Game Designer: Damien Desnous
Cover Illustrator: Nicolas Fructus
Graphic Design: Mathicu Harlaut and Franck Achard
Illustrators: Paul Bonner, Gary Chalk, Miaguel Coimbra, Nicolas Fructus, Edouard Guiton, Florent Madoux, Paolo Parente, Goulven Quentel, and Marc Simonetti
Number of Pages: 12 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 6 Guild Crest cards, 120 Guild cards, 116 Stake cards, 1 First Player cards, 1 Ducal Jubilee card, 6 Militia cards, 18 Guild Master cards, 24 Objective cards, 12 Event cards
Retail Price: $34.99(US)
Number of Players: 2-4
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 60 min


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About the author

Steve Constant (Steve Constant)

Adventurer, Writer, Gamemaster. Never have enough free time.

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