Disclaimer: HBS sent us a Base Game Review Unit

Mini army building board games have always intrigued me but I’ve never touched one. The rules are beyond complex,  the learning curve is steeper than K2 and the amount of time? I miss my childhood when playing games (for fun) could be an all day affair. Now, as a working adult, mini war-games are out of the question. Then, I discovered a gateway game–Golem Arcana.

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I’ve checked out reviews for Golem Arcana and for the most part it’s overall very well received. All of these are from board game reviewers. Me, on the other hand, I’m a video gamer so I have a slightly different perspective (meaning I’m not comparing it to other board games). As a video gamer I can clearly state that I played my first game (tutorial) without ever cracking open a rule book nor did I find myself scratching my head trying to wrap my mind around obscure number crunching. Instead Golem Arcana syncs up to my iPhone (right now you can use new iOS and Android devices) and breaks down everything. In other words it takes the ease of playing a video game and transitions you over to the physical board game realm.

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This is done by using a TDI Stylus (tabletop digital interface) that you’ll use to interact with anything and everything on the board—even the actual board tiles. Say you want to move a figure, all you need to do is tap* the Move icon on the base of the figure and then tap the desired square on the board. Now if you’re not sure where you can move (I.E. due to terrain etc), all of the valid move spots will be displayed in the app. How cool is that! If it’s a valid move and you’re happy with it then all you need to do is press confirm on the stylus and the move is done. Attacks are done in the same manner. Well to be frank, everything is done in this manner. At first I wasn’t sure how well this digital app and board game relationship would cooperate in real life. I know now that this is a massive evolutional step that makes  tactile  boardgames more accessible for video gamers (or people that have never had the time to learn a complex game of this nature).

*I had an issue using the stylus for the first game or two. Once my mind realized that I need to tap-hold the stylus on the desired target for a fraction of a second (instead of super quick taps), the stylus is flawless and very responsive every single time.

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As I briefly mentioned, everything is displayed on your iOS device. Moves, attacks, spells, or whatever. For the first couple days we used an iPad since bigger is better right? Well the issue here is that most of our time our neck was bent towards the iPad—not the actual board game. As luck would have it my iPad battery died during a game session (I’m pretty bad about remembering to charge that thing!) so we used an iPhone. Oh my goodness! When we made the transition over to the iPhone it becomes more of a game piece that we pick up here and there. Now our time is almost completely focused on the board game. Using an iPad is okay but it does pull us away from the game. Using an iPhone is a match made in heaven. Having said that, if you have both a phone and a tablet then I say give them both a shot and see which method you prefer.

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Here’s the thing: Golem Arcana is massive and so far all I’ve talked about is how you interact with the game. Next week we should have our full review up and I’ll make sure that I break down the full game mechanics and talk about the build quality (spoiler: it’s darn good) as well as so many other things that Golem Arcana’s got going for it. I’ll leave with this: if you’re like us and like the idea of playing complex board games but don’t have the time to learn/memorize all of the rules than you really need to check Golem Arcana out. As of the moment it might be our favorite game that we’ve played this year.

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