Note: This review reflects our experience with the Base Starter Kit and does not include any of the additional expansions.
About a year ago we covered Golem Arcana’s Kickstarter (we rarely cover Kickstarter) but made an exception because this one appeared to be damn awesome. A non-overwhelming miniature game? Count me in! Close to a year has passed since then and our anticipation remained high. Our itching fingers managed to grasp onto a Basic Starter Kit a couple of weeks ago and we became instantly addicted. Last week we posted our First Impressions and raved about it. Over the last few days we snuck in a good chunk of game time and the impossible happened: we love it even more.
So what is Golem Arcana? Well my friend it’s a miniature board game that is realized upon army building and tactics. You’ll move real miniatures around a real board and roll real dice. So video game friends that get blinded from computer screen over-dose (not making fun of you…sad thing is that’s my light source as well), you’ll need to step away from your computer and sit down at a table with your flesh and blood friends. Oh, but grab your iPhone as well (or any compatible iOS Android device).
Okay, did you sit down yet?
Each game consists of two armies (more players are coming in a future update) made up of Golems, magical creatures, that will battle one another in a turn-based manor divided up by Action Points. Each turn provides 6 action points where you can decide to use them by moving a Golem and/or using abilities such as ranged or melee attacks. Once you’re done it’s the other player’s turn.
Repeat until one army has achieved the objective.
The objective changes from scenario to scenario, keeping things fresh for many play-throughs. At times it’s as basic as ‘first person to destroy the other army wins’. Other times you’re both trying to move across the board to capture a square on the opposing side. These are the two main objectives (there’s 1-2 other objectives that you’ll find) but they remain interesting with each scenario.
Our first day or so with Golem Arcana was vastly different from how we play now. Originally we screamed “Charge” and moved each miniature across the board with our only focus being what range and melee attack we should use. That’s just skimming the surface here as the Golem Arcana app reveals the real strategy in this gem. Besides the app keeping track of the rules and doing all the number crunching for you (feel free to click here where I go into a bit more detail), this is where you’ll customize your army. If you’re using just the Basic Starter kit you won’t be able to be very creative with choosing the Golems. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot of options and strategy to play around with. Each Golem is controlled by a Sorcerer/Sorceress Knight which will give Golems new abilities during each battle. One Knight may make melee attacks more powerful and another give a Golem more cover (meaning less likely to get hit by an opposing Golem). Since these Knights are virtual, you can do plenty of experimentation without the need of purchasing any physical knights. Additionally is the ability to choose relics as well as Ancients (a God) which can turn the tide of battle. Once you know and understand how to build an army, Golem Arcana stops being a brawl fest and instead shows its complexity. Now, our games consist of casting spells, creating combos, terrain awareness and of course pulling off the always-fun attacks.
I’ve raved about how the physical board game interacts with a iOS/Android device in our First Impressions article… and I’m gong to rave about it a tiny bit more (a miniature rave). You can pull off everything in the game by tapping on the base of each miniature or by tapping on the provided cards. Both methods create an effortless and highly enjoyable experience. If you’re learning the game then I highly suggest that you focus on using the cards since everything that you need to know is laid out in front of you. The only downside is that this makes you sit away from the board and slightly detracts from being immersed. Once you get a grasp of the game then forget about the cards and use the miniatures. This rally’s you into the action and makes it a bit easier to focus on strategy. Oh! You can roll real dice and enter it by using a card! I love being able to roll real dice!
One of the big reasons why I’ve had a sudden interest in miniature boardgames is being able to interact with well-designed toys…I mean miniature models. Fortunately the overall quality goes beyond all expectations. Each miniature is bursting with detail from seeing a mini-Knight riding each Golem to flames burning inside one of them. The paint job’s boast fine details and seriously look awesome when placed on a shelf. The double-sided board game tiles have a nice thick quality. The only issue that I have is with the TDI stylus. The casing feels like it’s cheap plastic that might break if dropped onto a hard floor. Having said that, I have not dropped it (and hopefully I won’t) so I don’t know how durable it actually is.
Golem Arcana has been out for a little over a month so what I’m going to say here will most likely change down the road. Currently there’s only 11 scenarios to play and two of them are tutorials (there’s more scenarios if you buy expansions which will let you build stronger armies [I.E. 1000 points instead of 500]). Each are set up for two players…not one, not three…two. On top of this is that you cannot play with a friend online which is too bad. They’ve already rolled out an update (focused on Knights) and they will be adding more content. Now here’s the thing: as I said Golem Arcana just launched a few weeks ago. As of the moment I love what I have but I would be thrilled to be able to create my own map layouts as well as set up objectives. I’ll just have to work on my patience until more things are added.
The Bottom Line: Golem Arcana is the perfect gateway for video gamers to cross over to the realm of real miniature war gaming. The experience is streamlined where it’s very easy to learn while at the same time systematically reveals it’s complexity. Golem Arcana has been on the tip of my tongue the last couple of weeks and I cannot stress enough how great it is.