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

Website: www.fantasyflightgames.com

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Technology Guide

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Technology Guide
From: Paizo Publishing, LLC
Reviewed by: Steve Constant

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Technology Guide is a supplemental guide for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game from Paizo Publishing, LLC. It is to be used with the Iron Gods Adventure Path or to introduce super-science into any campaign.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Clark

With that introductory quote, Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Technology Guide makes the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game one the most diverse sandbox roleplaying game settings.

(Sorry Savage Worlds. Please don’t blackmail me.)

I think it’s fantastic, to quote my favorite Doctor. And terrifying. Here’s why – this roleplaying supplement book is the end product of all the players constantly requesting and asking their game masters to allow them to use items and weapons not found in their campaign’s fantasy setting. Starting with the mighty Gary Gygax and the published 1980 adventure module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, it continued on through each version of Dungeons & Dragons until the creation of Pathfinder by Paizo.

Each time, the introduction of a science fiction motif into a fantasy genre game has only resulted in a few cool gadgets, weird alien monsters, a few crashed spaceships-themed dungeons, and a new roleplaying game or two. But now, with Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Technology Guide, something else has occurred – it is a new science fiction genre game using the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules set. And, even more strangely and amazingly, it works.

This supplement is divided into three parts. The first is ‘Technology in the World.’ It breaks down new Feats, Spells, Skills, and Class Abilities that can be used with super-science. The second is ‘Technological Equipment.’  It is a staggering thirty-six pages of new technology-based gear with art and in-game uses. The third is ‘Technological Hazards and Artifacts.’  This covers the odds and ins of using technology and how they have interacted with the Pathfinder campaign setting.

The first section, ‘Technology in the World,’ borrowed lessons learned from psionics and added game mechanics to an existing system, simple and sweet. With a single Feat, pre-existing Skills gain new uses for technological items. The Feats also add to the flavor of setting by adding anti-technology sentiment, thus helping characters who care nothing for super-science by just smashing it to bits. New Spells and Class Archetypes allow for genre-specific modifications of the core classes. Plus the addition of a new prestige class, Technomancer, allows for multiclassing in Pathfinder when in recent additions to the game it seems as though it hasn’t been encouraged.

The second section, ‘Technological Equipment,’ is overwhelming. It is the reason why this book was written. New and unique weapons, armors, pharmaceuticals, cybertech, and technological gear is organized simply with easy-to-read reference charts. It is also important to note that this isn’t all of the super-science gear that will be in Pathfinder. Some technological gear was presented in Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars and will be introduced throughout the Iron Gods Adventure Path.

The final section, ‘Technological Hazards and Artifacts,’ introduces realistically scary dangers that the players will face and treasures they could find. Timeworn rules set, radiation, technological traps, and insane artificial intelligences are detailed, along with treasures that are standard items in true science fiction-based roleplaying games, such as powered armor.

Conclusion? I equate the Technology Guide to the psionic rules set of Dungeons and Dragons game. Each game master must make a decision – whether or not to allow psionics into their campaigns. Super-science will have the same unbalancing effect as psionics. It will be just as complicated and hard to follow. Unless the campaign is focused on this specific area, such as Dark Sun setting for psionics and Iron Gods Adventure Path for super-science, I highly suggest keeping these additional rules sets locked away from players for ease of game play.

Note: I cannot wait to see more technology-based items for Pathfinder. I personally don’t mind shooting a red dragon in the wing with a rail gun to bring it down. It should be interesting to see how the rest of the Pathfinder community reacts to such an overwhelming science fiction theme in a fantasy game.

Iron Gods is the fifteen Adventure Path published by Paizo Publishing.

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Technology Guide
From: Paizo Publishing, LLC
Type of Game: RPG Supplement Rulebook
Authors: James Jacobs and Russ Taylor
Cover Artist: Kerem Beyit
Interior Artists: Helge C. Balzer, Sara Betsy, Milivoj Ceran, Yanni Davros, Joel Hustak, Eric Lofgren, Sam Manley, Leonardo Meschini, Alexander Nanitch kov, Antoine Roi, Mac Smith, Bryan Syme, Jose Vega, Chris Waller, Daniel Warren, and Joe Wilson
Creative Director: James Jacobs
Editor-in-Chief: F. Wesley Schneider
Managing Editor: James L. Sutter
Lead Developer: Mark Moreland
Senior Developer: Rob McCreary
Developers: Logan Bonner, john Compton, Adam Daigle, Mark Moreland, Patrick Renie, and Owen K.C. Stephens
Associate Editors: Judy Bauer and Christopher Carey
Editors: Justin Juan, Ryan Macklin, and Matthew Simmons
Lead Designer: Jason Bulmahn
Designer: Stephen Radney-MacFarland
Managing Art Director: Sarah E. Robinson
Senior Art Director: Andrew Vallas
Art Director: Sonja Morris
Graphic Designers: Emily Crowell and Ben Mouch
Number of Pages: 68 page rulebook
Game Components Included: Pathfinder supplement handbook
Retail Price: $19.99(US)
PDF Price: $13.99(US)

Website: www.paizo.com/