by Zeb Larson
Arcana is a game that I can’t quite seem to explain why I like so much. It’s not the best game that I’ve ever played, nor is it especially easy to teach. The rulebook can be frustratingly oblique at times and some of the action is very luck-driven, something I’m not wild about in games. In spite of everything I’ve just said, I really like this game, and I’m going to do my best to explain why that is. The game has an interesting bidding mechanism, gorgeous artwork, an oddly compelling backstory which has just enough holes to allow you to fill them in and some very enjoyable player interaction.
For those who haven’t played, Arcana is a 2 to 4 player card game set in a city called Cadwallon. Players take the role of guilds, such as the Ferrymen, Thieves, Architects and so on as they bid for control of treasure, notable personalities and locations. Players begin the game with a deck of 11 cards which has a number of personalities and a treasure card as well. The game is played by bidding on different cards which are in play in the center. Each card has an assigned point value, with treasures worth 1, characters worth 3 and locations worth 5. The starting guilds are all somewhat different from each other, though not markedly so. Each will have a couple of high cards in one area and be lacking in another, and each is able to win a tied bid based on the type of bid. For example, the Guild of Blades wins all bids in which swords are the relevant statistic.
The game is played like so: