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It’s been a while since I played a table top game. I used to play Advanced Dungeon & Dragons waaaay back (don’t ask) and four years ago, I had a chance to play the Dungeons & Dragons 2010 Starter set. It’s still pretty exciting to be playing a table top game even though all you had was some character statistics, a made up history for the character that you’re playing, percentile, D4, D6, D12, D20 die, and a module (a book of sorts) that’s about the fantasy adventure that you’re on. I’ve played Magic the Gathering as well but not much. But I’ve never tried fantasy miniatures games. When I attended Power Mac Center’s Arcadium for 2 Press Launch, I was introduced to Golem Arcana, a digitally enhanced miniatures board game.
We had a go at a starter Golem Arcana Base Game kit. It had several miniature fantasy figures but for my initial foray into it, I got the Winged Preserver unit while my opponent had two units: the Gudanna Dune Viper and Sand Lion.
First off the miniatures are pretty big compared to other miniatures and already pre-painted. It’s around 40mm or more than 1.5 inches tall. Since the lore says that you’re controlling Golems (which according to popular fantasy beliefs are bigger than most humans), they should be big enough compared to smaller units. Since it’s bigger than usual, it’s pretty detailed. The paint and the details are definitely better than the usual miniatures I’ve seen.
The board tiles that we were given to play is double sided and pretty thick so it’ll handle gameplay pretty well. The terrain tile board that we played is a painted-on jungle/desert oasis.
Our units were set on opposite sides of the board. In order to start the game, each of us were given a golem card which had movement and attack options and a control card. My Golem Card was for my Winged Preserver and he had the capability to fly (but it can also move conventionally). The unit can also cast lightning bolt, Stumbling Quake and had a melee attack. The Dune Viper and Sand Lion both had movement and melee based attacks. All of the Golems had set action points (AP) in which to perform actions (move, fly, eviscerate) and hit points (a life bar or how much damage it could take before it croaks).
The thing with miniatures board games back then was someone had to keep track of the movement, the attack done, the effect of terrain of movement/attack, damage done, etc. It was a lot of listing down stuff. It was fun to do but a little tiring and sometimes you forget a few things jotting down stuff, plus of course, if you lost your notes or game info, well, you have to start over.
Golem Arcana (GA) does away with that with its Tabletop Digital Interface (TDI) app and stylus. The game’s app is free to download on Apple and Google Play.
While I didn’t get to download it and interact with the actual interface, I did get to use the stylus which is basically an enlarged Bluetooth pen-like device. GA’s TDI records every move and in order to do that, you have to use the stylus. Our units’ placement on the tile board were recorded by merely pointing the stylus on the miniatures’ names and place on the tile board. Once it was set, we got ready to rumble. My Winged Preserver had the option to fly which allowed to move around in 3 tiles. Since we were set one tile apart, I decided to just move one tile at a time. To move, I had to tap the stylus on my Golem Card name, tap where I wanted to move on the tile board. Each movement costs an AP. When I was near enough, I used my ranged attack (lightning bolt). To attack, I had to tap my Golem Card name and then tap on the name of miniature that I was attacking. It took a couple of tries before I was able to get it work but work it did and the TDI recorded it. Of course, you roll for the chance to hit your opponent’s golem. To do that, you either rolled a percentile dice with a 6 sided dice (6) or let the TDI do it for you. I still like the idea of rolling the dice. It makes you feel more in control (even though it’s still random). I rolled the dice and once I got the number required to hit, I had to use a Control Card. With this card, I could enter the my percentile roll by tapping the numbers and enter or I could end my turn. Doing this is a little clunky but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.
Or you can just push a button on the stylus to roll your chance to hit. The TDI displays how much damage you made to your opponent; no need to write down the damage or what’s left of your miniature’s HP.
We spent about 20 minutes playing the game and while there were several hiccups trying to read the miniatures’ names using the stylus, it was still enjoyable.
I ended up killing the Dune Viper and severely depleting the HP of the Sand Lion but it was two against one and I kept rolling duds trying to hit my opponent’s miniatures. Eventually my Winged Preserver got killed. That was the end of the gaming session.
One session would sometimes last 15 to 30 minutes. If we had assembled a bigger tile board, and put more units on it, it’ll probably take an hour to finish a game. Luckily, Golem Arcana’s TDI lets you save your game by recording all the miniature’s places, HP, AP left and more. The TDI also tells users that crossing certain terrain tiles and repeating certain moves cost more AP so players don’t have to worry about that.
I did like playing Golem Arcana and it was great the TDI displayed on an iPad, recorded every move, attack and HP deductions. It’s a nice blend of analog and digital gameplay. My only real gripe for now is the big-ass stylus. It’s not unwieldy or anything but it is rather big. Also, I wish they packaged one more in the base set so you don’t end up swapping the pen, back and forth between players.
But I’ll definitely get myself the Golem Arcana Base Set. It’s great for small parties and get-togethers especially if you’ve got table top afficionados or enthusiasts. This is also a great idea if you want your kids to play other than video games during weekends.
For more information on Golem Arcana, click here.