Gen Con brings a tremendous number of new games to Indianapolis every year. In the past, we have been intrigued with games that try to make the transition from traditional board game to tablet game play. There are some games that have made the jump to the tablet very well, Fantasy Flight's Elder Signs and Talisman to name a few. However, both of these are played completely on the tablet. Although the game play on the tablet is enjoyable, the true social experience of a board game is diminished. Newcomer Golem Arcana, has succeeded in incorporating the tablet and maintained the competition and social aspect of tabletop gaming.
Golem Arcana from Harebrained Schemes, LLC is a miniatures tabletop game that has enhanced game play with the use of your tablet or smartphone. The game is set in the mythical world of Eretsu that has been plunged into turmoil after the untimely death of The Great Khan. Players must harness the power of the Golems, machines of war powered by ancient magics and powerful sorcerers. Different scenarios for game play can be downloaded through the free app. Players set the strategy themselves as they control the pre-painted miniature golems on the game board and choose from a variety of movement and attack options. The Tabletop Digital Interface (TDI) stylus allows the player to identify the Golem and helps to determines its movement points as well as its attack.
This mechanism for incorporating the tablet works extremely well. When we first walked up to demo the game, I was skeptical that the use of the TDI stylus would actually enhance the game. I was worried that the tablet aspect of the game would merely be a gimmick to entice shoppers to try the game. I was completely wrong in this assessment. Unlike some other companies' prior attempts to utilize the tablet in turn-based games for graphics etc., Golem Arcana uses the tablet as a very functional tool. It serves almost like a scoreboard, rulebook and dice all rolled into one. It tracks the use of movement points and easily calculates the range for various attacks. The action and strategy of the game still happens on the board. The stylus is also very easy to use and has a very small learning curve. It contains a very small infrared camera that reads the invisibly embedded codes on the base of the miniatures. I found tapping the base of the miniature golems a bit difficult. Ingeniously, the developers built the same markings into the golem information cards as well, so you can choose to easily tap them to direct your turns. Having the option to utilize either the miniature or the cards allowed both players easy flexibility to quickly move through their turns. In fact, after the first several rounds, we found that both players were using a combination of tapping the miniatures or the cards based on board position, etc. to quickly execute attacks. The fact that the numeric details of hit points, damage and range were tracked by the tablet, allowed the opponents to focus on strategy and game play. Also, the length of the scenarios seemed just about right in length to keep things fresh.
The miniatures themselves are well crafted and solid. The maps presented on the game board added another level of interest and complexity to the game play. The artist detail of both the miniatures and board squares is stunning and helps to draw the players into the world of Erutsu and the struggle for power among the different factions. Also, the variety of ranged attacks vs. melee, as well as different movement options of the different golems works to keep each scenarios fresh and would promote returning to the game again and again.
The base set contains everything needed for two players to dive in and start controlling Golems to wrest control of the fractured land of Erutsu for $79.95. They had a nice offer at Gen Con that also contained 2 other factions of Golems all for a bundled price of $120.00. The Golem Arcana app is free to download and also offers in-app purchases to enhance gameplay. With frequently updated scenerios for download as well as more upcoming expansions for Golems and relic cards, Golem Arcana promises to bring hours of game play adventure that is always evolving. Track this game down at your neighborhood game shop today!
Did you get a chance to buy this game? What other games did you stumble across at Gen Con 2014? Tell us about it in the comments below!