This is the twelfth week (thirteenth game overall) in my ongoing journey back in time to the CCGs I own and used to play (or never actually played, as was often the case), chronicled in this meta geeklist: My Journey Back to CCGs.
Although I've just started making pocket rule summaries for these games, I decided not to do one for Arcadia. Firstly, the rules themselves are only 8 pages (4 double-sided rule cards). Secondly, I don't anticipate every playing this game again, heh.
And, woot, first session report logged on BGG for Arcadia.
My cards are copyrighted 1996. I think this was the third White Wolf game, after Vampire: The Eternal Struggle and Rage (both of which will appear later in the CCG Journey), based on the RPG Changeling: The Dreaming (1st Edition), though I'm not positive as I've never actually played any of them. This game was a bit of a departure from the "first generation" CCGs in which the goal was always elimination of the opponent via attacks. In Arcadia, each player "creates" a character, then travels across the land (League cards) and overcomes Waylays (encounters, like foes and travel hazards) to complete his quest and win the game.
The game comes in character packs and story packs -- no starters or boosters, per se. A character pack includes one character (which is actually a really sweet multi-layer card that collapses down into a base with a character standee rising out of it) and several abilities, allies, etc. that are used to customize your guy using a point-buy system; it also has one rules card (pages 1-2). A story pack has 7 League cards, 1 Quest, and I guess that makes 7 Waylays, plus three rules cards (pages 3-8).
I honestly can't remember the circumstances of my purchase, other than I know I bought all these cards at once: 2 Wyld Hunt character packs and story packs, and 2 Madness of King Ironheart character packs and story packs. I can't remember who I played one game with at the time, but I do recall being underwhelmed by it.
I have no idea of the pack collation for Arcadia. It seems like they are partially or completely fixed within a single pack, but obviously there are many different packs. After looking in a Madness pack and seeing that everything looked more expensive, we decided to stick with just the Wyld Hunt (first/base set) packs.
My character pack was a female ogre with several merit cards that complemented her physical orientation - Dirty Fighting and Lightning Quick, stuff like that. You can take 5 points of Merits for free, and then get extras by taking Flaws with equivalent value. I decided to squeeze in a Belt of Troll Strength and had to take a 3-point Enemy - King Ironheart - to pay for it. John's character was a satyr. He was more Savvy oriented and had a Great Eagle ally. In a chaosium of creativity, we named our characters Ogrella and Satyro.
My story pack quest was Prove Yourself, which involved going to 4 specific Leagues and overcoming a Waylay there, one of each type total. It also allowed 1 treasure point to be placed, but I didn't have any 1-pt treasures left in my character pack, so there would be no phat lewtz for me. John's quest was Reconnaissance Mission, which not only required simply traveling to 3 different Leagues (no specific tests), but also allowed him to start with the quest's 3-point treasure rating of gear already in his possession (outfitted by Lord Gamine for the quest). On the other hand, it did have a Waylay limit of 16 rather than the 14 on my quest.
We each selected our 5 Leagues and took turns placing them. We ended up with an L-shaped land of Ardenmore, where the short leg was a border league and then two ocean leagues. I made him start at the tip of the long leg and chose 3 leagues at the bend and tip of the short leg for his destinations; he made me start near the middle of the map and put two of my test waylays in each direction.
The play sequence is actually pretty quick. If you move, you have to pass the exit trial on the league you're leaving and the enter trial on the league you're moving into (if any), then you must face the waylay there (if any was already there or if your opponent plays one on you upon entry). Waylay, Special or Rest are each considered an encounter and you can only encounter once per turn, so the play is actually pretty quick: if there's a waylay, you're done for the turn whether you pass or fail; if there isn't a waylay you do the special or rest, and you're done. Play is pretty smooth once you realize how simple the turn structure is.
What's not so simple is actually accomplishing much. Your stats are in the range of 1 to 3 and you add 1d6 when making a test or trial. Overcoming waylays with similar ranges felt way too random to us. If your stats were evenly matched it boiled down to 50/50 luck if you won that turn; if it was lopsided, then it was trivial to overcome (in your favor) or took a really lucky roll to overcome (if it was in their favor). In fact, John bent the knee once I had already faced my third quest waylay (out of four) and he was stuck against a waylay using Resolve, which Satyro only had a 1 and the waylay had a 4. In fact, he only moved about 3 times the whole game because he was stuck haggling with a merchant for several turns early, and then stuck the rest of the game trying to beat a Sandman I had played on him.
This got our "meh" of the week. The cards are nice - great art direction and style, and the character popup standee is awesome:
The concept of buying a character pack to make a character and a story pack to give him something to do and waylays to use on your opponent is great. Talk about a truly low cost of entry. I really appreciate the fact that this was an RPG-like adventure game rather than reduce opponent to zero life/mana/troops/cards game. I even like that fact that you take "damage" by exhausting your merits. But at the end of the day, the capricious test resolution system ruins the whole thing for me.
I'm not sure why it feels so out of place here. I think it must be because you get 1 chance and then your turn is over. Compare this with an RPG combat; the odds and flat die distribution of a d20 might not be much different than at the d6 range, but there is a lot more going on in a real RPG combat (usually). Getting stuck in one spot for 2 or 3 or 5 turns in an otherwise quick-moving CCG just flattens the whole experience for me. I'm not sure if Arcadia plays with 3+, but I would imagine the "downtime" when stuck would be even worse with more players.
My old rating for Arcadia stands as is: 5.
Notes on the Journey
I just now noticed a bug or caching problem in the games played, sorted by game. It was still showing 26 WoW plays since June 1st when I know I had played some more, so I went and double-checked all the numbers via the game entry. Dunno what's up with that.
The first number is total plays since the CCG Journey started, and the numbers in parentheses is the number of plays since the Week 11 SR.
WoW = 29 (+3)
Magic = 15
AGOT = 10
VS = 8
Doomtown = 6
Epic = 4
BattleTech = 3 (+1)
L5R = 2 (+1)
Shadowrun = 2
Arcadia = 1 (+1)
Fantasy Adventures = 1
On the Edge = 1
Shadowfist = 1
Haha, reading reports like this in your journey makes me wonder... have you ever looked a CCG in the eye and actually walked away? I thought I wasn't discriminating, but you're managing to find obscure stuff I've never even heard of. Heh.
Awesome reports, though. I love hearing about the good *and* the bad of the CCG insanity from the last 15 years.
... have you ever looked a CCG in the eye and actually walked away?
hehe, probably not. I had a lot of disposable income (and nothing to do with my free time) when I worked overseas, so that contributed to the addiction quite a bit, I'm sure.
Just for the record, I'm pretty sure you played this game wrong.
First of all, you roll 2d6 and add it to your stat during combat, not 1d6 as you listed above. This helps with the 'getting stuck' problem. If you're facing a waylay that has 4 in a stat and you have 1, rolling 2 dice adds enough luck to make it not all that unlikely you'll beat him after a turn or two anyway. You can also always retreat and go around him (unless he's standing on the target of your mission, then you do sort of need to power through him).
Also when playing with the expansion cards you start with 10 points and can get 10 points in flaws. This makes your character have a larger variety of abilities which can make things a little more exciting during the actual game. I def. enjoyed the game a lot more back when my brother and I first bought the expansion cards. We played this game regularly for a year or so back in the day and just started fooling around with it again.
One problem I'm sure you had is the game def. has some diminishing returns with having bought less cards. While still quite fun with just a few boosters (and nice you can play with so few cards bought!) my brother and I eventually bought a booster box of both the original and the expansion. Its really helpful on building a character that can deal with multiple types of waylays in this situation, as you'll have 1 pt cost cards like 'exhaust to change the waylay from a combat test to a savvy test' for your character that has crap for combat and amazing talking abilities. Or there are cards that allow you to move waylays around the board (so you can get that one you just can't beat off your quest goal), etc. There are also many dick over the other player cards, by either moving their quest objectives or forcing them to exhaust merits.
I think your first impression is really dependent on what cards you first start out with, and my brother and I both got lucky enough with our first 2 boosters to have enough variety to be able to deal with most of the waylays thrown at us to turn this into the 'race to beat the other player to completing your quest' fun of the game. I def. recommend anyone who can find a friend who still has some of these cards around to give it a shot.
Also, when adding more players the game just gets more fun as usually players will spend more time messing with each other.
My only real problem with the game is the longer setup time with having to build your character, then the board, and then pick all your waylays. Not really a 'pick up and play' game. But still can be relatively short. My brother and I are currently planning a series of games where we run through all of the quests in order (since there is a plot line in them) Should be fun!
Sorry for the long reply. I have no problem with your score, I know this isn't a game for everyone, but thought I would mention some errors you may have made in play that diminished your fun.
Thanks for your comments. I am willing to give this another shot after reading your comments. I'll reread the rules and ask John or Brian if they want to give it another try.
Yes, please do give it another try. I'd be very interested in reading at least a new verdict to see if it's changed in your eyes. I have some cards, but have never played, and I am interested to see what your thoughts are, Mike, since you and I seem to have similar tastes in CCG's (and spending too much money on them.... ahem.... .....)