IS THIS THE FUTURE OF TABLETOP GAMING?
Is it? I don’t know. Maybe? Sorry I’m still reading “Trust Me I’m Lying” and learning about creating viral headlines.
I picked up a copy of Golem Arcana at Christmas time and put it under the tree with a little tag that said:
To:Gabe and Daddy
I then proceeded to get ridiculously sick and despite my son asking every day to try it, I couldn’t get up the energy. I’m feeling better now though and we cracked the game out a couple nights ago.
It’s a strange game so let me try and break it down for you. Golem Arcana is a tabletop miniatures game that uses the combination of a “smart” stylus and an iPad app to enhance the real world gameplay.
Right, so how does that actually work? Well you start by selecting a scenario from the app which then tells you how to lay out the game board. The physical play space is built using a series of large, double sided tiles. The scenario shows you a picture of how the tiles should be laid out. It’s important you get this right since the game depends on knowing exactly what tiles you’re using and where they are in relation to each other.
Each side has an assortment of models each with a corresponding card. The card lists things like attacks, movement, and special abilities. Pretty standard stuff for anyone familiar with tabletop minis games. The twist comes in when you start using the stylus.
On your turn you can use the stylus to tap on one of your models. this brings up all of its details on the ipad app. You can see here how much AP you have for your turn, the cost of all your various abilities and the general lay of the land. So let’s say you want to have your model walk. Tap the model then tap the “walk” box on its card. Now watch as the app brings up a digital version of the map and highlights all the squares you can move to, like any digital tactics game. Now choose a square and tap the physical space with the stylus to see it marked in the app. Confirm the move with a button press and then move your model to that space. Look at the app and you’ll see your model has been moved to that space in the digital version as well. Why is this cool?
Well it’s interesting because it means the app is handling a lot of what might be fiddly in a normal tabletop game. Because the app knows where every model is and what’s on every tile it can take care of things like line of site and distance really quickly. When you want to use a ranged attack for example you tap the ranged attack box on your models card, then tap on the model you’d like to try and hit. The app will tell you if it’s within range or if it’s hidden by a rock.
It’s also great for handling things like AOE attacks or ongoing effects. Drop a buff in an area and you can see it appear in that square on the map. The buff is then automatically applied to models on that space without you having to do any math at all. The app will even roll dice for you and determine hits or misses if you want it to although a set of dice and the ability to roll for yourself is included. Overall I found this made for really quick games that let you think more about tactics and less about numbers.
I played Warmachine for a few years and grew to love the tape measure. Eyeballing distances you were not allowed to measure or moving a model only to discover you were out of position by an inch was part of the game. There are complexities that are removed by the app and for some people those complexities represent an important part of table top miniature battle. I’d be surprised if the most hardcore of these sorts of player enjoyed Golem Arcana. My gut says they would find it to “simple”.
For a Dad and his ten year old son I have to say it was perfect. Golem Arcana serves as a fantastic introduction to tabletop gaming especially for people familiar with digital tactics games. It bridges the gap between something like Final Fantasy Tactics and Warmachine really well. what direction you go after Golem Arcana is really up to you. I can see playing a bit more of it with my son and then introducing him to either of those games it attempts to combine. In the end I’d say it’s an incredible tech demo and a fun, approachable way to get into tabletop miniature gaming.