New Hobby: Golem Arcana

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Having a permanently partially disabled spouse is difficult, especially when the disability comes on suddenly and is pervasive. Such is the case when you have a spouse whom you have had to provide assistance with ADL, or activities of daily living. Helping my husband has really consumed my life for the past year, and while it has been fulfilling and brought us closer together, it has not left much time for me.

Much to my surprise, that has changed in the last few months, and I have found myself exploring a wealth of new hobbies, including the world of gaming. Even though I have been playing video games since I was a kid, I grew up as a mostly-only child, and there were few rare opportunities to play board or card games with others.  Given that my blog will be taking on a new feature, I wanted to take the time to introduce the game that really opened my eyes to new hobbies. It has also me to build a new sense of mastery, which has led to a greater sense of personal calm and a closer connection to my game-enthusiast husband. 

Back in September, we attended the Penny Arcade Expo in the great Emerald City of Seattle. While there, we tested a variety of games. In the process, we were introduced to the funded Kickstarter project Golem Arcana ("are-CANE-uh"), developed by Harebrained Schemes. 


According to their website,
Golem Arcana is a digitally enhanced miniatures boardgame that leverages the power of a smartphone or tablet to deliver an unprecedented and engaging experience. 
While meeting with one of the promoters, I asked something along the lines of
Is this one of those miniatures tabletop games?
To her incredible credit, she saw my disinterest a mile away, and she then performed the best product pitch I have heard in my life. No joke.

She was a gal just like me, and also like me, she had a general fear of minis gaming. I mean, it's just so daunting. She claimed she was just a cashier roped into promoting the product, but in reality, she was a voodoo witch with ability to bend me to her will.

She explained to me that this was a board game combined with a player-elimination style wargame, similar to chess, that came with pre-assembled and pre-painted miniatures. She explained that we could read and learn the rules, or we could use our tablets and put their innovative new stylus technology to work. Essentially, the app tracks the movement of your miniatures, as well as hit points, actions points, and employs various other fiddly logarithms to enhance game play and ensure your most deserved victory-or your unfortunate destruction. Ultimately, she explained, the app feature removes tedious technical details of reading loads of rules manuals and adds layers of more interesting narrative and visual complexity, much like a GM (Game Master). Except, in a way, Harebrained Schemes is our GM, and who wouldn't want to come to that party?

At this point she certainly had my attention. On principle, I like innovation, and my husband was curious about this said game which melds role-playing, miniatures, board games, and app technology. Then, she showed us the miniatures-or minis-and we were hooked!


I mean, c'mon, this stuff just looks cool! Plus, the hard and dirty work of assembly and painting had already been taken care of for us.

The 1990's slang aside, the stylus technology and Android app interface had clouded our judgment enough to purchase the product, and a few expansions, for a whopping $120. You better believe I proudly carried that enormous/expensive bag of gamer loot around all day.

One of the best parts of the experience was that my husband had the opportunity to meet Jordan Weisman as we were leaving. He is the famed creator of Shadowrun, one of my husband's favorite tabletop gaming universes, and the Golem Arcana universe.



The Harebrained Schemes team has also produced some phenomenal artwork to go along with the game and its "living fiction." and the story-lines that continue to come out with each app update are engrossing and completely unique. Although we have not had many opportunities to play in the last few weeks-which means we are behind on testing some new scenarios-we are looking forward to putting our new Iron Earthfall character to good use for the Zikia Arcanum.

Replayability: 5/5 - The game continues to evolve and expand, and we look forward to every new miniature that comes out. Golem Arcana is a living world, and the more you and others play, the more data the servers receive, which in turn shapes the world and future quests. Exciting, right? In addition, the three unique factions are a statistician's dream, because it creates almost innumerable possibilities for the armies you create to decimate your enemies.

Appearance: 4.5/5 - It's just shy of five for a single reason, and that is the paint quality. While the figures come pre-assembled and pre-painted, we have noticed a few errors, or for lack of a better way to put it, some laziness in the output. It does not diminish the overall appearance of the miniatures too greatly, but for folks who enjoy a perfectly polished piece, this may nag at you every time you see it. To my knowledge, no one has attempted a repaint or a fix, yet.

Cost: $$$$ - Prior to this game, my world consisted of the average $20-40 board game or expansion. The base game comes in at a whopping $80, and the expansions range anywhere from $21 to $60. Ouch! If you are a completionist or a just enjoy having variability and options when creating your army, then be prepared to shelve out the BIG bucks.

Durability: 4.5/5 - All of our characters-save one-have arrived intact. One wing popped off during shipment on our Winged Preserver, but it was an easy fix. What I like about these miniatures is that they are a tough soft plastic. By that, I mean they are durable and scrape resistant, but they are a tad soft and pliable. I don't have to worry about a piece snapping off from the merest pressure. Dropping the figures so far has not produced any irrevocable damage, so I would say that aside from a little glue from time to time, I suspect these figures will stand the test of time.

Novelty: 5/5 - The novelty value of this continues to grow rather than deplete for me. I don't know how long the Harebrained Schemes team can necessarily keep their momentum, but I look forward to a few steady years of app and mini content to come.

All in all, it's a game that my husband and I have enjoyed immensely since we purchased the base game back in September, and we continue to purchase expansions as they come out. We consider ourselves pretty dedicated to this game, and we are in it for the long haul.

Game changed indeed.




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