The Underlord has risen!
The town is on fire!
The guilds are on fire!
You are on fire!
The townsfolk need you to first put yourself out. You’re starting to smell tasty. But more importantly to journey into the Underworld and tell the Underlord to bugger off. He’s messing up the place.
Name: Arcadia Quest: Inferno
Year Published: 2017
Designer: Thiago Aranha, Guilherme Goulart, Eric M. Lang, Fred Perret
Before starting your mission it’s time to put on some montage music. You’re putting the team together.
Picking your team is a big deal. It’s also a fun deal. This of course depends on if you enjoy the chibi art style, and if you picked up the Kickstarter edition. Either way the component and miniature quality is splendid as expected from a CMON game. While the character art does a brilliant job of showing off the loud personalities of each of the heroes. As though that wasn’t fun enough, there’s a bunch of pop culture references that contribute nicely to this already whimsical flavour.
Record scratch – montage music stops.
It’s at this point we need to discuss CMON’s Kickstarter strategy.
With games like Arcadia Quest they throw more minis at the campaign than tantrums from a two-year-old. Which is great if you get in on the ground floor – not so great if you’ve picked up the game at retail. For a comparison there are 12 heroes in the retail version, 41 heroes from Kickstarter. It’s such a massive, important, difference that it’s almost not worth continuing this review. You’ve already missed the boat.
Once you’ve selected your team, you get a handful of the most basic of adventuring items and choose one of the twelve levels of the campaign to play. Then you set up the modular board, add the more-than-necessary number of tokens to the board, and you’re ready to begin.
On your turn, you can either rest your guild and resurrect your slain heroes, or activate a hero. This allows your hero one attack action and several movement actions, which must be taken consecutively either before or after your attack. Thus, removing hit and run tactics from the game and limiting the amount of strategy you can impose. If you want to attack someone you need to commit, knowing full well they’ll be hitting you right back next turn.
Which means you’re rolling dice. Lots of dice. As both actions, attacking and defending, are resolved by die rolls. With the amount of dice rolled determined by your equipped items.
This is one of the biggest strengths of the game: dice are fun to roll. And when you’re rolling a handful, or several handfuls, it just feels good. Like eating popcorn, right? One kernel isn’t enough to give you that popcorn flavour, but the more you shove in your mouth the better it tastes. And in terms of dice rolling, Arcadia Quest Inferno lets you dig in.
However, like popcorn you need to wait until it cooks and is ready to eat. In the first few games of Arcadia Quest you’ll have nothing more than starter items. Which make for a good set of training wheels for new players but for those more familiar with dungeon crawling games will find them unexciting. Meaning you will be waiting 2-3 scenarios (2-4 hours) before you can see the game in its full glory.
With these die and heroes at your command your job is to complete three out of the six scenario objectives which include two PvE and four PvP objectives.
This is where things get confusing, as even though there is a mix of objective types; this is a competitive game. While it allows you to work together, most of what you’re doing to win moves your enemies closer to defeat.
It’s this dichotomy of play styles that broke my group.
Unless a game is team based, I always play for the individual win and therefore homed in on the competitive nature of Arcadia Quest. Whereas two of my opponents grouped up and played together as though it were a co-op. Even though the game has mechanisms to sway people against this. They aren’t punishing enough to stop them from thinking it was a good idea.
And a good idea it was. They funnelled all the gold and objectives into one player, and even though this led to one player winning repeatedly. The second player felt they had won as well, because they’d helped.
Now I understand this criticism should be levelled at my group rather than the game. But I think that the dual nature of objectives will lead to other groups facing the same issue. Whether everyone plays the game cooperatively or competitively, the entire group needs to be on the same page before going in.
Making matters worse is that after each scenario the rich get richer. Those who win a scenario, are likely to have earned more money, and therefore able to buy better, more expensive items. Or they’ll have earned buffs through titles and exclusive items through beating objectives. Whereas losers like me, are left buffless on the streets of Arcadia begging for scraps like a pre-genie Aladdin.
But wait there’s more.
A hero dying in Arcadia Quest Inferno isn’t bad by itself. As you’re able to revive them through resting. However, you also accumulate death tokens. At the end of each scenario you must cash these in for curse cards. These cards can range from no curse to a debuff that will last the entirety of the next scenario. To follow on from before, the less or worse items you have the more likely you are to win this death lottery.
Unfortunately, it’s not just me who suffer from this competitive cooperative mix.
The monsters are victims too.
To be competitive, Arcadia Quest Inferno needs to resemble a fair game. This means that traditional elements of cooperative dungeon crawlers are put aside in the interest of competition. In this case the monsters are set up in a symmetrical fashion and motionless until provoked. They don’t attack you either until they’re attacked first, or a you try and slink past them.
This makes them feel more like punching bags, or gear checks, rather than living, breathing creatures. The flow on effect of this is that the dungeon becomes lifeless and static, almost ruining the fantastic job the art team did in creating these characters and creatures.
Look, I had a bad time with this game, and a lot of that I can put towards my group. However, Arcadia Quest Inferno is also what I consider a premium game. It costs a lot. The production is stellar. And because of this, I expect it to be more robust.
These expectations weren’t met.
Arcadia Quest Inferno is one for the fans. For the rest of us, the slow start wastes your time if you’re an experienced board gamer, the 33 page rulebook will stop you from playing if you’re less experienced, and if you’re in between then you need to have a deep think about whether you have the right group and if you want to spend the time and money to get the Kickstarter edition.
I’m back to massaging the site some more, so expect changes if you care about that sort of thing. Would love feedback if you got it!
Otherwise, I just received Fire Emblem: Three Houses today. And I’m now undecided whether to finish Phoenix Wright, or to start Fire Emblem. It’s going to be hard not to jump in head first. I will update you, with the progress.