Sand Castle Games’ Res Arcana is an engine building game, like Gizmos, but this time with a dueling wizards theme. You’ll use artifacts and spells to acquire five different resources: gold, life, death, calm, and élan. You’ll use these resources to erect powerful monuments and claim places of magical power. You’ll unleash dragons to harass your foes, or tap into their resources to generate your own. And you’ll do all this in the space of an hour or less.
You’ll start by picking you magic-user from a list including the animal-enhancing Druid, the deck-manipulating Seer, the Transmuter who turns a little of a resource into more of another resource, and the Duelist who turns death into gold. Then you’ll build a deck of eight artifacts, either via random draw or drafting. You’ll look at your eight cards, devise your strategy, and then shuffle that deck of eight and draw three as your first hand.
There are five Places of Power cards and each is double-sided. You randomly decide which side is up and place all five cards in the middle of the table. There’s also a deck of monuments. You’ll shuffle that deck and draw the top two, placing them face up.
You first gather your resources based on your wizard and any active cards in front of you. Then, on your turn, you can pay the activation for any of the cards in your hand to place it face up and active in front of you, discard a card for resources, use one of your powers, purchase a Monument or Place of Power (replacing Monuments with a new draw from that deck), or passing. Once you’ve gone, the next player gets a chance to do one of the same things. The round ends when everyone passes, allowing tapped cards to untap and resource pools to be replenished. Play ends when someone acquires 10 victory points (principally acquired through Monuments and Places of Power).
A certain sort of player (you know who you are) is going to call Res Arcana Magic: the Good Parts Version. With a deck of only eight cards, everything is boiled down to the essence of building synergistic interactions between your cards in a race to claim the best Places of Power and Monuments before your opponents do. The game escalates quickly; one moment you can barely get anything out on the table, and the next you’re flooding the board with élan and turning that élan into victory points. Getting to look at (or potentially even draft depending on the rules you use) your eight cards before play starts allows you to devise a clever strategy towards victory. But having only three in your hand means you might first have to dig through your deck before you can execute that strategy.
Res Arcana is for two-to-four players and it sings through that entire range, being an intense head-to-head duel at two players and a wild free-for-all with four. Games can take up to an hour to play, but two players with a few games under their belt can whip through a contest in a half-hour. If you love putting together a plan that builds momentum as it rolls out to success, or you’re the sort of Magic: the Gathering player who loves synergistic decks that create automated momentum to steamroller your opponents, you’ll definitely want to speak to the learned oracles at your local Dragon’s Lair Comics & Fantasy® about acquiring your own copy of Res Arcana today.