If you’ve been following tabletop news, you know: CMON (which stands for “Cool Mini or Not”) has had a bit of a run with negative press over all of the business surrounding shipping costs and funding woes with their recent Marvel Zombicide campaign. Let’s be honest: if anyone knows how to fulfill a Kickstarter campaign, it’s CMON, right? The original Zombicide campaign basically kicked off the insanity that surrounds nearly every big budget crowdfunding event nearly 10 years ago.
But that’s not why we are here today. We are here because Arcadia Quest, designed by Eric Lang, Thiago Aranha, Guilherme Goulart, and Fred Perret, is a few plays short of becoming my favorite “dice chucker” gaming experience of all time.
Feel free to drag CMON for potentially hosing customers with $50 charges for split shipping a core box of your minis. But don’t you dare trash the magic that is Arcadia Quest, which builds an arena combat experience without peer, then layers on the best loot shopping experience in the history of gaming.
Yes, You’ll Need to Roll for That
In Arcadia Quest players will guide a guild of 3 Heroes into a dungeon, where treasure, monsters and other guilds await the chance to murder you right off the board.
And, you’ll need dice. Lots of dice.
The definition of a dice-driven dungeon crawler, Arcadia Quest makes it easy, with large, bright cards laid out around a modular board instructing what you need to do to win. Beautifully sculpted minis represent all the Heroes and Monsters in each game, and the map stays small to incent the reason you are playing: lots of fights. Lots of treasure scattered on the board. Lots of ways to craftily set up attack patterns.
All the while, you’ll need to roll dice for everything. Certainly, all the combat requires dice, both offensive and defensive rolls. You might also have to roll dice to satisfy requirements of a quest here and there, too.
You’ll spend the majority of the hour you are playing any of the scenarios chucking those dice. Critical rolls allow a player to roll another die, on and on again. You have a dice tower, right? How about 4 dice towers? Collapsible dice trays? A shoe, attached to cardboard piping, with a homemade science project attached to the other end so that you can drop those dice in and let them roll all the way onto your table?
Get creative, my friends. Dice will get the love in your plays of Arcadia Quest!
The Upgrade Phase: Loot Done Right
You’ve played Gloomhaven, right? An all-time classic, and the top-rated game on BGG. The hand management system is genius. Gloomhaven has character classes, monsters, missions, and incredible production, just like lots of other dungeon dives I have played over the years. The writing is also spectacular, and the missions are always tense.
But Gloomhaven is terrible in one distinct area: treasure.
I think I made it through 8 scenarios of Gloomhaven before I gave up. I gave up for a single reason: I got sick and tired of grinding my way through a mission with friends, only to have scraped pocket change off the floor of yet another dungeon.
“Ahh, another round where I found the way to gather 6 or 7 coins. Now, let’s go shopping…and with this piddly amount of cash, let’s buy a one-time-use health potion.”
Like, that’s garbage, right?? If I’m going to waste my time murdering flaming skeletons or ghouls or other creatures of the night, I WANT TO GET PAID BABY!!!
Enter Arcadia Quest. When you finish up a scenario, you take the cash you’ve made—typically 10-15 coins—and go shopping. Given the chance to draft 6 cards from that scenario’s loot deck, you almost won’t believe your eyes:
All the loot is DOPE. And not only that, some of the loot doesn’t even cost that much. The loot seems to jump the shark by a full degree of magnitude every time you have the chance to go shopping.
Watching every player sing the praises of their loot choices is fun. Listening to the sounds they make as they sigh in despair because they can’t keep all the cards they have in their hand is better. But then deciding, for yourself, which 3 of the 6 cards you will buy? Priceless.
“Wait, there’s a card that does THIS???” one person will say.
“Ahh, an item that heals a wound every turn?” another will gasp.
“This bow is so amazing, and it only costs WHAT???” you will scream.
I would argue that going shopping in Arcadia Quest might be the game’s best feature, and why it’s so exciting to pull it off the shelf. Your Guild’s Heroes start the game with scraps. But as the campaign goes on, you feel like you are just a little more powerful than the competition. And if you play your cards right, by combining these weapons, permanent abilities and “Boosts” (temporary powers) effectively, you can really steamroll some of the “Minor” minions and villains in the game.
A Campaign You Can Actually Beat in a Day
Arcadia Quest could be played as a single episodic experience, where you pull out random heroes, strap in with better-than-starter weapons, and go after one of the 11 scenarios in the base game box. But I’ve only ever played it as a campaign, because it’s so short.
Raise your hand if you thought you could push through a game of, say, Pandemic: Legacy Season 1 with some friends in a couple of weeks. (I’ll wait, it’s fine.)
Then, reality sets in: Betty’s life is getting busy at work, so scheduling a night when all 4 of you can play is getting tough. You thought you could count on your buddy Will, right up until his rugby season got rolling, killing off his availability.
I had a campaign of Pandemic: Legacy Season 1 set up with my wife and another couple. The couple literally filed for divorce about a third of the way through our campaign (thankfully not for reasons tied to losing some of our missions). Let’s just say we didn’t finish that game either, and so I ended up throwing the game away since my wife and I didn’t feel like playing it any more.
A campaign of Arcadia Quest is much easier to stomach: My first campaign of 6 scenarios took 2 nights. We played 3 scenarios on each night, and each night took maybe 6 hours between playing, swapping out the tiles needed for the next scenario, shopping for loot, reading that scenario’s special rules, and taking a break for pizza halfway through.
Most of my game nights are 5-6 hours anyway, so basically, we just used back-to-back gaming nights to wrap up the campaign. That first campaign was with 4 players, and my second campaign was with 3 players. The playtime came down quite a bit—we shaved about an hour off the time for each of the 2 nights needed to finish another campaign.
Thanks to the lack of a story, you don’t even have to remember the narrative as you gather around the table to complete campaigns of Arcadia Quest on different nights. When you break, you can log each player’s item cards on the back of the score sheet so you won’t miss a beat.
If You Like This, There’s a Whole World to Discover
“So, I like what I see here. Is there additional content?” one player asked during my second campaign.
My friend, there’s almost too much additional content to believe.
If you can find it all, there are more than a dozen expansions. A couple of these expansions, such as Arcadia Quest: Inferno, are robust enough to be their own games. (Thanks to our recent request for a review copy, you’ll have our review of Inferno by the end of the summer.) Most other expansions add a little variety to an already solid package. And if my math is right, there are more than 100 total Heroes that can be used in Arcadia Quest; 12 are in the base game, leaving you dozens of ways to change the game in interesting ways.
I like what I have in the base game box, mainly because Arcadia Quest is a hard game to get to the table for my groups. Most people I know don’t love chucking dice nearly as much as I do, and even though knocking out a campaign is quick, the culture of the new is not a thing with Arcadia Quest. It’s approaching its 10-year anniversary.
That’s OK. I like playing Arcadia Quest once or twice a year, which is technically 6 individual games anyway. It’s always a hoot, it’s easy to teach, the battles are always fun and the loot game is an absolute joy. You can find copies of Arcadia Quest everywhere and I don’t see that changing any time soon; the community has helped to build a solo mode officially endorsed by CMON and the designers, if you struggle to find friends to join you at the table.
A very solid game. Already excited to jump back into this world!