Tina Turner would have fun in this duel. Golem Arcana relies on fast action, strategic demands and easy entry with the free app support. Golem Arcana from the house Pegasus Spiele was one of the most interesting titles for me at Spiel'15 - also because, contrary to the expected trend, board games with app support were only represented in small numbers at the International Game Days in Essen. It's all the more worth taking a closer look at the board game hybrid, which scores points for more than just its visually pretty figures. Two go in, one goes out!
Awaken the golem
Awaken the golem in you and show your opponent where to go: This is how you could skip the background story of Golem Arcana in brief words and plunge straight into the first battle. The two-front war is not a new narrative element and there have been plenty of titans before. What is interesting about the story, however, are the "Ancient Ones" and powerful artifacts that make Golem Arcana a story hybrid that skilfully combines different elements into its own brand. The real hero of Golem Arcana, however, is an unassuming plastic pen that reads the TDIs in the figure's bases. TDI stands for "Tabletop Digital Interface" and the plastic pen is called "stylus" in technical jargon. In connection with the free app, the duelists can fully concentrate on their game tactics. The app takes care of the game evaluation and does a really good job. The application also serves as a "direct action guide" and makes lengthy reading of the rules booklet obsolete.
Unpacked and set up, the golems look really great on the game board. The figures are detailed, colorful and lavishly designed. Real tabletop strategists would like figures to be colored in themselves, but Golem Arcana deliberately relies on ready-to-use titans in order to appeal to newcomers to the genre. Golem Arcana not only skilfully bridges the gap between classic tabletop and digital game packages, it also makes an entire genre of board games appealing to beginners. Anyone who has tasted blood will surely rewrite their Christmas wish list.
Tutorial videos explain the basics to the players and introduce them step by step to Golem Arcana. This works well, which is not least due to the comparatively simple set of rules. Incidentally, the stylus is a central part of the gameplay and is not only used every now and then. In connection with the app, playing options are shown and evaluations are presented. Everything is attractive and graphically nice - but without relying too much on sheer sensationalism. The perception of the app support is a matter of taste: some players see the app as a great help, others see the "computerization" of the analogue tabletop genre as a distraction. And indeed there are moments in the game where we were more concerned with the pen and the app than with strategic thoughts about a possible move. The influence of the application is perhaps too great and experienced board gamers get the feeling that Golem Arcana would also work in a purely digital format - without a game board, only with a tablet.
Golem Arcana is a real gem, especially for beginners. Entering the tabletop segment is seldom so easy, so quick and so practical. And if you want more after a few entertaining games of Golem Arcana, you can first buy one of the small extensions for Golem Arcana or switch to Warhammer, Lord of the Rings or, for example Star Wars Imperial Assault.