Tina Turner would have fun in this duel. Golem Arcana focuses on fast action, strategic demands and a foolproof introduction with the help of the free app support. Golem Arcana from 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 is all the more worthwhile to take a closer look at the board game hybrid, which not only scores with its visually pretty figures. Two go in, one go out!

Awaken the golem

Awaken the golem in you and show your opponent where it's going: You could skip the background story of Golem Arcana in a few words and jump straight into the first battle. The two-front war is not a new narrative element and there have been tons of titans as well. Interesting about the story, however, are the “Ancient Ones” and powerful artifacts that turn Golem Arcana into a story hybrid that skillfully combines various elements into its own brand. The real hero of Golem Arcana, however, is an inconspicuous plastic pen that reads the TDIs in the figure sockets. TDI stands for “Tabletop Digital Interface” and the plastic pen is stylishly called “Stylus” in technical jargon. In connection with the free app, the duelists can fully concentrate on their game tactics. The app does the game evaluation and does a really good job. In addition, the application serves as a “direct action guide” and makes lengthy reading of the rule book 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 to Golem Arcana step by step. That works well, but this is not least due to the comparatively simple set of rules. Incidentally, the stylus is a central part of the game and is not only used every now and then. In connection with the app, game options are shown and evaluations are presented. Everything is attractive and graphically nice - without, however, relying on pure showmanship. 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 analog tabletop genre as a distraction. And indeed there are moments in the game in which we were more occupied 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 players creeps the feeling that Golem Arcana would also work as 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.