Res Arcana; The New Kid on the Block from Tom Lehmann

Arcane matters can be delightful

So, there was I time in my life that Le Havre represented the apex of a gaming experience. (Thanks, Uwe:) That was a long time ago. 

There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Res Arcana. He's shorter and has a better personality, to wit:

The game is a well-produced engine-builder that has IMHO every bit of the strategic depth of any other engine-builder - cf. Le Havre - with about 1/10 of the brain-burn or time expenditure. 'How is that possible?',  one might query. Well, here are my thoughts about precisely how:

- A heavy dependence on well-designed iconography that explains things clearly.
- Many many paths to victory - commitment to one 'engine' by no means limits the ability to commit to others
- You don't need an advanced degree to understand how to play. You basically collect income, and either pay to play a card to your tableau, or pass.

But oh! the choices - they are delicious. 

Now, having said all that, it ain't perfect: I had to spend some time on BGG inquiring about rules clarifications - some of which were clearly my oversight - that seemed to be obscure primarily because, although they were addressed in the instructions, they were very terse or simply non-obvious.

I agree with the BGG consensus that this EXCELS as a two-player game; and I don't say this lightly, but it not only fires Le Havre for me (thanks for the memories, Uwe) but unseats Race for the Galaxy as my favorite meaty 2-player. And I would say it's probably a 20-25 minutes per player affair.
Oh, yeah - gotta play me some more of this.


  • What is your opinion on this game with other than 2 players? I hear so much about this being a great 2 player game but tbh I don’t really do 2 player games. I bought this b/c I heard the buzz and tried it once with 3 people at a meetup. It didn’t go that well, although I enjoyed the quickness. If it just flies as a 2-player game I think I’m going to get rid of it. Let me know if I should give it another chance.

  • I was also pleasantly surprised with this game. A candidate for game of the year for me. Lehmann has this ability of making great, fast-playing, strategic/tactical games. Roll for the Galaxy had replaced Race for me, and then a few years he made the amazing, little card game “Jumpdrive” that I must have played over 20 times that year. Then he makes Res Arcana, it’s crazy how strategic this game is and yet feels so light to play as games take 20 min or less. Love it to pieces.


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