Wednesday was supposed to be a game day, but I was sick and stayed home. This was the perfect opportunity for the other two to play space games without me, but they instead played the game I chose to play next! So Thursday ended up being our real game day. This was our first in-person play of Arnak (something we’ve played online twice at 2-player) and our first play of Formosa Tea. FT is surprisingly under the radar, I hadn’t even heard of it before my friend brought it up. Arnak, on the other hand, exploded onto the scene day 1.
Lost Ruins of Arnak
For some reason, a bunch of games came out around the same time with the same core mechanics: worker placement and deck-building. But Arnak does the deck-building a little differently. You have only 6 cards in your starting deck, with a hand size of 5, and there are only 5 rounds in the game. You draw back to your full hand only at the end of the round. This means that you won’t cycle through your deck very many times, but it also means that what you add to and cull from your deck makes a much bigger impact than in most deck-builders where you might need 2-3 of a card to be added to your deck during the game to really get mileage out of it (or cycle a small deck many times). It’s an interesting way to do it, and it’s kept flexible by making every card multi-use.
I like how the worker placement… works. There are only a handful of places at the beginning of the game, but one of the big goals you have is to go exploring. This reveals new worker spots, gives you 3 or 6 points, bonus resources, reveals a guardian that’s another 5 points if you overcome them, and you get to use those idols for bonus resources (at the cost of points). It’s a lot for exploring. But the one thing that I’m a bit lukewarm on is the research track. It’s mostly static except for some pretty minor rewards for being the first to certain places. It’s a neat puzzle for spending resources, but I think it’s the weakest part of the design. I’m interested to see what the expansion does to the research track to shake things up.
After getting 2 Fear in round 1 thanks to an unlucky draw of location and guardian, I managed to shed all 4 Fear cards and 2 gold cards. However, recovering from a clogged deck took too long and I never caught up in points, ending with a pretty sad 48. I might have done better just hanging onto some of that fear and spending more time gathering resources. Side note, the gold coins used were the metal coins from Pax Viking, they worked pretty well here as long as you didn’t look at them too closely.
For a game that’s not very complicated, it’s a brain-burner for sure. It challenges you to plan ahead but sometimes needing to see what others are doing. There aren’t that many opportunities for other players to get in your way, but rather, sometimes you can set yourself up to benefit from someone else’s move. I also like that you have 2 different types of workers, one that can go most places, and one that can go everywhere. The rules aren’t fantastic though. There are a few areas where it could be more explicit, but maybe they really didn’t want to add one more page. It’s not awful but could have been clearer on a few things. We also learned a couple of things playing where we might have played differently, but it was our first game.
It’s a nice, relatively snappy, crunchy game with a nice theme. And it’s a nice look too. There are some really tough choices to make during the game, but I enjoyed it. My brother, on the other hand, seems to hate it. I’m not really sure why. He seems to prefer multi-player solitaire, and that’s not this game. If you rely too much on other players, they might not do what you were hoping, and then you might be in a hole if you don’t have the workers left to do the work they were supposed to. But nearly every Euro has something like that where other players might spoil your plans.
We also had a dry game where the only 2-Wetness tile came out in the final round, which made for slim pickings of tea for much of the game. It didn’t help that because a lot of the black and green tea was on player boards when setting up the last round, we were flooded with oolong tea. If only it had a solo mode. I don’t know if we’ll get this back to the table. I hope so.