“Fun for the whole family” is a term that makes many hardened board gamers scoff in derision. They are HOBBYISTS, don’t you know? Hardened strategists and wily deceivers all, who can spend hours planning the perfect move like a chess grandmaster. And yeah, if you want to play a 6 hour board game, more power to you. I love me a good like session of Fury of Dracula or Eschaton. But they aren’t exactly games you can just whip out at a party, or even ones you can bring out at a casual hang. You have to have those ready for a BOARD GAME NIGHT ™ and people have to be in it for the long haul. But sometimes you need a break from the strategy and backstabbing, the epic failures and stunning upsets on the battlefield. Sometimes you just need to have some fun. Towers of Arkhanos, published by IDW Games and developed by newcomer Creative Games Studios, bridges the gap in a new and exciting way. And it does so with lots and lots of dice.
What’s In The Box?
I won’t tread too much new ground with this, as I did a thorough unboxing of the game a little while ago. But I will say that when it’s all laid out, this is a really neat game on the tabletop. It’s always fun to see a board game that sort of does away with the…actual board. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and everything was of very high quality (not a surprise from an IDW published game). The dice themselves are quite nice (which is importany because you have forty of them) and they roll well and feel good in the hand. There’s even a lovely little suede bag to store the dice in when not being used. As a final bonus, the game gives you hella bags. This is always a bonus, as you can never have enough tiny plastic bags for meeples and such.
How’s It Play?
The game itself is pretty straightforward. Players each represent one of the four magical schools duking it out for control over the volatile magics recently discovered by the wizarding world. You are given a small supply of apprentices and one Master, through whom you cast the spells that affect play. In order to cast these spells, however, you need dice. From a shared pool of dice, each player must draft the dice they need until none are left. You use the dice to gain control of each level of a tower. Each level is restricted to a color and number of dice, and only dice that fit the level’s criteria can be placed. Each space on the level has its own ability as well, making your choice of placement (and that of your opponents) extremely important. When a level is full, the tower gets higher. After four turns (ie how long until you’re out of dice) the game ends and the player who has earned the most points through tower control wins.
The stacking mechanic for the game is largely tactile, giving the game a sense of space and a physicality that few other games do, and it does so without resorting to gimmickry. The design feels like a natural outgrowth of the gameplay, and it’s quite satisfying to see your little towers get higher and higher. The different spaces on the “floors” dictate what color and number of dice can go there, and each one has a special benefit that can get you new spells, more dice, or extra turns. As your towers grow, so too does your power. The cartoony art and bright colors belie the surprisingly deep strategy contained within. It’s probably not a big challenge for hardened players, but for a family game there’s plenty of thinking as well as fun.
If Towers of Arkhanos is a sign of the future output we can expect from CGS, and the caliber of original games being published by IDW Games, then I’d say things are looking good for both studios. An incredibly fun and flavorful game, Towers can be a good gateway to strategic dice drafting in the way that Settlers of Catan can be a gateway to Euro-style gaming. The art is fun and colorful and the production quality is as top-notch as we’d expect from IDW. The rules are simple enough for a family game but has depth that even experienced strategy heads can have some fun with it. Towers of Arkhanos should definitely be looked at when it debuts at GenCon, and be sure to see it when it hits store shelves later in August.