Saturday, 4 July 2009


26 Jun 2009 at Carcasean boardgame cafe. Chong Sean, Kevin, Choo and I played Arkadia. This game is often described as a stock market game. You can manipulate the market, changing the values of stocks, and you try to cash in at the right time. In the game, you collect seals in four different colours, and there are 5 opportunities throughout the game (4 times during your turn, and once at game end) for you to sell your seals at whatever value they are worth at those times. The rest of the game is all about how to collect seals and how to manipulate their values.

On your turn you can other choose to place a building or to place people. Mostly you are doing the former. The buildings are Tetris-like pieces. You have a hand of 4 cards, and you play a card to place a building as depicted on the card. You also place a seal of the colour indicated on the card. If you choose to place people, you place your people (and also neutral people) next to buildings. When a building is surrounded, whether by other buildings or by people or both (often both), it awards seals. The person who "completed" the building gets the seal on the building itself, and every pawn next to the building collects a seal for its owner. That's how you collect seals. For each building you complete, you get to place a palace block. This is what affects the prices of the seals. If you look at the palace from the top, the number of seals visible in a certain colour indicates the value of the seals of that colour. So that's how you manipulate the seals' values.

Your pawns are scarce. You start with 3, and will have at most 11 throughout the game. There are four times during the game that you can use a flag (you only get four of them) to sell seals and/or collect two pawns. You need to time the sale of your seals when you think they are at the best price. You also need to remember the colours of the seals your opponents are collecting, so that you can try to push down the prices of those colours. Seals and pawns of players are concealed behind player screens.

Our game was probably a very strange game. I have not seen photos of Arkadia where people played the way we did. I blame it all on Chong Sean, since he was the only one who had played the game before and he started the funny moves. We basically played the game like Tetris. We constructed buildings right next to each other, minimising the spaces for our pawns. I think normally pawns and buildings are interspersed. Chong Sean started the first such "Tetris-move", and after that we kept doing the same. The building cards were exhausted very quickly, and there was still much space left on the board. Many buildings could not be completed.

In our game, I made one very big cash-in of black seals, right after collecting a whole lot of them. They were priced at $6 then. That probably was the decisive turn for me that lead to me to eventually win the game. I think both Chong Sean and Choo were holding many red seals, and both were prepared to drive up their value. However I tried to keep their value down, and it never went up by too much.

The good looking player screen, where you can hang your four flags. Pawns in the foreground. They are quite small.

This was stage 1 (of 3) of the game, where we could only place palace pieces on the first level. Effectively there are only two stages in the game, because stage 3 only lasts one round. Notice the seals on the "unfinished" buildings.

See how Tetris-styled we played. We were at stage 2 now, since the palace building was now at the second level. This is about when I made the big black seals sale. I used 3 pawns to surround the small L-shaped building on the top left, collecting 5 black seals for it (4 for my pawns, and 1 for completing the building itself).

The purple pieces look rather blue here.

Top view of the palace, which is basically a fancy stock market TV monitor.

Behind my player screen - card back, my pawns and neutral pawns, one red seal, and the money tokens, a $10 stack and a $1 stack.

Arkadia turned out to be better than I had expected. I didn't really plan to play it, and suggested it only because I happened to see it on the shelf. I had expected "just another boring Euro". Well, it was "just another Euro", but at least it wasn't boring. I don't need to own this, but if suggested I would gladly play again.


Aik Yong said...

"Just another Euro, but not boring" perfectly sums up my feelings as well. Solid design with no excitement factor...

This made me picked up Darjeeling over Arkadia. The design wasn't as solid, but it had some interesting ideas.

Fran said...

I think that Arkadia is a pretty solid game. The fact that closing out buildings leads to an adjustment in the values of the seals, which in also pushing the game closer to the end is a decent mechanic. Not my favorite game but still pretty good. Nice review.

I did a write up about it on my blog.

Chris Norwood said...

I'm not sure exactly why you thought that not placing your workers was a good idea... And to play well, you should usually perform all four of your scoring opportunities, even if you don't actually turn in seals but only get more workers.

Arkadia is in my Top 10. It's a really great market-manipulation game that depends a lot on good timing. If you want to know more about why I like it so much, check out my review.

Hiew Chok Sien said...

Hi Chris,

In our game, not having many people between the buildings was a result of a kind of distorted group psychology. It was not that we didn't want to put our people between the buildings, it was the fact that when we put down our buildings, we were so defensive about not leaving good spots for the next players, we'd rather play Tetris-style to score quick (but small) wins, i.e. we collected seals from building completion.

Actually by game end most of us did make use of most of our 4 flags, but I'm guessing that we probably used them later than normal, whatever "normal" is.

Chris Norwood said...

Completing buildings "Tetris style" can definitely be a good thing, both as a defensive move (as you said) and because of the extra control it gives you over the castle (and therefore the market value of the seals).

In looking closer at your pictures, it doesn't appear that you guys were really very unusual in how you played. There's certainly that one big block of buildings without any workers, but at its edges and other places on the board, you made good use of them. What's a little stranger to me is how few neutral workers you used...

Hiew Chok Sien said...

The small number of neutral pawns was probably also because we were so obsessed with completing buildings Tetris-style. Initially we did try to place buildings to try to collect as many neutral pawns as we could, but after a while we (at least I) forgot all about it.