Golem Arcana: The Unique Miniature Wargame That Needs to Be Made

Kickstarter Tabletop Games

golem-arcana-featured.There are a lot of games that are on Kickstarter that consist of new worlds, new game mechanics, and new games with cool artwork. But typically these games are still another board game, miniatures game, role-playing game, or digital game. It’s rare that something really unique comes along that combines all of these elements into a new gaming experience.

Golem Arcana is a very interesting game concept that combines miniatures, strategy, digital content, and mobile device integration with an iPad or Android Tablet. Players get detailed miniatures that come fully painted. You also get with the basic set detailed play tiles and terrain tiles. You face off against an opponent much like you would in a game of Warmachine or Warhammer except there are no tape measures, no required dice, and no need for thick rulebooks to memorize. In Golem Arcana, you and your opponent use a digital stylus device that communicates via Bluetooth with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Information about an item, tile, or miniature on the tablet device after tapping the stylus on a miniature, terrain tile, or board tile. You execute moves, make attacks, and cast spells, all using the stylus. The software running on the tablet tells you the results of your actions and verifies that it is a legal move, attack, or use of a power or ability. Mitch Gitelman of Harebrained Schemes, one of the designers, responded to my inquiry about how they will handle tutorials by saying:

Yes, we plan to have the app run you through interactive tutorials similar to the ones we’ve been putting in video games for years – imagine [a] character from the game world giving you step by step instructions using voice overs and onscreen prompts. That’s yet another reason why a digitally-enhanced boardgame is so cool.

When I asked Gitelman to comment on who the primary audience of Golem Arcana is, he said:

For traditional gamers, it’s a great way to get new people into the hobby you love. I can’t tell you the number of people at GenCon and PAX who were excited because they could get their wives, girlfriends, kids, etc. into gaming. But way more than that, this game is great for serious gamers because of the features we’re putting in to support organized play – tournaments, special events, local game store stuff, etc. Imagine things videogame features like badges, achievements, leaderboards, etc. applied to OP. In addition, there are a lot of traditional gamers who support a game because of the game world. They love context for their games. We’ve got that in spades because of our long history in creating game settings that have lasted decades  like BattleTech, Crimson Skies, Shadowrun, MageKnight, etc.

The folks at Harebrained Schemes have a great track record of creating games and this follows on the successful funding of their Shadowrun Returns game. The Kickstarter will end on October 15th and it needs additional supporters to see that it meet its funding goal. I want to see this game get made as I look to the future of what digitally enhanced features can mean for the tabletop gaming industry. Check out what they have to say about the future of this game and games like Golem Arcana and vote with your pocket book if too want to see this game become a reality.

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9 thoughts on “Golem Arcana: The Unique Miniature Wargame That Needs to Be Made

  1. While an interesting concept, I don’t think adding in technology as a middle man to the rules offers any new game experience that we already have. If the technology actually allowed for gameplay/simulation/immersion not offered by the trad dice and books method of wargaming, then we are talking about something new and exciting.

  2. Check out the YouTube video for the future plans – remote play, augmented reality objects, co-op play, and organized play/ tournaments. How to get convention-style play from your kitchen table for those that can’t travel.

    I realize you can do remote PvP with a straight-up computer game, but the underlying technology has a lot of potential in the right hands.

    I agree – the baseline game the technology piece is overkill for what it does. But it’s the promise of doing more in the future that has my interest held.

  3. Having played a demo of this twice, I can tell you that the app does add a lot to the play experience. The game is a lot quicker that traditional war game, as you are not spending time with measuring tapes, counters, and such. The app, even in the early prototype phase, allows the player to focus on playing the game as opposed to worrying about modifiers and wether there is line of sight, range, ect. The app also allows for an ease of entry to wargaming that is just not there with most war games. Gamers are often put off by wa games because they seem like they are just to complicated & time consuming. Golem Arcana is easily as complex as basic Battletch, and with the app you can have new player playing in minutes, picking up on the deeper aspects by the end of one game.

    1. But then we are getting into the issue here of what amounts a wargame. Is it just the dice rolls and modifiers. If I just wanted that and grid based movement then you are basically playing a glorified spreadsheet. Having to look for line of sight, measuring ranges etc that to me helps immerse you in the game. This is why I feel Golem needs to offer something more, at least for the hobbyist gamer, because there is nothing attracting me to it as it standards.

      Now with regard to complexity and time consuming, I would put GW stuff up there. I used to work in their stores. Reference tables for rolling to hit, wound etc sucks. A simple unified system works best. Hence why Warmachine is a tigher rule set.

      Now with respect to new gamers I get that. Hell I have more than likely run 100+ demo games of GW stuff in my time. But then this all comes back to the fact that if you want more people in your hobby you need to work at getting them into it harder. The merits of the game alone wont work if you are a social catastrophe. This is why I collect with a mind to having stuff to help people get into playing Warmachine. I have more than one army, and the armies are balanced, and I can easily advise on what stuff you need to get playing.

      Also relatively speaking, Golem as it is priced for people to get started in is twice the cost of getting a starter set for Warmachine. And this is the thing now – Games Workshop prices have given people a skewed idea of what the entry price is to gaming.

      GW stuff, assuming you want to collect the army you want, rather than those given in a starter box, is roughly £200+ for the books, models and paints.

      For £50 you can have a starter set for any army in Warmachine, and be already playing.

  4. Here’s the link that talks about the features we want to add to the basic app.

    At the basic level, App also adds sound effects and music to the experience and the voice-overs in the tutorials are characters from the game world. These add to the immersion as does all the fiction that supports the game world.


    There are a lot of great conversations going on about the game at boardgamegeek.com, too. Here’s a link to a designer diary that’s posted there – http://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/23849/designer-diary-golem-arcana


  5. @Chris: You do realise that for $65 USD you get enough for two people to start playing Golem Arcana, right? That’s $15 cheaper than Warmachine (based on today’s conversion rate).

    That aside, do you seriously find that measuring line of site from plastic figures the size of your pinkie, to other plastic figures makes you feel like you are in a combat situation? If so, how does shooting at, charging, damaging, and destroying opposing units not do the same? I think that’s: A) Nitpicking; and B) Missing the point for most players.

    The dominant actions (the actions you do most often) for a wargame should be thinking/planning, moving, and attacking (from range or close combat). Dominant actions determine what the game is actually about. If you feel like the game is about one thing (thinking, moving, and attacking) but you have to spend half the time doing other things (like measuring, rolling to hit, rolling to wound, rolling armour saves, rolling for morale, rolling to see how far back you flee, measuring out that distance, etc), then the game ceases to be fun (and you might not even realise why).

    And the technology absolute DOES allow for additional gameplay than what you typically get with wargames (while still being far more accessible than a normal wargame). For instance, you have persistent area of effect abilities (which are automatically recalled and accounted for by the software); you have cooldown on abilities (not just special abilities, but basic attacks as well); you have a catch-up mechanic that compensates for an issue with all turn-based wargames: that striking first can be a massive advantage (this is done by giving Mana to a player who loses a unit).

    Furthermore, there’s been mention by HBS of damage types and armour types, which could interact in all kinds of interesting ways, and/or have interesting properties, like fire/acid doing recurring damage, without YOU having remember to apply those effects every turn. How many times have you recalled some ability after the fact, only to either decide it would be wrong to use it now (your loss, sort of thing), or to have your opponent say you can’t use it.

    Now, further to those mechanics you have all kinds of possibilities of what might make it into the final ruleset of the game. Things like maneuverability-related mechanics (e.g., tracking of unit facing; rear attacks doing more damage; melee preventing units from moving; etc.), and luck mitigation mechanics (e.g., ability to buy rerolls during army building; doing partial damage on near misses; damaging different locations than what you targeted when you miss; etc.)

    Finally, don’t forget that you can always get into a beta-testing tier on the Kickstarter campaign to help shape the ruleset. I’m actually pretty excited about doing that myself, and hope to promote some ideas (including my own) that add luck-mitigation and increase the maneuverability-related depth of the game. There are some great packages starting at $250 that include beta access.

    1. I was actually being generous there. Warmachine/Hordes is generally £30 per starter box, and the £60 is for the two player battle box. The saving in each of those is also substantial from buying things as individual models. Plus, unlike GW games, you don’t need to ever buy the army books in order to play.

      And if you look at the history of wargaming, from HG Wells all they way to modern times, yes, part of the fun is seeing the game from a high POV and the model POV. YMMV. I can also speak from experience that GW games do suffer from poor rules and rule interpretation arguments compared to Warmachine and better games.

      Now all the features of this game you have stated are still things that can be done in trad games.

      What I want to know is what can this do that a table top game can’t. Resource management is nothing new, sustain AOE is nothing new, involved area targeting is nothing new (look at Epic Space Marine and Epic Titan Legions).

      Now I will conceed that technology can aid in managing some of that, but for me and I would say many wargamers that is not enough to warrent the price and the tech.

      So this leadsme back to ‘What does this game allow you to simulate and account for that a trad game can’t?’

      For example Civ5 is just a very very comlpex boardgame that of course works on a computer best because of the many cogs which you don’t need to see.

      And as far as the videos are concerned, they have not shown anything new that trad games can’t do already.

      If the above was address I would expect more trad wargamers to be already backing.

      1. It’s perfectly natural to want to continue playing and supporting a game you know and love. Warmachine uses some very cool, very solid mechanics, there is no doubt. That doesn’t mean that GA is itself not a good game simply because it offers similar gameplay mechanics (albeit on a more streamlined, fast-paced interface).
        Example- there’s a bar in Kenosha, WI, called Captain Mikes. This place makes the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had the pleasure to stuff into my face. But- I can still go somewhere else and appreciate a good burger even if it’s not a REVOLUTIONARY BURGAR! (In my head I said that in a large, reverberating voice)

        To me, GA is revolutionary in that it delivers the same deep gameplay mechanics I’ve always enjoyed in other games, but eliminates all the crap I don’t want to deal with. The app does it. INSTANTLY. Which I like. Others may like to measure and study LOS. Cool.

        My point is you shouldn’t write off a really cool game just because it isn’t A) reinventing the tabletop wargame wheel or B) presenting itself as a clone of existing games like Warmachine/Hordes or one of the GW games.

        Though, I get the feeling that there are people out there who would complain about a new game no matter what said game attempted to do. “It’s trying to be EXACTLY like other games. Why doesn’t it try to be original?” “It’s trying to be original! Why isn’t it more like {xxxxxxxx}”

        The great thing about GA is that it does both; really, really well. You should give it a try with an open mind.

  6. Here’s a highlights reel (only about 2 minutes long) of the game being played live to give you a better idea of what it’s like. Also, remember, this is just the prototype. We’re Kickstarting in the game in order to be able to develop the game fully.

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