The team at XYZ Game Labs is on a nice roll: A Borderlands-licensed version of their first game, RobotLab was a hit at Gen Con 2019; they’ve hosted two successful Gen Con tournaments of their second game, Inoka – a rock-paper-scissors type card game with more strategy and fantastic art – and their third game, ArchRavels, fully funded on KickStarter in less than 48 hours.
Back at Gen Con 2017, I got to play an early prototype of ArchRavels, and it was fun. The version XYZ showed off two years later reflected the effort put into making it better, and their booth was busy with a stream of interested gamer-knitter-crocheter-crafter types. (I like that they actually worked with fiber artists to help represent the hobby within the game.)
The yarn-crafting theme and basic goals of the game remain the same as they were back when the project was still nameless in 2017: You’re collecting yarn in various colors and using it to complete projects for points. A few new wrinkles have been added, though, to make things more interesting and complex – for instance, each player now assumes one of four character types, each of which has a unique action that comes into play.
While I didn’t get to play ArchRavels at Gen Con, I did get a quick walkthrough from co-designer Jordan Miller, and an emailed copy of the rules from co-designer Adam McCrimmon. Here’s a quick overview:
ArchRavels is for 2-4 players, recommended for ages 8 and up, and should take between 30 and 45 minutes per game.
Everyone selects a character board, chooses which side they’re going to use, and takes a yarn bowl and action marker, along with one yarn token of each of the game’s six colors. The three pattern tile types (Bear, Mitten, and Scarf) are shuffled by type, and each player gets one of each pattern type for their board.
A Yarn Deck is created from Favorite Requests (unique to each player) and Special Requests, along with Yarn Cards and Event Cards – this deck is used to create and stock the Yarn Bazaar: A set of six Yarn cards laid out in a grid.
After randomly selecting some Project Cards (8,9, or 10 projects, depending on the number of players), the top three are drawn and placed in a row to create the Project List, and the rest become the Project Deck.
And now you’re ready to knit: The gist is that you collect yarn to create items based on the patterns you have, and those items in turn become part of projects. The game ends when there are no cards left in the Project Deck and fewer than three in the Project List. When that happens, everyone except the active player can use their remaining yarn to craft one more item or one Special Request.
Each turn, you take one of four possible actions, which you track using your Action marker, because you can’t take the same action two turns in a row: You can shop for new yarn from the bazaar, use your existing yarn to craft new items, exchange yarn of one color for the same amount of a different color, or take a unique action based on your character.
After you’ve taken your actions, you restock the Yarn Bazaar from the Yarn Deck, resolving any Events or Special Requests that are revealed. The final step in an individual’s turn is Restock Actions, where you can finish a Project by turning in items to complete it, learn a Pattern – you can turn in items to get better at making them – or “Frog It,” meaning turn in items and take back the yarn used to make them.
There are details along the way, but there’s excellent potential for interference with other players’ efforts balanced with your own strategic needs. Like I said, I really enjoyed the earliest version, and the results of the improvements seem to be very well-received.
The full rules are available at the XYZ Game Labs’ website, and there’s still still time to get in on the Kickstarter. (Several cool stretch goals have been reached, including a sci-fi pack of project cards that I’m sure the GeekMom and GeekDad audience will appreciate.)
Looking forward to playing this at Gen Con 2020!