Arcadia has often been praised for its innovative game design, blending immersive role playing with a card game, the simplicity of its rules, and the beauty of its artwork, and even now–twenty years after its first release–still has a small, but loyal group of players. Arcadia’s strength, which sets it apart from most other card games of its time, is its storytelling and its role playing elements. But these elements of the game were severely hampered by the way the game was marketed and distributed.
However Arcadia was, from its inception, badly marketed, and was released at the peak of collectible card games. In an already saturated market, Arcadia was promoted as a game that could be started with just 30 cards: “one Story Pack and one Character Pack is all you need”. This was indeed attractive, as it allowed you to test the game without a huge investment, but this was also one of the reasons why Arcadia was often so badly reviewed. Too many cards in Arcadia are dependent on other cards: Quests often require certain Leagues, some Merits and Flaws work particularly well with certain Waylays, and some Waylays are particularly exciting in combination with certain Leagues. Arcadia rules sometimes allow you to substitute a missing card with one you do have, but it makes for an unsatisfactory gaming experience, which is only worsened when Characters become either too strong or too weak by Merits and Flaws that can not be balanced with the cards you don’t own.
Arcadia was also badly marketed as a collectible card game. Unlike other such card games, Arcadia cards do not have a “rarity”–there are no common, uncommon, or rare cards. All are equal, and were often badly distributed in the booster packs (it was not uncommon to find duplicate cards in the very same pack!), which can quickly irritate the avid collector. Arcadia would have fared much better had it been released as a “living card game”, offering a fixed and complete set of cards that required no collecting, but could be expanded by later editions.
The strong story telling elements of Arcadia are only fully realised when you play its Quests in order, and let the story thus gradually unfold: the search for Lord Gamine in The Wyld Hunt, and the revolt against King Ironheart industrialisation of Middlemarch in King Ironheart’s Madness.
That said, below are links to some reviews that appeared either in print or online.
- A review by Shido Vicious from 2010 in Portuguese (English through Google Translate)
- A review from 1996 by Jason Cayne, on Usenet
- A review by Bruno Canato from 2006, at Boardgamegeek.
- A review by Adam B from 2004, at Boardgamegeek.
- A review by Mike Haverty from 2009, at Boardgamegeek.
- A review by Richard Welt (via archive.org)
- A review by Sofacoin, at everything2
The Wyld Hunt
- An announcement of The Wyld Hunt in InQuest #14, June 1996.
King Ironheart’s Madness
- Review by Jason Schneiderman in InQuest #23, March 1997.