Arkosa, the place you call home. It is not the nicest of planets to live. There are regular attacks from the locals, unique events, sandstorms and dissolution. You are in charge of developing your very own bunker. As well as recruiting new colonists and just trying to keep everyone happy, fed, well-rested and breathing. If you can provide for your colonists and develop your bunker, you win the grand prize. A ticket off this red rock.
Arkosa is a one to four player hand management, resource management game. It's designed by Angela Dickens and published by Toon Hammer. Arkosa is played over the course of three rounds. On your turn you can perform two actions before play passes to the next player. You can have any number of turns that you are able to do actions. The round ends when all players have passed. Actions include playing colonists for its resources or exploring the wasteland for resources or colonists. You then build a room in your bunker, perform trade and collect bribes. After three rounds the player with the most points is the winner.
Each of the colonist cards have resource icons and/or backpack icons depicted on them. By playing the colonist you can simply gain the shown resources. Colonists can also be used to explore the wastelands of Arkosa and each region has a backpack requirement. Colonists that have the depicted backpack colour can explore these locations. Some of the locations have additional colonists that can be recruited.
Each exploration advances the exploration track which may trigger an event (low medium or high risk) or a raid event. Each location has a resource cost to be paid and then either a colonist or a combination of resources is received. Players can only have a maximum of six colonists in their hand at the end of their two actions. If a player has more they must exile colonists until they have six, losing morale accordingly.
Buildings can be purchased from the market and added to your bunker. At the end of the round, there is a production phase and you gain the room’s resources assuming that it is powered. Additional resources may be gained if you place the matching room on the corresponding space, i.e. a science room on a science space.
Players can also perform a trade action from the common trade area and (if playing with the regular setup) their special trade once per round. In round two and three there are “bribes” available which are essentially objective cards. One bribe can be taken per turn and players must have the shown resources at the end of the game to gain the points, otherwise, they lose the depicted points.
After all players have passed, players must feed their colonists. Every two colonists require one nitrogen and one food. Any colonists that are not fed result in lost morale. Reputation points are then gained depending on your position on the morale track and the players' powered rooms then produce.
Arkosa has a striking appearance. The art and illustrations are very unique looking and the wash of dusty red on the board sits well with the setting of the game. There is a ton of variety in the game as well. There are a decent amount of event cards and you may only see a handful in the game. But how does it play? Well, read on to find out.
Arkosa is a wonderful mix of game mechanisms. There is resource management, hand management, a splattering of take that and asymmetric starting setup that comes together in a well put together packaging.
Tightness In A Box
The restriction of only having six colonists in your bunker really makes you think about who you want to recruit. Exiling colonists costs your morale and as such, it is not an easy choice to make. But as you move into round two, better colonists are available and they are very tempting. I love the tightness of this part of the game and it makes for some interesting decisions.
The tightness of the game doesn’t end with your hand restriction. Buildings require scrap and magtape (typically) and these are not easy to come by. Yes, you can trade nitrogen and food for them and certain exploration spots give you them but you are not drowning in resources. Figuring out how to best get the resources you need for that amazing bunker room is often a tense and agonising process.
Grab It Whilst You Can
To top off the colonists recruiting and the room construction restrictions your opponent is also racing for these things as well. So if there is an awesome colonist available or a room that suits your needs perfectly you had better rush and grab it quickly. This adds tension to the game and a bit of a race element to it. You can burn through your colonists to get the resources but then this limits your ability to do any exploration. It is a delicate balance between using your colonists for resources and for exploration.
Take That Or Not
There are some colonist cards and rooms that offer some take that aspect, allowing players to injure your fellow players' colonists. However, Toon Hammer have you covered if this is not your play style as there is a “Network Harmony” variant that details which cards to remove for a more peaceful game. I love the fact that there is a choice and depending on your playstyle or group you can tweak the game to your liking.
Funny, Weird And Gross
The event cards are packed full of humour and funny story bits. It adds immersion into the world of Arkosa that is often missing from these types of games. The extra effort that Toon Hammer has gone to add the flavour text as part of the event is great if not sometimes gross (like a slippery sandstorm coated in jelly).
From the asymmetric setup to the three different variants currently included in the rulebook, from the large event decks to the tightness of the resource management, there is a lot to like in Arkosa. I have been having a blast playing it for this review and each game is always different.
Arkosa has hit Kickstarter and if anything I have said above tickles your fancy I recommend that you check it out.