Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Machina Arcana

Game– Machina Arcana

Producer- Machina Arcana

Price– $80 here http://machinaarcana.com/store/

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 45 min per player (1-4 players)

TL; DR– Style over substance. 65%


Basics– Can you stop the end?  Machina Arcana takes place in the Cthulhu mythos/steam punk world as brave heroes battle the forces of darkness.  Each turn, each player gets a number of stamina points to spend on different actions that range from one point for moving to three points to activate places on the map.  Players can act in any order each turn.  Then, each player rolls to see if monsters spawn on the map with each player who doesn’t spawn a monster making it easier for monsters to spawn.  Then, one player rolls a horror check.  If the party doesn’t have a horror event, then it becomes easier for a horror check to happen next round.  If the party does have a horror event, then another track that monitors how difficult the monsters are moves forward and a bad event occurs.  Finally, the monsters move around the map attacking players if able.  Play continues like this until players activate map points advancing the plot.  Players continue moving about the map, activating different map points for items/events/plot until the final plot card is resolved and the players win or the last available hero is killed and the players lose (and the world ends).


Theme-This game has a lot of theme, but it’s pretty random.  The game makes some great strides in telling a cool story as the different scenarios all have different plots.  I liked to move through the cards and read aloud the story as well as the horror cards, events, and even the characters backgrounds.  What takes away from all that is the randomness of the game.  The best comparison for this game is Arkham Horror, Decent 2nd ed., and Castle Ravenloft.  The monsters that spawn are all random in both Arkham Horror and Castle Ravenloft, with Decent only having on theme monsters for each scenario.  But, those games fix the story problem in several ways with Arkham Horror stating that more than just the big bad guy is moving around, doing stuff and Castle Ravenloft has all the monsters on theme to begin with.  This game has random monsters spawn from all over the Cthulhu rogues gallery, but the theme is off as some of these monsters really wouldn’t work together.  Some even have eaten one another in the mythos!  The boards are random too, but again this is fixed in comparison games as well.  Arkham horror has gates to different lands with random mythos encounters in the gates, Castle Ravenloft stacking the tile deck to make sure a desired tile occurs, and Decent custom building each map.  All of the problems in this game don’t completely make it jarringly difficult to get into the world, but it’s a noticeable problem.  As for a steam punk, the theme of that comes across only on the art.  Again, not bad, but I was expecting more.  3/5


Mechanics– Again I’m going to compare to Castle Ravenloft, Decent, and Arkham Horror.  The basics thoughts of all those games combine decently in this game.  You get the exploration of Ravenloft, the movement and attack of Decent, and the mythos/story/events of Arkham Horror.  What I got here was fairly well done.  What are new about this one are the items.  Some items have marks on the sides and bottom.  If you combine these items with other cards with the same marks on the opposite side or top, you can upgrade your equipment.  That’s pretty cool!  The only real big problem is the monsters mechanics.  Monsters all follow some basics rules.  Castle Ravenloft has much better mechanics for giving the monsters autonomy when they attack, move, or do anything else.   4.5/5


Instructions-These instructions are not well done.  Arkham Horror, Decent, and Castle Ravenloft all have better instructions in them to get the same points across.  This game attempts to do a semi-quick start, but the quick start doesn’t end quickly and will leave you fairly confused.  There is way too much going on on any page.  The rules are convoluted, and you will end up rereading a passage several times as you try to understand the game.  I barely made it through because I bought the game and I wanted to see how it worked. 2.5/5


Execution– Here is another problem area.  Lots of the boards came warped.  My box was dented on the inside.  That’s a pretty petty complaint, but I paid $60 via kickstarter, I expect more.  The art is somewhat detracting as it interferes with readability.  The cardboard is also strange as its thick but too malleable.  The monsters come as cardboard tokens with standees, but to get them in the standees, you have to force them, and they more often than not bend too much and warp.  I now have a wappiejaw Mi-Go and shoggoth standing at strange, sadly Euclidian angles! 3/5


Summary-This isn’t a bad game, but it’s not a good game either.  If you want a well-done co-op Cthulhu mythos game, play Arkham Horror or Eldritch Horror.  If you want a well-done co-op dungeon crawl, then play Decent or Castle Ravenloft.  If you have to have both of those together, then this game will do.  It does have steam punk, but it’s not the main push.  Its got faults, but it’s not unplayable by any means.  But odds are, I won’t be playing this one any time soon. 65%

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