One of the hot releases at Gen Con 2014 has been Golem Arcana the successful Kickstarter game project by Harebrained Schemes. Golem Arcana is a point-based army building game that blends the physical fun of tabletop gaming with the power of digital technology. It “seamlessly” connects a smartphone or tablet to the game’s figures, board, and cards via a Bluetooth-powered stylus designed specifically for tabletop gaming. Simply tap any of the game pieces with the stylus to send information to the app, or tap the board to make a move.
That “seamlessly connects” and blending technology with physical miniatures is both the best, and worst part of the game. On the floor of the show, with nice tablets, and big screens, I received a seamless demo of how the game worked. Using a stylus, you’re able to control figures, with no need of a rulebook to memorize, dice to role, and an endless possibility to the game play. Myself, and those with me, were so excited about the game, and the demo was so good, we (myself and some other friends) decided to buy the game, $120 worth of it.
Back to the hotel that evening to play, we opened the game, attempting to sync it with our iPad. It turns out, though we were told that the app worked on a generation 2 iPad or higher, in fact we needed a third generation and higher. Luckily we also had an iPhone 4S handy, one of the devices listed on the apps page. If your game relies on a device, you probably should know the device it can work on, we lucked out (I have a first generation iPad myself so no game for me I guess until the PC app is released down the road). The internet was slow, but we downloaded it to play the next day.
After our second day, we excitedly got back to our room to play. Every few minutes, the iPhone crashed. With each reload, a new synch of the stylus was needed. We’d click some screens, and a crash again. After many attempts of this, we gave up, frustrated. Add this on top of the small screen, and you can see how our excitement was dimmed quickly. We couldn’t get past the first turn of the first player in the tutorial.
Go to the Golem Arcana app page and at the end of the list of devices that it should work on is “This app is optimized for iPhone 5.” So, here’s the issue…. on top of the $120 spent on the game (main game, plus two figure packs), we’re left in a quandary. To actually play, what is an amazing game, we’d need to invest another few hundred to get the right device to be able to do so.
The irony in the end is, by using technology to free us the gamers from massive physical rulebooks, that same technology has also made it impossible to actually enjoy the game.