Golem Arcana is a miniatures game with a new solution to the problem of “miniatures are cool, huge rulebooks telling you how to play with them are not cool.” As you can see from the picture, the cool look is definitely there. In the background you can how the rulebook problem is to be solved: the game will be fully integrated for your tablet or even phone, so players won’t have to spend time record keeping or looking up rules.
That’s the promise, but the Kickstarter will need half a million bucks before it takes off. Now, asking the general public for that kind of scratch is a big deal, so it’s good to take a look at the track record of the folks being (hopefully) handed such a pile of dough:
The big name behind the game is Jordan Weisman. He has an extensive successful track record for miniatures games, but his most recent claim to fame is probably Mage Knight. Mage Knight solved the “big rulebook” problem by putting almost all the rules on the very cool looking miniatures, using a “click dial” to keep track of the changing stats. Mage Knight was enormously successful for a while as a collectible miniatures game, before eventually collapsing under its own weight–miniatures are just too expensive and space-using to sell as collectibles (as numerous other successful for a while but sudden failures, such as MechWarrior, Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures, Dreamblade, and others showed).
Reading through the Golem Arcana Kickstarter, it rather looks like Weisman is taking many of his world building cues from Mage Knight–various factions fighting for control of a magical world, with each faction, extremely distinctive in a cool looking way.
Golem Arcana isn’t planned as a collectible game, and can’t use click dials (since that’s now property of Wiz Kids, no longer Weisman’s company), so going to an electronic solution is probably a good idea. For all his gifts for miniatures games, however, Weisman doesn’t quite have the experience when it comes to programming. However, his company, Harebrained Schemes, LLC, has experience with Kickstarter. Their most recent effort, Shadowrun Returns, was a solid and fast delivery of a Kickstarter promise. Harebrained won’t just write an app, they’re going to created a Tabletop Digital Interface (TDI) Stylus, able to read distances between miniatures (trust me, line of sight and distance are big deals in miniatures games, and often the source of arguments), as well as information right off the miniatures via microdots on terrain, figures, and data cards, at least for official Golem Arcana products. It’s a clever idea, although it means that players won’t be able to ‘recycle’ terrain and other bits from other miniatures games they play. As an added bonus, the TDI can save the whole game, solving another miniatures game problem: these games take up space, a major issue when you can’t finish in time, and might not be able to play for another week.
Weisman is a master of creating very inviting games that are fun to play, at least for a while. Can he pull off the magic yet again with Golem Arcana? If the Kickstarter can find $500,000, I bet he will.