Arcadia is a game where each player builds their own amusement park. You’ll be in charge of hiring staff and building attractions in an effort to have the best park at the table. Are you ready to build the next Disney World?
At the start of the game, each player is given four Job cards and three Review cards. Job cards feature generic employees, along with one or two of their corresponding icons. These icons include balloons, tents, ducks and ice cream. Review cards come into play at the end, as they provide you with bonuses if you meet the conditions on the cards. You’ll keep two of them and discard the third.
In the middle of the table will be three decks of cards: Job cards, Expert cards and Attraction cards. Expert cards, like Jobs, give you icons, though they give you three to four instead of one to two. Attraction cards are the rides, games, shows and food stands that you’ll build in your park. Each Attraction card also features a set of icons, though these instead show how many icons must be cashed in from your Job and Expert cards in order to get it.
On your turn, you can perform one action. You can take two job cards, either from the four face-up cards, the draw pile or one from each. You can take one Expert card in the same manner. If you don’t like what you see in the pool, you can sweep away all of the face-up Job and Expert cards before drawing one Job card. You can also cash the cards in your hand to take an Attraction.
Besides acting as points, Attractions can give you other benefits as well, such as permanent icons that don’t get discarded after each use. Over time, your park will be able to generate resources faster, allowing your park to grow at a quicker rate. At the end of the game, the player with the most points on their Attractions cards wins.
While it’s not original, I love the concept of games that allow you to make your own amusement park. Within that concept is a lot of room for players to get creative. Arcadia has a ton of great art that evokes the feel of a classic amusement park, but the gameplay really lets the theme down.
For example, each attraction from a gameplay perspective can be broken down simply by one of four attraction types and one of four levels. Therefore, there’s no real difference from having a level 1 roller coaster and a level 1 tea cup ride. There are some gameplay-specific benefits to certain Attraction cards, though these rarely make sense within the context of the theme. I’d be somewhat okay if these benefits were still fun for what they provide from a gameplay perspective, though they’re pretty run-of-the-mill power-ups.
Then there’s the iconography system. It’s very similar to Splendor, a game I love. However, it’s a lot harder to manage here. You’re fumbling between the cards in your hand, some of your Attraction cards, as well as trying to do the conversions for cashing in three icons of one colour into one icon of another in order to buy something. On top of that, you can’t buy level 2, 3 or 4 attractions unless you already have a level 1 of the same type. It can be frustrating to watch a series of high-level Attractions pass by with little you can do.
Then there’s the matter of scoring. The game does a poor job of explaining how intermediate scoring works, as it’s not clear whether your only score the cards you got that round or all the cards in your set at that time. Worse yet, while the game can be played with two players, scoring gets really wacky with so few players. What ends up happening is that both players end up with scores in the hundreds, which ends up becoming unwieldy to add in a hurry.
Arcadia has the theme and a gameplay foundation of a winner, but it ultimately flounders by trying to do too much. Instead of enjoying the sensation of building an Amusement park, you’re constantly flustered by managing a myriad of icons while watching scoring cards you can’t buy fly by. This one was sadly a huge disappointment.