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Digital Subscriptions > Tabletop Gaming > February 2019 (#27) > Res Arcana

Res Arcana

After racing for the galaxy, Tom Lehmann’s next compact game hands players control of the very elements themselves – and manages to work its magic with just a handful of cards


Fire up your engines: there’s a new Tom Lehmann game in town. The Race for the Galaxy designer’s latest challenge of efficient cardplay and high-speed engine-building is Res Arcana, a card game set a universe away from his sci-fi magnum opus in a fantasy world of magic and alchemy.

Players are mages able to control and transform the five magical essences that govern their world: life, death, elan (that’s the fancy term for “vitality and energy”), ‘calm’ and the valuable element of gold, which is given a particularly special status in the game and can be used to purchase and play certain cards.

“It draws upon medieval alchemy, classical antiquity and fantasy to create a rich setting, which encompasses the philosopher’s stone, an athanor, the ring of Midas, the Great Pyramids, a dancing sword and several dragons,” Lehmann says of the world. “The essences, mages, artefacts and artwork all combine to suggest a dynamic world of alchemy and magic, which reinforces the central mechanic of transformation.”

Although a competitive card game set in a fantasy universe dominated by a handful of key elements might put some players in mind of Magic: The Gathering’s mana-driven battles, Lehmann is quick to dismiss the association.

“With Magic: The Gathering, the comparison is superficial: both are card games with fantasy settings and have five resource types,” he retorts. “Beyond this, they’re really different games.”

Part of what makes Res Arcana different is the limited selection of cards that players have at their disposal. Very specifically, each person has a deck of just eight different cards in their individual store for that particular match, drawn randomly from rest of the game’s entire library of 40 cards, plus a unique mage card that they choose from two options during setup. Players begin the game with only three cards in their hand, adding one from their slim stack at the end of each round – of which there are between four and six.

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About Tabletop Gaming

Res Arcana: Race for the Galaxy designer Tom Lehmann conjures up his next magical card game. We’ve got a first look! Wingspan: As Elizabeth Hargrave’s gorgeous strategy game takes flight, the designer tells us about bringing 170 (!) unique birds to her major debut. Anomaly: Having unscrambled party fun in Decrpyto, Thomas Dagenais-Lespérance fights for survival in his tense sci-fi board game. Designer duos: In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we hook up with the perfect pairs behind some of gaming’s best experiences. Reichbusters: Project Vril: Time of Legends studio Mythic returns to smash zombie Nazis in its OTT co-op game. How We Made Hive: John Yianni on the unlikely success of his phenomenal insect-filled abstract game. Build: Meet the 12-year-old British designer whose Geography homework became a board game that could change the world Cubiko Games: Gavin Birnbaum has been crafting beautiful wooden games for the last decade. We catch up with the designer as his ingenious auction game Q.E. expands his cult success. Reviewed: Gen7: A Crossroads Game Pandemic: Fall of Rome Warhammer 40,000 RPG: Wrath & Glory Harry Potter Miniatures Adventure Game Western Legends Forbidden Lands RPG Shadows: Amsterdam Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Cerebria: The Inside World Passing Through Petra Duelosaur Island AuZtralia Newton Alone Gugong + more!