Earth is under a blanket of ice. People are hiding in groups of dwellings, that are heated and keep each other warm. Individual stone igloos consist in the first part of a main central cell, where people live. Around it a ring stretches, that is taking care of heat and water – a big boiler room. Above these two parts, there is a control tower, which is the patrol area and also operates the devices in charge of the habitable space. Individual igloos are interconnected by narrow corridors.
Outside of these walls, no organism would survive. The moment the corridor collapses, the cell is cut off, and with it, all its residents are doomed to extinction. Therefore, the builders were trying to keep all cells accessible from more directions, so people could possibly escape. This month, however, two more passages have collapsed.
For decades the rooms connected and people, who are able to keep the igloos running and repairing them is declining. Our village is still quite large, but we know that we are running out of time. The only hope for survival remains: global warming. But the sun is only a fairy tale for children, something as far as vanished morning dream.
The future of our planet came to us in form of game called Arktia from not very well knows suisse publisher Murmel. Theme of the game does not correspond with its focus – it is an intelligent abstract game, in which you are trying to keep your igloos connected to each other longer, than the competition. But your bunkers constantly move to avoid snow storms (at least this is how we understand game mechanics).
The box game wears the only color possible – arctic blue. You will find it filled with cold and frost. Apart from the box itself, the game contains several frozen sixsided tiles, which help you create a game board. The illustrations include nice little details, that make the resulting ice plain looks rather nice.
The game then needs only wooden components and rules to learn the game. You will not find wood only in four different colors, but also in three different shapes – small and large wheel is expanded by an elegant and unusual ring. When you focus on their dimensions, you will find, that small circle can fit into the ring, while it can be covered by the large one.
Despite only two types of components, that Arktia consists of, game itself is a little more complicated than it looks. Preparation of the game varies depending on the number of competitors, who take part in arctic race. For each number you can find special shape of the game board in rules, which helps you to assemble the six-party tiles. The position of individual parts does not matter, all are equal.
Each player puts together all the pieces of his color, which will be featuring in the game. But in the end, he will not get points only for them, but also for all other parts of the igloo, which he manages to pick up the second part of the match.
The players turn is very simple. Put one of your pieces on the game board to create a linked group of your color. All the stones of one color therefore must be contiguous in one of six possible directions. Laying is governed by specific rules – it is possible to lay tiles and combine them to build towers. The small wheel can be only put inside a ring and the big wheel on that ring. Individual pieces themselves may lie in the area without any restrictions.
Building towers is not limited by color, but the tower has always color of the highest stone according to their hierarchy – usually small stone is the lowest, circle and on top the large stone. The course can be a tower of some two parts.
In the course of the game, you can move the towers, create a new tower from solitary pieces or divide the current tower in two parts. The stones may always be moved only by their rightful owner – the player, whose color tower bears. The whole deployment of stones is just the beginning and preparation for the second phase. Although it is very important to think strategically from the start.
In the next stage of the game, you start to remove the stones. Whenever one of the moving stones loses contact with other pieces of his color, it is immediately removed from the board. The player who made the move, gets it. So if you move the tower made up of three colors in a way, that red loses contact, you remove this one piece from the tower and take it back. The rest of the tower remains on the board and can continue with normal play or moving to new locations.
Each turn, the pieces are gradually disappearing. However, they are not put back to building supplies, but the players put them aside. At the end of the game, players get victory points for them. The moment you are removing stones, the game is close to reaching the third final phase. Once the player has no stones left in his building stock, he must, in addition to the moving some of the towers, take an empty part of board – one hexagonal tile.
The game continues this way, but only those players, who have nothing to play, take tiles from the table. Match ends, when you can not take other pieces from the arctic, or can not move any of remaining stones or towers. Whoever has the most points collected in the end for tiles and stones collected (plus towers controlled on the rest of the board) is the winner.
Arktia successfully deceives by its appearance. In fact, you could never guess it to deliberate and malicious abstract game, that it really is. Despite its inconspicuous appearance, it requires a lot of concentration and thinking.
And that qualities should be found in an abstract game. In Arktia several phases blend together and from it comes several strategies, that you can follow. In the first building phase, you have to be consistently careful to have all the pieces connected, and also to create good starting position for next course of the game. The same is true of course for moving the towers, which must be done very carefully.
You just need to keep in mind several principles of stacking and also, that you can move only pieces of your color. Finding orphaned and forgotten pieces, that are not connected and should be removed from the plan, is relatively simple, because colors are easily distinguishable from each other. Everything is nice to see at first glance, because the stones have shapes that retain all three parts visible.
Players in Arktia must accept a new way of thinking, because what you place on the playing area, you will almost certainly want also to get back. Ideally enriched for some pieces of opponent colors. It is this two-sided approach, that is unusual and makes Arktia an unique experience.
Number of players does not affect the fun and entertainment. In two players, the third color distributed before the game starts, will mix up your plans a little. The ongoing conflict and a sense of constant overcrowdedness is guaranteed due to different plan for each number of players.
Due to the difficulty of thinking, the game is not suitable for smaller children and you will enjoy it more, with children around the twelfth year. It is quite difficult to keep track of all the neighborhoods of their colors, how to attach them, while still considering the movement or distribution of your controlled towers. But this depth of moves, that are available, makes Arktia an unexpectedly comprehensive experience.
Despite the relative intensity of logical thinking and imagination, the entire match is surprisingly fast. Each phase takes place basically only for just a moment, because players do not own many pieces. That’s good, because all rivals are constantly absorbed in thinking. And this is another feature that is not too common in abstract games. Often, you must wait for your opponent turn, but this waiting is short in Arktia.
We have talked about the graphic of tiles in the beginning. Its simple, but thematic. The actual processing of wooden parts is good, while the tower building is really nice, but does not build up the atmosphere. In the end, you do not feel, as you were on the frozen continent. But there is also beauty in simplicity.
Arktia is a pleasant surprise for us. It pulls out the most of its not many components. And it will do the same thing also with your brain – push it to the max. Without thinking in this game, you just do not have a chance to win. But when you adapt to its system and really dive into its potential, it will reward you with interesting entertainment.
+ simple rules
+ lots of options
+ three phases of game
+ players have to think ahead
+ you lay tiles, you take tiles
- theme is missing