Arborea – first impressions – a very colourful game

Beautifully illustrated box cover for Arborea

Yesterday I received a new Kickstarter – Arborea from Alley Cat Games (received ahead of schedule!). I opened it excitedly and tried it out solo last night. This will be a very quick overview compared to my usual posts.

Arborea is a game that when it was first coming to Kickstarter was compared to Bitoku. Bitoku is a colourful dice worker placement game with set collection, set in a mix of East Asian mythologies, where you are competing to become the next great spirit.

Arborea is a colourful worker placement and removal game, tile laying to create your world, set in a mythological setting where you are a great spirit trying to develop the world through building biomes.

And that is pretty much the only way these two games are alike – colourful, mythological, great spirit. Gameplay is completely different.

Game set up and ready to start - a very colourful game

In Arborea you place workers onto tracks. The tracks slowly move up and you remove the workers when you want – these workers then follow trails to collect resources and trigger specific actions. The best comparison I can think of game-wise is Tzolkin. You can, instead of placing a worker, you can move a track (you can spend spirit to do both).

Partway through the game - there are a number of villagers on the board, and I am building up a biome with animals in them
Notice the error – I placed on of the animals illegally and fixed this later on.

You use the resources (which are shared resources) to turn the cards which you can see above my playerboard into biomes. You can collect animals and then place them in these biomes.

Throughout the game you score by creating resources and by putting animals in the borderland at the top of the board.

At the end of the game I had a score of 143, bot (on easy mode) had 103.
The bot collected so many cards it couldn’t turn into a biome – and they just ended up all over the place – human players can only ever have three unfinished biomes

At the end of the game you score based on your spirit (the track at the top of the bottom third of the board), the positioning of animals in your biomes, and four variable scoring tiles which you pick at the beginning of the game – you can increase how much you score these tiles throughout the game.

The game is very simple to play (and I’ve just noticed the turn structure is on the board), but there’s a lot to do with a short supply of workers. I would consider this a medium weight game with complexity caused by the many options and ways of playing.

The bot is also simple to run (although could do with a summary card as I had to keep referring to the rulebook). I found the only downside with the bot is that it’s difficulty is purely a score multiplier and doesn’t have any affect on the gameplay. I tend to prefer a more complex bot in general when I solo games.

Inside the box the cardboard insert makes it much easier to organise

The deluxe version of the game includes these lovely cardboard organisers (which were sadly misprinted).

I also have a mini-expansion which came with the deluxe version, and some other Kickstarter additions. The screen-printed animals and meeples are part of the main game (the blue and green animals are from the expansion). Other tokens are prettier in the deluxe version.

I really enjoyed this game last night. It was lighter than the games I usually solo, but still fun to play and a challenge to work out what I want to do. The quality of the game components is excellent and I love the fact that the insert is cardboard and other than the baggies there isn’t a plastic piece in sight. Looking forward to play this multiplayer (I suspect it will shine more multiplayer) and hoping to get it to the table next week.

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