One of my favourite games of 2019 was Res Arcana. As mages, you sling magic, gather essences, and battle over Monuments and Places of Power. Rather than being a long, drawn out engine building game, Res Arcana is a sprint. You scramble against the competition to scrape together 10 points at the end of a round and claim victory. Res Arcana takes elements like resource collection and tableau building and presents them in a new package, that feels new and familiar at the same time. You can read my review of Res Arcana here.
I was actually a little surprised with the speed at which expansion #1 for Res Arcana hit the market. Lux et Tenebrae (LeT) adds some elements that are pretty easy to integrate into the base game, but they add a fun strategic depth.
The first thing you’ll notice with LeT is the new versions of old elements. Two new double-sided Places of Power and four new Monuments can be fought over. The Dragon Aerie/Crystal Keep and the Temple of the Abyss/Gate of Hell add new ways to generate points. The Crystal Keep in particular is worth an amazing five points, plus one point for every two artifacts you have in play. It will cost you though, running four Essences in each colour for a total of 20.
Aside from the new ways to get points, there are four new mages, like the Demonologist that allows you to activate it to straighten a used Demon, or the Bard who you can activate and discard a Dragon, Creature, or Demon to gain two gold. What’s that? Oh yeah, there’s Demons now. They’re among the 12 new Artifact cards included in this expansion. They’re identified by a new symbol and have a variety of powers, surprisingly few of which are aggressive in nature.
The most game-changing new addition are the Scrolls. They work a like like Magic Items that can be held onto until the right time to use them. For example, Vitality allows you to spend two Elan essences to straighten a used card. Disjunction allows you to discard a Gold essence to gain one of all the other essences. Transform allows you to discard any number of essences for the same number of different types of essences, aside from Gold.
You gain Scrolls through the new Inscription Magic Item. By activating it and discarding an essence, you take one of the available Scrolls. That’s now yours to use whenever it’s beneficial to you. It’s a two-step process to get your hands on the Scrolls, but the fact they can’t be taken away is pretty sweet. You can even collect a number of them and use them all at once for a power turn.
Let’s be honest, despite the speed of its arrival on the market, Res Arcana is a game built to be expanded upon. The base game is a fun elegant little card game, but more variety, more strategy, and new ways to approach the game are always welcome.
I have to make sure to mention the art in LeT. Just like the base, LeT is filled with beautiful fantasy-style art. The creatures are cool and creative, the locations majestic, and the characters intriguing. Julien Delval has done a great job expanding this world.
LeT works so well with Res Arcana that it’s not hard to imagine they were developed at the same time. It’s not a huge departure, just more of what you love…assuming you love the base game of course. In fact, if I have any criticism, it’s that I think there’s more room for some bigger added elements in the this expansion. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a safe choice. It just leaves me thirsty for more.
It makes me excited to think there might be even different expansions that the fine folks at Sand Castle Games are sitting on that we might see before too long. Suffice to say, LeT adds enough depth to make it worth picking up, especially if (like us) you’ve played the heck out of the base game.
I’m looking forward to where Tom Lehmann and Sand Castle take this magical game next.
Thanks to Sand Castle Games and Asmodee USA for providing a media copy of Res Arcana: Lux et Tenebrae for this article.