Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Etsy is an arts-and-crafts fair for the internet. Like most arts-and-crafts fairs, there is a lot of really good stuff, if you poke around. There also a fair number of things to steer clear of. A lot of them.

A quick search on etsy for game yields a number of results, most of them projects made from game pieces, not actual games.

Because of this, a post on Wired about a game called Iconica caught my eye a few months ago. On my next payday, I purchased everything that was available for the game. The game is gorgeous. Eric Torres is a graphic designer by trade, and it shows. The art on the cards is clear, simple, and evocative. Enough that I've considered buying an extra set to use as decoration around the apartment.

Each character also has a short paragraph of text explaining their role within the setting of Rynaga. This information could be easily extracted for use in an RPG. If you purchase the Prelude book, you can get even more information about the setting - it reminds me a bit of the old Chronicles of Talislanta book, which was a setting in search of a game.

I brought the game home, and read the rules. It seemed a bit simple. I then went and played the game solo a few times, to see how it worked. It was ... okay. Nothing spectacular.

The next step, of course, was playing it with an actual opponent, so I packed it up and hauled it to my usual Wednesday Game Night to give it a shot.

Maybe it was a shortage of characters, but it just didn't feel like there was much interaction or decision making.

The game is quite simple in play. Each player drafts a team of three characters, and then you take turns rolling dice to kill your opponent's characters. Each character has six actions (one of which is available each turn, depending on what is rolled on the dice).

The most important part of the game is over before actual play starts. Seriously. Character selection is the make-or-break of the game. You need to balance offense with defense.

One your turn, you resolve effects which have lingered since last turn, and then roll the dice. Once the dice are rolled, you choose one character to activate using the number you rolled. Then you choose which opposing character to target with that action. Unfortunately, those are the only decisions you make on your turn, and neither one is particularly difficult.

The first decision: Which character will act? Usually, it's abundantly clear which of your three options is best. If your choices are, "Deal 30 points of damage (Melee)," "Deal 30 points of damage (Ranged)," or "Deal 10 points of damage," then obviously, you're going to choose one of the first two.

In general, it's like D&D: You want to figure out which opposing character is the most dangerous and target that character repeatedly until it's down before moving on to a second character.

It means that gameplay isn't all that strong, as there are not actually any true decisions to be made most of the time.  I think it has potential - but strengthening game play will require more than just adding new characters (in my opinion).  Maybe adding equipment cards or giving players a hand of cards to alter the game environment in some way.  I don't know. But the game needs more than just new characters (Sorry, Eric).

Don't get me wrong - new characters are great, and I love the peeks they provide into the background setting. I'll be buying new ones as fast as Eric Torres puts them on the website (and, of course, I have the money to spend). But the game won't be hitting the table all that often.

Also: My blog is now available for Kindle.


  1. The game seems pretty expensive though, considering the number of things you get. Do you still think you will get several plays out of it?

  2. It is a bit on the spendy side - but it's hand-crafted and the cards are genuinely beautiful.

    It's not on my heavy rotation of games to play, but it does occasionally get played at my regular game night (whether I'm playing or not).

    It's a game you buy for the art and to support independant publishing, not necessarily for the game as it currently exists.

  3. Okay, this post is about 2 years after your blog...but Iconica just got a jolt through some Penny Arcade coverage. I looked up all the reviews/info I could find on the game. I printed the "sample" game (which is a one on one affair) and printed out two more copies so I could go 3-on-3. There's something that just draws me. It is partially the artwork as it is beautiful. But the game is great in its simplicity AND what it emulates. It is basically an old-school D&D/Final Fantasy party battle. I think the only thing that struck me as weak game-making was that all the status effects were kinda the same and resolved the same way. I think there is a lot of options for some home brew rules to add some spice to this game of great potential.