I discovered Jason Chan and his game Scribe’s Arena in the Demoland area of BGG.Con. I was drawn in by the fantastic artwork on display at the table. Jason greeted me warmly with a smile and offered to show me the game.
I’m sure everyone remembers playing Hangman as a kid. For me it was a simple game that made long car rides a little more manageable: One person writes down a secret word and the other player attempts to figure it out by guessing one letter at a time. Pretty basic stuff. Scribe’s Arena takes the basic premise of Hangman and turns it into a fast-paced gamer’s game that I found to be quite enjoyable. To begin, an arena card is selected at random. The arena provides a special effect as well as giving each player three word lengths. Each player selects one word of each length and secretly writes them on their erasable player board. Your objective is to destroy your opponent in the arena by discovering each of their secret words. Each player also takes a god card which grants them a special ability and an energy reserve.
Play begins with players taking turns guessing a letter. If they guess a letter appearing in the opponent’s current word the opponent must reveal to them the location(s) of that letter within the word. Were that all Scribe’s Arena had to offer I would say it would make a decent party game, but what really amps up the excitement and strategy are the spell cards. Each player has a hand of spells that he/she can play using their energy. Spells allow you to perform special actions such as guessing 4 consecutive letters, reflecting a guess back on your opponent (so you guess that letter instead), giving you a bonus guess if your first guess is correct, etc. There’s a lot of tactical decision-making involved in deciding when to play your spells. Should you empty your hand to try and solve a word this round? or hold on to your spells for defense and later rounds?
Overall I thought Scribe’s Arena was a fun and unique evolution of a childhood favorite. The mechanics were sound, the rules were easy to grasp while still providing a level of strategy. I was able to defeat Jason in the arena (woohoo!) and the whole game took about 20 minutes. Though I only had time for one game the large quantity of god and arena cards Jason had available made it clear that the game would be highly replayable. Jason also had a stack of ally cards nearby that he mentioned were for an advanced version of the rules. I’m eager to see how those work If you want to give Scribe’s Arena a try, Jason has the full print & play available over on his website. If I remember correctly he’s planning to take the game to Kickstarter sometime in January.