When comparing Arimaa vs Race for the Galaxy, the Slant community recommends Arimaa for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Arimaa is ranked 26th while Race for the Galaxy is ranked 35th. The most important reason people chose Arimaa is:
Arimaa is a game suitable for both young and old, it was made to be intuitively simple but with a lot of depth. Even the setup follows this premise - you set up the figures in two rows like in chess, but you can place them in any way you like. The rules are simple – in your turn you have four actions. You can either move a figure four times, move four figures one time, or do any combination in between. All figures can move forwards, backwards, and sideways apart from rabbits who can’t go backwards. You can use two actions on a stronger piece to push or pull your opponents’ weaker figures. These stronger figures also “freeze” adjacent weaker pieces, preventing them from moving unless there’s a friendly piece next to them. If a figure happens to walk into one of the four trap squares or get pushed/pulled into one without a friendly piece next to it, then it is removed from the game. The first player to get a rabbit to reach the opposing side wins. The game can also be won by removing or immobilizing all your opponent’s rabbits.
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Pro Easy to learn
Arimaa is a game suitable for both young and old, it was made to be intuitively simple but with a lot of depth. Even the setup follows this premise - you set up the figures in two rows like in chess, but you can place them in any way you like.
The rules are simple – in your turn you have four actions. You can either move a figure four times, move four figures one time, or do any combination in between. All figures can move forwards, backwards, and sideways apart from rabbits who can’t go backwards.
You can use two actions on a stronger piece to push or pull your opponents’ weaker figures. These stronger figures also “freeze” adjacent weaker pieces, preventing them from moving unless there’s a friendly piece next to them. If a figure happens to walk into one of the four trap squares or get pushed/pulled into one without a friendly piece next to it, then it is removed from the game. The first player to get a rabbit to reach the opposing side wins. The game can also be won by removing or immobilizing all your opponent’s rabbits.
Pro Active online community
The official site of Arimaa is quite lively and features reviews, downloads, the latest news, an active public forum, and much more. There’s even an online gameroom, so you can play Arimaa against computers or other people in either turn-based or real-time games. There are many people online, so it shouldn’t be a problem to find a game.
Pro Can be played with a chess set
In case you don't want to purchase the gameboard made by Z-Man Games, you can use the components of a regular chess set. It also helps if you have four coins to mark the trap squares. You probably already have the equipment you need.
Pro Fluid gameplay
The 4 moves per turn gives Arimaa's tree of possible moves a very high branching factor. (It was invented for AI programmers as a game more difficult to program for than chess, but easier than Go). You can't think several turns ahead like chess (the space of possibilities is too big), instead you have to think in terms of distances and capabilities, giving Arimaa a very fluid feel.
Pro Great for quick gameplay sessions
A group of experienced players can play a game of Race for the Galaxy in 30-60 minutes easily. There are no complex boards or pieces to manage, and each game usually only lasts about 7-12 turns.
Pro Each round is different and exciting
At the start of every round, players each choose one action card from among a pool of their seven cards and place it face down on the table. After everyone has chosen, all the cards are flipped over and the round begins.
Any action chosen can be completed by all players. For example, if you choose to Explore, then everyone else may also explore on that turn. If your opponent chose to Produce, then you are also free to produce.
Since you never know what actions the people around you are going to choose for that turn, it's possible that any or all actions will come into play that round. This keeps things fresh and exciting on a per round basis as you never know (except for your own choice) which actions will be 100% in play.
Pro Many different ways to win
There are seven different actions that can be taken each turn such as Produce, Explore, Develop, etc. Each of these actions will then influence which cards you can play from your hand, and also the points you get from all active cards already in play. There are are an almost unlimited amount of possible scenarios and ways to accumulate the most points. No one strategy will ever overpower another thanks to so many random factors and paths to victory.
Pro Organized rule book makes locating rules convenient
The rules may be complex, but the rule book itself is incredibly well-organized and contains clear instructions, diagrams, and pictures. Each page contains a handy summary section with a quick overview of each rule. There's also a detailed glossary that contains the description for each and every symbol that appears on the game cards. When you inevitably need to look up anything mid-game, the information is at least easy to locate.
Pro High quality, durable cards
All the game cards feature high quality artwork of planets, ships, and various sci-fi technology. They are printed on durable cardboard that doesn't bend or tear easily. When properly used and stored, they should stay in good condition for a long time.
Pro Setup is fast and easy
There are no complex boards or game pieces to deal with. Each player simply chooses a home world and is given seven action cards and dealt some play cards. Then, victory tokens are placed in a pile (12 per player). Thanks to a small amount of pieces and very little preparation, this game can be setup and ready to play in under a minute.
Pro Deep and strategic
Race for the Galaxy is deep and offers plenty of room for customized strategies, so those who enjoy more advanced games should really enjoy it.
For example, you may put together an intelligent play by trying to predict which phase your opponents are going to choose on any given turn. If your opponent controls an area that allows them to trade resources for cards, they might choose the Trade Phase that turn. Since all players can participate in any other player's chosen phase, you may want to counterplay with the Settle Phase so you can join the area and take advantage of the trade too.
There are hundreds of scenarios like this. The amount of sheer strategy and paths to victory combined with the random nature of cards can create plenty of interesting and deep gameplay sessions.
Con Requires constant engagement
Arimaa can get out of hand quickly because there’s pretty much no way of predicting how future turns will play out. This is because it’s significantly harder to pinpoint four actions that your opponent might do as opposed to one action in similar games to Arimaa. Due to this the game requires the players to continually pay close attention to what they’re doing, which isn’t inherently bad, but can be a bit problematic for people with shorter attention spans or for people who don't want to take the game too seriously and just play it for fun and socialize meanwhile.
Con Quite long to play
A game of Arimaa is very unpredictable and can often lead to a very long session. The time can vary between 15 minutes and 2 hours, so it’s not great if you’re looking for something that you can quickly grab and play through.
Con Iconography can be difficult to learn
This game relies heavily on a variety of symbols to indicate what each card does. This can make it very difficult for new players that don't yet understand what each symbol means. These symbols range from different colored shapes like circles and diamonds to shapes with various icons inside them. It's not always intuitive what they mean, so expect to consult the rule book quite often while learning.
Con Strict, complex rules ruin some of the enjoyment
It can be really hard to enjoy the game when you're more focused on the rules than having fun. Having to consult the rule book several times per turn can get old after a while, and may turn new players off completely.
Con Steep learning curve
This is a difficult game to learn. Not only does each card contain symbols which need to be memorized, it has very complex rules in general. Each turn is defined by a very rigid and detailed ruleset.
Con Not much player interactivity
The cards you play have an influence what your opponent can and cannot do each turn, but it all feels so random and impersonal. There's little to no communication required among the group. Everyone just scrambles to get their points without really worrying too much about what the player sitting next to them is doing. This issue is fixed in the expansions, but those who only own the base game are out of luck.
Con Expansions are nearly mandatory
In order to get the most out of this game, buying the expansions is considered mandatory in the board gaming community. The gameplay itself doesn't quite feel complete without all the additional rules and cards. The base game is fully playable, but most of the focus on player interactivity and balance went into the expansions.
Con Different rules when playing with only 2 players
It is highly recommended to play with 3 or more players, but there is a rule set available for when only 2 players are available. However, this requires learning an entirely modified set of advanced rules. This can be especially complex and frustrating for people who are still struggling with the standard rules.