When comparing Arimaa vs Descent: Journeys in the Dark, the Slant community recommends Arimaa for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Arimaa is ranked 26th while Descent: Journeys in the Dark is ranked 42nd. 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 Blends competitive and co-operative game play in one game
The premise is pretty unique in that one player takes on the role of an overlord while all other players act as the heroes who attempt to clear the dungeon. The overlord and the heroes play against each other in a turn-based setup.
The overlord is the one responsible for controlling the monsters and other pitfalls that the heroes will face. The overlord also has access to many powerful spell cards which can be played during their turn. The heroes work together to clear the dungeon of monsters and work towards the victory condition for their quest.
Since the main evil force is player controlled, it creates some really interesting situations not often seen in other boardgames such as monsters being able to play strategically and dealing with spell effects that aren't random.
Pro Accessible and easy to learn game systems
While the actual rule book may not be the most organized manual in the world, the gameplay systems themselves are very simple to grasp, even for new players. Thanks to being both intuitive and easy to follow, anyone can join in on the fun.
Descent uses basic dice rolls for most actions, and how many actions you can take per turn are clearly defined based on your hero class. Movement along the board is handled in a grid like fashion with each tile denoting a certain distance. There is never any second guessing of whether or not you're in range to help a friend or attack an enemy. If you can roll dice, follow a tile based board, and understand a few simple rules, you can easily play this game.
Pro Engaging and replayable full campaign mode
Each 60 to 90 minute game consists of a single quest, however there is a campaign mode where heroes can take on a series of story quests while also learning new skills along the way. This is a great mode for that true epic adventure feeling. If you find a hero you enjoy, you can grow and develop this character over time similar to a standard RPG game. Additionally, no two campaigns will ever be the same. There are 8 different classes to select from, and you can pick and choose the quests you do, which adds a lot of replayability.
Pro Appealing, clean presentation
Everything is laid out cleanly on the board so it's easy to keep track of the action. Each player has their own cards with all usable actions and skills neatly presented. All heroes and monsters have game pieces that can be moved around the board, so it's easy to be aware of your surroundings and plan your next attack. The health system uses special token pieces that are used to keep track of your health. Being able to see your health physically raise and lower to keep track of your damage taken is a nice touch.
Pro Can play solo with the mobile app
There's a mobile app called "Road to Legend" that lets you play this game solo. The app works by taking over the overlord role. It even has multiple difficulty settings so you can get as much of a challenge as you crave. It's a great way to play when you have no friends available for a gaming session.
Pro Bitesized quests for quick fun
Each short gaming session consists of one quest with its own victory condition and two encounters. They are quick to play when you're looking for something fun to do for an hour or so.
Pro Lots of expansion packs to keep the fun going
The makers of this board game have added over ten expansion packs which feature new monsters, quests, campaigns, heroes, and re-balanced mechanics. Even after you've extensively played the vanilla game, there's plenty of ways to extend the fun and keep playing a game you enjoy.
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 Physical quality isn't the best
The game cards and board are flimsy and wear down rather easily. After only a few games, the wear and tear will be noticeable.
Con Disorganized rulebook
It's usually easier to find the information you need with an internet search since the rulebook itself is tough to navigate. It's arranged alphabetically by rule rather than organized in a manner that would align with the game flow.
Con Rules can be confusing
While the game systems themselves are rather easy to pick up and learn, some phrasing on the cards and within the rulebook is a bit cryptic, which may result in confusion when first starting out.
Con One player will always have to be the "bad guy"
Unless using the mobile app, which may very well ruin immersion for some, there is an evil overlord role that needs to be filled by a player. This is the player that makes decisions and takes actions for all the monsters. As such, this can be the source of many arguments. It can get especially bad when someone feels like they are being constantly targeted or singled out by the overlord.