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ArchRavels

This set collection yarn from designers Adam McCrimmon and Jordan Miller is a knitter’s gaming delight. 

Gameplay

ArchRavels pits 2-4 players in a contest to fulfill the most special order and projects for knitting glory. 

Each player will receive a character board with specific actions: collecting a number of yarn cards, crafting a number of items, exchanging yarn, and an asymmetric power that is a better version or a combination of the other actions. For example, this may mean having the ability to purchase more yarn from the central board or the ability to craft more items during an action. Players will also receive one yarn token of each color as well as randomly-selected bear, mitten, and scarf pattern tiles which will indicate the color and number of yarn necessary to craft those items. 

Yarn, event, and special request cards will be shuffled and then placed face-down into a draw pile, with the first six cards revealed. Yarn cards will denote the number and color of yarn a player receives if they choose that card. Event cards will show an event to be resolved once it's revealed (such as giving another player a yarn token or each player taking an extra yarn token from the supply), and special requests coincide with each player’s specialty listed at the top of the card, as well as added requests dependent on the player count. Project tiles will also be placed on the central player board dependent on the player count. These depict a certain number of crafted items needed to fulfill the requirements for completion. 

Starting with the first player, turns are quite simple: players will select one of the actions on their player boards and carry it out. For example, if a player decides to collect yarn, they will move their action selection pawn to that spot on their board to denote doing the action. On their next turn, the player must choose a different action from their player board to carry out. Next comes the restock phase in which players will replace yarn cards (if they took that action previously during their turn) with cards drawn from the face-down deck. If an event card is revealed, its action is taken immediately and replaced. If a special request is drawn, the player can decide to claim it or to give it to another player to fulfill. Any special request that is not fulfilled by the end of the game will be worth negative points. Special requests that match the specific item a player board identifies and are completed before the end of the game will result in that number of points plus an additional point bonus. 

Players may also flip over their bear, mitten, or scarf piece during the restock phase if they have crafted that item and wish to spend it on flipping over the card. Doing so will grant players 3 points at the end of the game and allow them to then fulfill those patterns with any color of yarn they choose, so long as they spend the number of yarn types for the pattern (for example, mittens require two yarn tokens of one color, and another single yarn token of another color). Players may also fulfill special requests and project tiles at this time. 

Play will continue in clockwise order with each player selecting an action from their boards, crafting items, and fulfilling special requests and projects until project cards can no longer be added to the central board. At this point, players may immediately craft one more item using yarn already in their supply. Points will then be scored by pattern items (each bear, mitten, and scarf token is worth points as indicated on their backs) and flipped-over patterns tiles, special requests, and project tiles. Points from incomplete special requests as well as one point per remaining yarn token will be subtracted from player tallies to arrive at the final scores. The player with the most points will be the best crafter!

ArchRavels components

Review

ArchRavels is a game that is quick to learn and easy to play, though this doesn’t limit the game’s outcomes and possibilities. The unique player powers add an additional layer and give players new and unique options when playing. Likewise, knowing when to collect yarn and when to craft to ideally grab project tiles is key, so leveraging which actions to take turn-to-turn along with unique player powers becomes all that much more important.

And make no mistake, fulfilling project tiles is key to success in the game — along with special requests. Some may feel that the game creates too much of a racing atmosphere by putting a lot of points and focus on completing project cards, but this helps keep the game’s playtime in a tight 30-40 minute window at the full 4 players. However, the take-that nature of sticking another player with a special request card near the end of the game will detract from ArchRavels for others. 

That said, ArchRavels leans on mechanics that are seen in mid-weight games and makes them simple to use and understand without necessarily relying on these to position itself as solely a gateway game. The gameplay stands on its own, and the vibrant art and unique theme will make it attractive for casual and family gamers as much as it will be for gamers looking to take the next step in their board gaming evolution toward power players.

XYZ Game Labs has created a winner with ArchRavels, and it sets the stage for what looks to be an even bigger 2022 for the publisher. 

Pros: Unique theme, eye-catching art, easy to learn but difficult to master

Cons: Elements of take-that and racing mechanics may be a turn off for some players