ARC Review

arc the game in play

An interesting little game about time travel is called (I believe) ARC (yes, admittedly, I'm not 100% sure of this name; more specifically, I'm not sure if it is called "ARC" or "ARC: The Game", and I believe it used to have a different name).

In ARC, each player controls an Aeon (time traveler), and your goal is to kill (or "knock unconscious" if you want to have a PG-13 rating) your opponent's Aeon.  Each turn you draw one card and then play or exhaust as many cards as you want.  However, when playing a card, you must meet the Arc Energy requirements.  Arc Energy consists of the number of cards in your hand in addition to any cards (such as your Aeon) that give you bonus Arc.  When playing cards, you can find Relics, attach Trinkets and Armaments to your Aeon, encounter Events, or even lay Traps to spring on your opponent.  Many of these cards are attached to a given era on the timeline, and if your Aeon "Rifts" between eras, the cards that are attached to the previous era will be left behind.  Each card, when exhausted, can no longer be used - with the exception that each Aeon can be exhausted twice.  Players alternate turns attacking each other until only one player remains standing.

There are really a lot of interesting concepts in ARC.  First, I really like how Arc Energy works.  Since your Arc Energy is calculated based on the number of cards in your hand, you won't want to play everything that you can every turn.  Some turns, you will need to save up to play an expensive item.  However, once you play that expensive item, you have two options - unload the rest of your hand in a furious flurry of attacks against your enemy, or keep most of your hand intact in order to have enough Arc to play another massive card the next turn (assuming you draw another one).  Overall, the balancing of these energies is critical for the game.  Unfortunately, this balance isn't quite as difficult as I would like - your Aeon always adds Arc (unless you are using the Mercenary), some Trinkets add Arc, you draw a card at the start of each turn, and your Aeon can draw a card as an action (once per turn), so you can pretty quickly accumulate the necessary Arc to play almost anything.  That is, assuming that you are patient enough to wait the 1-2 turns needed to build up.  Plus, since there is no penalty for playing your entire hand in a turn, you aren't actually losing out on anything by building up your Arc - you're simply stalling when all of the cards in your hand are played.

factions for ARC
Currently available sets
My second pro for ARC is that I like Traps.  Basically, you can play a Trap in your era, but it comes into play exhausted (and facedown so that your opponent can't see it - otherwise it wouldn't be a very good Trap).  So, on your next turn, the Trap becomes refreshed (and ready to spring).  I thought that this was a nice element to the game.  And, though it's a bit confusing to me that you're not able to set a Trap without your enemy knowing that it's there, it still makes sense to me that you have to wait a turn for the Trap to be ready.  And, since your opponent does get to know what's there, simply having a Trap might discourage them from attacking you; regardless of how potent the Trap is.

Another thing that I thought was interesting about ARC was that your Aeons can exhaust twice.  However, this is really a tricky thing.  If your Aeon could only exhaust once, then the game simply wouldn't work - each turn one Aeon could run away, and the other Aeon wouldn't ever be able to catch up and attack (with their Aeon; they would still be able to attack with cards).  But, because you can exhaust twice, this means you can't ever run far enough away - your opponent can always just rift to your era and then attack you.  (I said "run far enough away" and, to be fair, this is assuming that I played the game correctly.  I was unclear on whether, when rifting, you had to go to an adjacent era or if you could go to any territory.  Really, though - if I am able to travel through time, it better not be in a linear fashion.  Otherwise, I need a better time travel machine.  And, yes, I did just complain about a machine that lets me travel through time!)

However, with all the things that I like about ARC, there are a few things that are definite cons.  The first one is the rulebook.  The rulebook was designed to look pretty - not to be functional.  This game desperately needs an FAQ before you even play the game!  (And, I'm not sure if one even exists.)  I've already mentioned one rule that is unclear.  Here's another one - when playing a card from your hand, do you count it towards your Arc Energy total?  No idea.  Can you play the same Trinket or Armament on your Aeon multiple times?  (On this one, at least the example image of what the game should look like implies that you can.)  But, if you play the game, expect to be house ruling various situations and rules, because the rulebook simply won't answer them - and if it does answer your question, you might spend a bit of timing looking and flipping the rules over back and forth until you find it.

Aeon cards moving around the board
Aeons in their respective eras
My next con is that the time travel theme, though exciting, seemed a bit artificial.  There is really nothing unique about the fact that you are traveling "through time" that wouldn't work exactly the same if you were traveling to different locations on a map.  You can only attack someone if you're in the same era?  This would be true if you are in different places on a map.  When you leave, you have to leave Traps and Relics behind?  I don't see people bringing Stonehenge with them when they go home.  Now, theme isn't really much of a requirement in games that I play.  Gameplay is much more important to me.  With that said, the biggest draw for ARC will probably be that it is about Aeons fighting through time - so I wanted you to be aware that the theme isn't really interwoven throughout the mechanics before you decided if this game is right for you.

Finally, I really didn't like the effects of some of the eras.  Specifically, the "Future" causes the game to be artificially lengthened.  If you end your turn in the Future era, then you gain two health.  Most attacks do around three damage - some actually do only one.  So, if most of your game occurs in the Future, then the game will be much longer than it should be, simply because both players are healing at the end of each round.  And, unfortunately, you can't force an opponent's Aeon out of a given era - so if they aren't willing to leave the Future, then there is nothing that you can do to avoid fighting in this era.

Overall, I give ARC a 7.0/10.  The game works, and I really don't mind playing it.  Additionally, it is using the Living Card Game model that allows you to customize decks, but without having to buy randomized packs, which I appreciate.  However, though I think that ARC is a solid game, there isn't really anything that pulls me in and makes me want to play it repeatedly.  I would be willing to play it more, but it probably won't be a game that I suggest.

If you like card games like ARC, you might also enjoy Game of Thrones: Living Card Game, Nightfall, and Star Wars: Customizable Card Game.

I would like to thank Tech Lab Games for providing me with a review copy of ARC.


  1. Josh,

    Thanks for the review. Unfortunately you stated a few things about the rules insert not being very informative. I thought I would take the time to point out that both things you mentioned aren't covered in the rules insert, actually are...

    There is a section called "Card Types" and in that section it states the following:

    "You may have any number of trinkets, but only three armaments at a time. If you play a fourth armament, you must put one of the armaments you previously played in your void! You may not play two armaments with the same name."

    There is also a section called "Using ARC Energy To Play Cards" and in this section it states the following:

    "You play cards using “ARC Energy”. Your ARC Energy is equal to the number of cards in your hand. Each card you can play from your hand has a circle on the top left corner with a number in it; this is known as a card’s “ARC Requirement”. If your ARC Energy is at least equal to a card’s ARC Requirement, you may
    play that card."

    You can find a copy of this rules insert on our website, as well as a forum with intermediate rules, this is also mentioned in bright red on both sides of the rules insert. Not sure how you missed that one either!

    Rules Insert & Intermediate Rules:


  2. Hi, Tom. Thanks for the clarification. However, even with what you mentioned, there are a couple of things I would mention:

    On the first issue, you are correct. Since it calls out that you cannot have two armaments of the same name, I suppose that this does imply that you ARE allowed to have two trinkets of the same name.

    On the second issue, I still don't know which way the rule works. So, since you're playing a card from your hand, is the card still "in your hand", and counts for your ARC Energy, or is it "played", and thus doesn't count?

    Either way, thanks for the link to the intermediate rules. I think that my readers should find those very useful!