As I stated last time, I wanted to take a look at another game largely designed by one person. That game is Iconica, a 2-player (or 4-player in teams) card game set in the mythical world of Rynaga. The designer, Eric Torres, has gone to amazing lengths to ensure that the world of Rynaga is a fully-realized place. Iconica is just a piece of the grander Rynaga puzzle, but is it interesting enough on its own to make people want to dig deeper?
I discovered Iconica on a search around Etsy several years ago. I was preparing to start up a blog, much like this one, where I took looks at games I discovered in non-traditional ways. I never realized that project, but it eventually morphed into this one. Iconica has been sitting on my shelf for a quite a while, I believe I bought the 2-player starter set in 2010. Only now am I finally getting around to putting this set through its paces. Please note: there are many other cards now available for the game which may change the way it plays. This post is solely about the starter set I own.
Iconica is one of the more visually interesting games I have come across. First of all, the game takes place solely on these giant cards, I think each card is 5″ x 7″. They are big and bright with easy to read text. I find Torres’ art style to be very unique. I kind of wish the pictures of the characters were a little bigger so it was easier to see all the intricate details.
The game itself is a rather simple affair. Each player chooses a side, Protectorate (good) or Legion (evil) and drafts 3 characters to be on their team. In the 2-player set, this is a relatively quick decision. In the full series of cards (there are two sets, with 22 cards in each) your team building could take a while…it’s probably best to try and limit the card pool at some level. Once you have your three characters, it’s time to play!
On a turn, there are three phases. First is Opening Phase, which oddly acts more like a clean-up from last turn phase. During Opening Phase you apply delayed actions, then eliminated characters can perform their “Final Act”, finally certain effects (poison, fear etc) are dealt with.
The second phase is Action Phase. Action Phase, believe it or not, starts with the action roll of the two included dice. There are two “difficulty” levels that game can be played at. If you’re playing standard difficulty, and you don’t roll doubles, you can ignore the black die for the rest of the turn. This allows for quicker games, but less strategy. This is also the ONLY change between the standard, and advanced levels of play. I obviously prefer the “Advanced” version. You still roll both dice, but then you have a choice to make. Each character has one of their actions marked with a special icon. This is the Action Break number. If your black die matches one of those numbers, you can heal that character for 20 points and remove any negative statuses. You then go directly to the Closing Phase. If you choose not to do this, you then continue the turn by dealing with the white die.
Once you are down to the white die, you simply have to choose which character you are going to attack with, and which opposing character you are going to hit. There are several nullifiers, and statuses that can affect whether an attack works or not, but once you’re past those…it’s just a matter of subtracting the hit points, adding any new status cubes you may have inflicted, and moving on to the Closing Phase.
During Closing Phases, any characters that were “skulled” (went to 0 hit points) get to perform their Final Act. If you’ve ever played the classic game Nuclear War, this is similar to the all out attack a player gets to perform when they are eliminated. Naturally, some of these Final Acts are so powerful, they can cause a cascade of characters to die.
In a game named Iconica, of course icons play a major role in the game. And that’s probably my biggest gripe about the game. It suffers a bit from the dreaded icon soup. Even with the reference sheet, there’s a lot to keep track of. It also REALLY doesn’t help matters that an orange cube could stand for three separate things, depending on where the cube is sitting on the card. I do think the “tofu” marker that could be literally anything not covered on the card is clever, but what’s not covered on the card?!?!?! This reminded me somewhat of the Monsterpocalypse miniatures game. There were just too many icons to keep track of in that game. Granted, Iconica doesn’t have 14 different aspects you need to juggle at the same time, but there’s maybe just a bit much to keep straight.
Overall, I find Iconica decently fun, it reminds me of a simpler and cleaner version of Filsinger Games “Champions of the Galaxy” and “Legends of Wrestling” games. I do feel like Iconica games can take a little bit longer than I’d like (maybe I should be playing the standard version of the game after all!), and there’s not as many choices to make as I would like. Once you roll the die, and read the attacks available to you, many times one is clearly better than the others. Perhaps different characters would mitigate this issue. I’ve also read, doing a little research before writing this page (though now I can’t remember where I read it – apologies), that he plans to come out with a set adding RPG elements to the game. I’m very intrigued to see if this eases the issues I had with the game as is.
Iconica is an interesting enough game to continue to hold a spot in my collection. I’m even considering buying one of the full series of cards to have more army building options. The only thing holding me back a bit is the price. When I bought the starter set, it was $20 for rules, a couple dozen wooden cubes, two dice and 7 cards. Sadly, as of the time I’m writing this, the starter sets are not available. The sets of 22 cards come in at $45. Granted, the cards are big, the are of an extremely good stock, they are shiny and all that good stuff, but $45 for 22 cards is a bit on the steep side. I have spent far more on games I ended up liking far less than Iconica, so maybe it’s not THAT big of a barrier.
Before I wrap up, I did mention early on that Iconica was just a part of a larger world. Mr. Torres has built an entire fantasy world called Rynaga. He has built maps for the land of Verater, and even written a couple books telling some of the mythology and stories of the history of the area. If you’re intrigued at all…check out http://www.rynaga.com to dig even deeper into this world. I have not explored any of these other items myself as of yet.
He also made a really cool Daft Punk print to celebrate the release of their last album. Check that out, and all his other items on his Etsy store http://www.etsy.com/shop/rynaga
I’ve recently stumbled across two games that have shot to the top of my “Must share” list… one – a card game made by NASA, the other – a 1969 game about animals that don’t exist, and launching plastic letters several feet into the air. Please comment on which one you’d like me to write about next.