When we broke out the contents of the box it reminded us of two less popular games - the overtly abstract Torres and Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas, whose palindromic nature extends from the arse-about-face name to the actual gameplay.
But though the play of Arkadia also had slender reminiscences of both, the combination of the two proved to be a winner. Yes, it wears it's theme lightly, but not so lightly that it flies away upon removing the lid (Torres). And it is about pattern-making and puzzle-solving, but in a hugely more engaging way than Sator...
As builders of the castle of Arkadia the players are trying to generate the prestige that goes with it, and they do this by building their influence in the areas around the castle, adding workers and buildings to put them in. When those buildings are swallowed up by the encroaching conurbation around them, the workers adjacent get you seals (of approval, not fur) and the seals get you, you guessed it, prestige points.
What makes the game extra canny though, is every time a building is surrounded you add another piece of the castle. All the pieces have a seal on them (of four different colours) so the seals in your hand are worth different amounts of prestige at different times, depending on the state of the castle...
There's more to it but basically it made a very diverting two player (it can play up to four). I don't know if it's abstract-y-ness will keep it out of the limelight at GNN but we were enamoured enough to immediately play a second game - very differently, as we went from gung-ho newbies to over-cautious novices in the blink of a scorecard.
I won both, but this was more the randomness of the new game than any cunning on my part.
Then we played Biblios! It was the tightest finish ever as I won the red category with just 2pts to Andrew's none.
That's just how we roll at GNN.