Publisher: Blue Orange Games
Designers: Bruno Cathala & Ludovic Maublanc
Duration: 15 – 20 mins
From the four corners of the earth, all the archeologists are looking for these magical scarabs. You want to mark them out and uncover more of them (as well as the more valuable ones) before your colleagues do. And when you have marked out all your sites in your area, hope that you have the most valuable ones!
Scarabya is a game from Blue Orange Games, designed by my favourite designer Bruno Cathala (who also did Kingdomino and 7 Wonders Duel) and co-designed with Ludovic Maublanc. It’s a tile laying puzzle game for 1-4 players (I’ll get to the one player version later in this review). In a sea of puzzle games, how does this one stack up? Let’s find out!
What’s in the box?
Inside the box you will find 48 tiles (12 per player), 16 boards (4 per player), 32 rocks (8 per player), 4 frames, 72 scarab tokens ( in 1, 2, 3 and 4 point values ) and 12 cards showing each tile. Each player has everything in their matching colours, and the 3D mountains are a nice touch. There’s not much art, but there’s little illustrations on each tile that are unique.
The tiles aren’t as thick as the player boards (but still nice, not flimsy at all. One minor issue was with how the boards fit in the borders… they are really tight, and you almost have to press them in. So far they’ve held up tho, and with time might actually fit better. It doesn’t affect gameplay at all, but I also don’t wanna push too hard sometimes at the risk of wearing edges. Overall, everything else is really great.
So how do you play?
To begin the game, each player takes their player board, and chooses one player to be the Great Explorer and that player sets their board up and then places their rocks in the empty places, and all other players must follow the pattern. Then take your tiles… you are ready to begin! Shuffle the cards and then you’re ready to begin.
To start the game, draw the first card from the top of the deck. Then every player takes the tile depicted on the card, and must place it on their board. The first tile must cover at least one of the 4 centre tiles. Every subsequent turn, the tile must touch another tile (and diagonally doesn’t count), and cannot overlap another tiles or be out on the frame. I you cannot legally place a tile, you must discard it. After 12 rounds, the game is over.
But wait… why are we doing all this? Well… the point of the game is to enclose the scarabs on your board and score points. To score points, the enclosure must be no more than 4 squares (but may contain more than 1 scarab). If the enclosure is only 1 square and has one scarab, score one point. 2 squares and 1 scarab, score 2 points. 2 and 2 scarabs, 4 points (2 for each scarab). 3 squares is 3 points, and 4 squares is 4 points per scarab. As soon as you enclose an area (or areas) immediately take the points (your frames and rocks count as borders). After the 12th round, when the last card is drawn and the last tile is played, count your points and the player with the most points is the winner!
There is also a one on one variant where you and another player play on the same board, and a solo variant, where you aren’t trying to enclose scarabs. Rather, you are drawing cards and playing the pieces to cover all the scarabs on your board. Cover them all by the 12th round and you win! If not, try again!
Is it any good?
When I first saw my favourite designer, Burno Cathala, was doing another game for Blue Orange I was super excited. And then I saw it was a puzzle game and I got even more excited! But there’s a lot of tile puzzle games out there (Patchwork is very similar) and games where everyone plays the same tiles (Karuba is a fine example). So where does Scarabya fit in all this?
Scarabya is a lot of fun. And even though it’s just drawings on the tiles, it does look pretty nice. I like the mechanics of trying to close in areas and how you are blocked by the rocks. everything about it feels good and it plays really well.
And then… there’s the solo mode. I’ll be the first to say… I’m not a big solo gamer. I would rather play with people in a room. But this one got me hooked. The solo mode plays really well, and it’s a challenge every single time. My win percentage is about 50%, and it doesn’t feel like it’s based fully on luck. If this was an app, I would probably be on it right now instead of writing this review. If you’re not a solo gamer, this might be one of the games that changes your mind.
Now aside from the solo mode… there really isn’t too much in Scarabya that hasn’t been done before. It just feels like it’s kind of been done before, not in a bad way. Scarabya does it all well and it’s fun to make your puzzle, but it also feels you’ve done this before. But even with that being said, I’ll pick this one off the shelf over similar games because it is good.
In short, Scarabya is a good game, and an excellent solo experience that can get very addictive. It plays really quick (sometimes you can get a game in 10 mins) and is easy to learn. Overall, it’s another solid offering from Blue Orange games in their ever growing lineup, and if you like a good puzzle this is certainly one to take a look at!
- Easy to learn and fun to play
- Quick gameplay and always a challenging puzzle
- Amazing solo mode… highly addictive
- Minor component issues
- Doesn’t offer much new or innovative
*Thank you to Blue Orange Games for supplying a copy of Scarabya for this review. You can find out more about them and their amazing games by clicking here*