Review of The Shipwreck Arcana: Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and First Impressions

I was SO BUSY all day Saturday with Thunderstone Quest: the Barricades Expansion (see previous post), I barely noticed a new package that arrived that day.  What is it?

What is this?

Opening it up, we find, The Shipwreck Arcana (with the Stars Below Expansion)!  This is a cooperative deduction game for 2-5 players.


This is a very small box, which is VERY DIFFERENT from the Thunderstone Quest box.  It’s so tiny, the rules are just on a fold-out sheet of paper.

The front side of the rules, just a single foldout

What’s In the Box?

The box is actually pretty jammed packed!  It has the rules, some larger cards, a bunch of colored tokens, and bag.

Cards, cards, cards!
Bags and Tokens (and the cards)

The cards and tokens are quite nice.   The art reminds me a little of Tarot Card art.

No Solo Rules?

Only 2-5 players? No solo rules?

So, this is a cooperative game for 2-5 players.  They do not follow Saunders’ law.  So, I developed my own unofficial solo rules: see below.


Basic Set-up (for a solo game): After a few turns where the DOOM token has moved up to 3, and the Guesses token is only at 0! I haven’t guessed anything right yet!

You set-up a line of 4 Arcana cards next to the HOURS card.  The hours card tracks (a) how many guesses you’ve gotten right and (b) the DOOM.   You win when you guess 7 Fate tokens correctly and you lose if the DOOM token makes it to 7!  (You can see I am not doing well here: the DOOM is already up to 3, and I have 0 guesses right!)

Every player has a Number Line in front of them.  (Notice the blue tokens in front of the player).  They are just the numbers 1 to 7.  They are ONLY used to note deductions after clues are given.   If a clue allows you to eliminate some possibilities, you notate that by turning them.  In the example above, I have been able to eliminate 1-6, so I will be guessing “7” at the end of the turn!


Arcana Cards

Every player has a hidden Fate token.  On the start of a player’s turn, that player draws another Fate token.  He now has 2 Fate tokens and MUST play one of them below one of the Arcana cards: this is how clues are given.

An easy clue: If a play a “3” on the “<=5” Arcana card, that immediately tells you my hidden clue is either a 1 or 2 (anything else is too big).   At that point, we’d flip all the Numbers in the number line EXCEPT 1 and 2.

You can make a guess now (“Is it 1 or 2?”), but you have a 50-50 shot.  If you get it right, you get a guess right!  If you get it wrong, the DOOM token advances one space.


Two more Arcana cards

The game keeps going like this, but after too many Fate tokens are places on a card, it “fades” and is replaced.  Fading is BAD! If a card fades on your turn, the DOOM token advances twice!   (Unless you happen to guess a hidden Fate that turn, then no DOOM!)

How does a card fade?  Notice the moons on the bottom of the card: there is 1 on each above.  That means when the 1st Fate token is placed on the card, that is the turn thaty card is fading.  (The cards above have 3 Moons, which means the 3rd Fate token will cause the card to fade).

Watching when fading happens is essential!  You almost HAVE to guess on a turn when a card fades!  If you don’t you lose 2 DOOM!


Neat cards!

I spent all day (the previous day) playing Thunderstone Quest: the Barricades Expansion because there’s so much to the game, and I only played only one game. I ended up all playing The Shipwreck Arcana all morning in (my) solo mode game because I played so many times!  It’s a quick game!  I played probably 8 times this morning and had a blast!

Even though I haven’t played the official way yet (co-op mode with 2-5 players), I suspect this will be a big hit.  It’s easy to teach, quick to play, and pretty fun and thinky.  I’ll get this out at RichieCon 2019 and see how it goes!  Stay Tuned for more!

In the meantime, check out my solo rules below.

Solo Rules: The Unofficial Variant

These are unofficial solo rules for The Shipwreck Arcana.

One 8-sided die (doesn’t come with the game)

You will be playing one player in one position (you DO NOT simulate playing multiple characters). The solo player plays Fate tokens as normally, trying to do the best he can to whittle down the possibilities. Instead of “guessing” when needed, the player will roll the 8-sided die to do the guessing for him. Of course, the player may decide to ONLY guess when he knows exactly which Fate token is hidden, but it’s unlikely you can do that for all guesses.

Set-up the game normally, but just for one player (i.e., only one player has 1-7 Number Line tokens). Turn them all to the 1-7 side.

Play normally. The solo player alternates between two modes: clue-giver and guesser.

When you are in step 1 (DRAW) and step 2 (PLAY) of the game,  you are in clue-giver mode and you know what the hidden Fate token is. As normal, do the best you can to play the Fate token to help future you.

In step 3 (PREDICT), you are in guesser mode. You pretend you DO NOT know what the hidden Fate token is! All you can do is turn over your Number Line tokens based on the information played by you as a clue-giver. In other words, you are ONLY using the information based on the Fate tokens/cards played to eliminate possibilities.

Resolve steps 4 (RESOLVE) and step 5 (FADE) normally.

You win if you get 7 guesses correct. You lose if the Doom track goes to 7. Just like the normal game.

What’s the 8-sided die for?
At some point, you may want to make a guess, but you may have it down to a few choices. Let’s say you have been able to deduce that the hidden FATE token is either a 6 or 7. You could try to get more info later, but you may not have time to waste.  More importantly, if a card is fading this turn, you WANT to guess (or your DOOM goes up 2!!!). If you get it right, you DO NOT lose 2 DOOM, so it probably makes sense to guess.

Roll the die until you roll one of the possibilities. That’s your guess! Follow the rules normally for your guess!

You can’t cheat. (Well, you can). The idea is that you know what the hidden Fate Token in in clue-giver mode, but all you can do is deduce the Fate token SOLELY on info given by clue-giver you to guesser you.

Think of this as a puzzle where you know the outcome, but you are practicing how you would get someone else to the proper outcome.


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