Release Date: 2009
Developer: Eric Torres
Publisher: Specimen Designs (Self Published)
Genre(s): Board Game, Card Game, Fantasy
Review Spoilers: N/A
Game Board Geek | Wired | Penny Arcade | Brett Speil
Get your own copy of Iconica at the World of Rynaga’s Etsy Shop!
Writing a non-biased review for Iconica is honestly probably impossible for me. In a very short time I’ve really come to fall in love with this game. It’s strange because I’ve never been into card games at any point in my life. I collected Pokemon cards back in the day because everyone else did and because they looked cool but beyond that I’ve really just never seen the point. Plenty of friends have tried to get me to play Magic: The Gathering and my after-school students back when I was working for CYSS at the Ft. Drum Youth Center were constantly trying to get me to sit down and learn Yu-Gi-Oh. But, honestly, unless we were playing Uno, Go Fish, or, I guess, Apples to Apples, you weren’t going to see me holding cards in my hand.
Then my friends introduced me to a game called Iconica.
Somehow in the days I spent wandering around the floor at Phoenix Comicon I had missed this booth. To this day I still have no idea how that was possible or where they were set up. But by some chance of fate my friends Ryan and Mike both managed to find their way there and stocked up on full sets of the game. Over the summer all of us were working hardcore law-related internships so our regular D&D nights quickly devolved into chaos due to lack of planning and sleep.
So instead of half-heartedly campaigning Ryan and Mike suggested we switch to Iconica.
At first I was skeptical. Card games? Pshaw. Oh, but dear reader, how wrong I was. I’ve been hooked ever since and I’ve done my best to acquire my own set of cars because if anything they are just absolutely gorgeous.
That’s actually what I want to talk about first – the design. Easily the first thing to draw anyone in about Iconic is just how great the game looks. Therese will even tell you that the real reason she wants to get a full set of Iconica cards isn’t to actually play with them but to just look at them. I can totally see where she is coming from. It really is a great looking game and everything is printed on thick, study cards so you can actually see the quality right in front of you. (Though you’ll probably still want to get card protectors just so your friends don’t get their Dorito flavoring covered hands all over them.) You will be hard pressed to find another game – especially a self published indie game – that looks this fantastic.
I mean, seriously. Look at these cards. Look at them.
Each and every character is drawn in Eric Torres’s unique style and accompanied by a short write up about the character. You’ll find yourself easily distracted as you flip through the cards taking in each and every image and reading through everything. When I was playing through the game last night I know I had a hard time selecting characters to play because I was so busy reading the cards.
This happens just about every single time I sit down to play this game, actually.
Eventually, I get over that obsession with the cards. Eventually. Which is good because Iconica remains one of the few card/board games I actually go out of my way to play. Sure, I have friends that invite me over to play Settlers of Catan and other board games and that’s fun. But Iconica? Iconica is something else entirely.
I like to think of the game as something akin to playing an old school 8-bit RPG but in card form.
A regular game is played between two players with three cards each. Every character usually has a set of six different actions that they can take on each turn depending on how you role the dice. See, as awesome as they are, the cards themselves are only one aspect of the game; it also requires the use of a series of colored wooden markers to denote status changes and other things as well as a pair of dice to add a little bit of chance into this game of strategy and quick thinking. Depending on how the dice is rolled a player can use any character’s actions that match up with the number on the dice.
So, basically, role a three and a six and you can use the third and sixth listed actions on any of your three character cards. You the use those actions to attack the other player’s cards. You can attack which ever cards you want however you want but you need to think carefully. Each character has it’s own special attributes. Some have immunities to certain statuses. Some characters have special auras that protect them or their party members. Others have parry or reaction tile actions which allow them to either regain some health when attacked or to cause damage in return.
The actions a character can take may depend on their type. You have your usual defensive and offensive cards but you can also have adaptive, supportive, and disruptive cards, too, all with their own sort of actions. When designing a party it’s important to balance your characters because you don’t want to find yourself stuck with characters with a ton of offensive, melee attacks when someone uses an action making them or their party immune to melee attacks for a turn or two. You also don’t want to get caught without someone with some sort of healing power because healing not only keeps your HP from falling too low but can wake up characters who fall asleep and are consequently unusable until either healed or attacked. (I just found that out myself, by the way, when playing last night.)
Even though it may seem like a simple game you’ve really got to think a few steps ahead at all times. I won’t lie – games can take a little while. Usually Eric would say they range between 30 to 60 minutes depending on the skill level of the players. I would say most of mine take between 30 and 45 minutes because I’m nto the most skilled Iconica player out there. It takes even longer when you play in teams or play with more than just wo players which are available variations with their own set of rules included with the game. There is a lot to learn about each and every card and even I forget what things mean a lot and have to rely heavily on the rules cheat-sheet card included with the game.
But despite the slight learning curve the game is more than worth it. I mean seriously. Way more than worth it. If there is any one card or board game out there worth playing it’s this one. I don’t just mean indie games either. I mean games period. You’ll have a lot of fun with this one mixing up the different cards, trying new strategies, and waiting to see what chance and the roll of the dice leave you to work with and where you can take that.
Expansions and Iconica X Characters
One of the reasons I’m so passionate in my recommending is Eric’s passion for the game. Iconica is something he does in his spare time and yet the game still looks as great as it does. He puts a lot of effort into making this game look and feel professional. He is always thinking about Iconica and the larger creative World of Rynaga and players and fans really benefit from that dedication.
Eric’s World of Rynaga is much bigger than just the game itself as you’ll see as we progress through this week. There are always new aspects of the world to explore and occasionally those things make their way into the game. So far we’ve seen just one Mini Series add-on to the game which was built around the concept of the Cirqus of the Three Moons. Each of the eleven additional characters is from the Fairewoods and has a they all tie into that core concept behind the miniseries as a whole.
Sadly, it’s not currently available but Eric has assured me that there is more coming to Iconica soon so keep an eye out.
Another way players benefit from Eric’s crazy imagination is through special Iconica X Character cards. These are special cards created specifically for fans and supporters that often tie-in to Ryanaga lore or real world events. Some of them, for example, can only be found at conventions where Iconica is in attendance. The special edition Neko Minnowlark card was included with pre-orders of Eric’s latest Rynaga book, Sear Child, which follows a character of the same name and his exploits through Rynaga. One of my favorite characters, actually, the Fool Knight, is a special Iconica X Character card.
The rest of my time in Phoenix is basically going to be spent frantically trying to collect as many cards as I can while I’m still a local because, man. I just need all the Iconica cards in my life. And I’ve already missed out on so much.
One of the ways you can get involved in the Iconica community if you’re in the Phoenix area is through the occasional game night. Held once a month at Samaurai Comics on Camelback in Phoenix, you can meet up with Eric (and often times his awesome wife) as well as other long-time and brand-new fans of the game. The best way to find out about those game nights is to follow the World of Rynaga on Facebook and watch for Facebook events to go up. We’ve has some great times so far and met some really great people – including a father and son who helped us learn to step up our game.
All right, so, let’s talk final thoughts now, shall we?
Iconica is a card game that everyone needs to play. It’s fun, the cards look great, and this is one game that really deserves the attention. Each character is painstakingly designed to balance out actions, HP, immunities, and more. But not only that Eric takes the time to design a story for each and everyone of them and includes it briefly on the card as well. Iconica is a card game that will leave you wanting more of not only the game itself but the world and lore behind it, too. Trust me, you’ll find yourself desperately collecting these cards just like the rest of us.
And Eric Torres is an indie developer that deserves your recognition and support. I mean, let’s be real. How many of us could take an idea and a dream and do this much with it? His dedication and determination are actually really are inspiring for any of us creative types. Plus he’s a pretty cool guy.
In short, pick up Iconica. At the very least grab one of the $15 starter sets from the Etsy shop and give it a go. I promise you won’t be disappointed.