Impressions of Iconica by @Rynaga
Tycho over at Penny Arcade basically forced my hand into buying Iconica, a tabletop strategy game by a gentleman named Eric Torres. It’s not that he made me do something I wasn’t naturally inclined to do, he simply informed me that it existed and it turned out to be a thing that I was powerless to not buy and then immediately harrangue my wife into playing with me. First and foremost, the game itself looked intriguing. There are presently two starter sets and one mini expansion for the game. Each starter set contains 22 cards (as well as a bunch of multi-colored wood cubes, a reference card, and four dice) and the mini-expansion contains 11 cards. That may not sound like a lot, but that is only because the terminology we have does a poor job of explaining what Rynaga offers.
The “cards” I referred to are about 5.5″ x 7.5″ and contain all the information you need to play the game. The cards are independently published in small batches by Torres’ Specimen Design and are a lovely quality. Each card represents a different character from the world of Rynaga and may be affiliated with the Protectorate (good guys), Legion (bad guys), or Independents (mercenaries). Each character can be one of several classes – such as offensive, defensive, or support – which gives you a good idea of what the character can do. At the beginning of the game each player chooses three characters. With 22 to choose from with just one set and 55 total (not including limited edition “X” characters) the amount of variety here is incredible. Most of the characters have six possible actions that they can perform and you determine what actions are available on a given turn by rolling two dice and then selecting an action on one of your characters corresponding to one of those numbers. On a turn it is not unusual to have to choose between healing a character, doing some damage to many characters, causing status effects such as poison or blind, or doing a lot damage to one character. Your goal is to eliminate all three of your opponent’s characters by “Skulling” all three of them (reducing their health to 0). There’s a lot of other stuff going on that makes the game even deeper. Each character has a Final Act that is triggered once they are Skulled, giving you a chance to turn the tide of the battle in your favor, some spaces on characters’ health bars allow them to attack back, gain health, or become immune to certain status, and most characters are stronger against certain enemies, giving the edge to the player that better reacts to his opponent’s choice in characters. In my brief time playing the game, I can definitely say that – despite some luck in what actions come up – you generally have enough choices that the game rewards a well-balanced team with a well-executed strategy over lucky die rolls (although there are some of those, too). The art in the game definitely bears mentioning as well. Torres’ profile indicates that he is an illustrator and it shows in the game. The art has a unique, beautiful style and the cards are smartly designed, cramming a lot of information effectively into a small space. Each character card has an internally consistent color scheme and the consistency of the art and design gives Iconica a unique feel.
Beyond the game itself, however, Iconica has a lot going on. The game is based in a fantasy world called Rynaga which is richly detailed. I mean, incredibly detailed. You can check out the Rynagapedia if you don’t believe me or you can just look at the cards, each of which contain a nice chunk of lore. Torres has even written a book based in the world called Prelude and has also released a copy of that map of the continent of Veratar (one of many midsize continents in the world of Rynaga, which is ten times the size of Earth and has a fireball at its core) which I want nothing more than to frame and hang on my wall. The page indicates that Torres has a lot of plans for Rynaga beyond just Iconica (RPGs, board games, iOS games) and – if those things are the same quality as Iconica – I will be buying everyone of them. I initially bough Set Two (because it was the one available, believe me it made me cringe) and then immediately went and placed an order for Set One and the Mini Expansion once I got to play the game. I will admit that the price for the game initially seems a little steep ($45 for a starter, $25 for the mini-expansion), but you have to understand that this is a small, independent studio printing in small batches and putting an incredible amount of work and skill into an ambitious game with great lore. You can buy the game directly from Torres on Etsy and, to my knowledge, no where else. Now, on to making some Rynaga interactive fiction…