GTM #196 - Arcane Academy
by Nate Murray

Put on your robe and wizard hat! Arcane Academy is a strategic game of tile-linking wizardry based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel Finding Gossamyr from Th3rd World Studios. This game features a pair of renowned designers, Eric M. Lang (Quarriors!, Chaos in the Old World) and Kevin Wilson (Arkham Horror, Descent: Journeys in the Dark), working together for the first time!

Lang and Wilson are long-time friends with prolific careers. The pair have designed more than 100 games between them, many award-winning mainstays, but this is the first time they’ve decided to join creative forces and co-design a project. The refined end product highlights some of the best aspects of both designers, and the game they’ve delivered is both elegantly simple and incredibly fascinating in its versatility.

In Arcane Academy, each player takes on the role of a student at the Academy of Magic and Sciences during their final exams in a competition to be recognized as the top wizard in their class. Players will forge potent magic items and wield wickedly powerful elemental energies as they take turns trying to out-think and outmaneuver their opponents in this elegantly simple and quick-to-learn board game that can be completed in less than 40-minutes.

While it’s easy to start playing, there are thousands of possible tile and card combinations that make each play unique and engaging. There’s nothing more satisfying than building a new and interesting spell on your personal board, triggering a combination of effects that jump you from the back of the pack to the head of the class!

When the game begins, the final exam for Arcane Academy has just begun. Each player has their own assignment they’ll be secretly working on throughout the game, but there’s also four public assignments anyone can complete. Completing assignments grants the players spells, magic items, or Victory Points.

One of the things that really makes this game feel special is the individual spell board each player has to work with. It’s a 3x4 grid that players add tiles to, enhancing their abilities throughout the game. When casting a spell, they’ll activate not just one tile, but all tiles they’ve chained together creating powerful combinations that quickly change the game. There’s a great spatial element to the tile placement, and in choosing which tile to activate, and therefore exhaust for further use until they commit to resting and re-booting their combo engine.

Everyone on this team has been working tirelessly over the course of several years to put this game together. Michael Devito and David Rodriguez from Th3rd World Studios brought us this game at Gen Con in 2015, and it was honestly the most beautiful prototype we’ve ever been presented with. Since then we’ve been passing notes back and forth like school kids, constantly working on more innovations and improvements for the components of the game.

Likewise, tenured professors in gaming Kevin Wilson and Eric Lang have continued to aid in the final development of the game. They’ve just recently refined the endgame from great to spectacular after meeting at this year’s Gathering of Friends.

That’s part of the fun in working in gaming — just like the way the spells ripple out across a player’s board in Arcane Academy, setting off more and more interesting interactions, each revision of the game’s mechanics leads to new rounds of innovation and excitement. This game has had the largest team of talent of anything we’ve done so far, and it’s been an honor being a part of it.

With that said, pencil’s down! (That’ll be much funnier once you’ve played the game).


Nate Murray is the Product Manager and Game Developer for IDW Games. Nate has been with the division since its inception and has had the pleasure of working on each of IDW’s titles. He is undefeated at Air Hockey but terrible at Gin Rummy.