Those looking to grab a few friends and throw some dice on the tabletop have a plethora of choices to choose from. Cool Mini or Not's Arcadia Quest should definitely be one of those options.
Arcadia Quest is a dungeon crawler board game that allows the player to control three characters of their choosing. The object of the game is to fulfill a specific number of quest objectives (depending on what mode you are playing in) to finally achieve victory over the other players. The game plays up to four people and is self-described as a co-op player vs player game due to the fact that while you can work in unison, ultimately you don't win by doing so.
Upon opening the box, you'll notice just how delightful the artwork and miniatures are. The character designs are a nice mix of traditional archetypes with some out there stylings, including the Sheamus/Dwarf mashup Spike. The miniatures themselves are incredibly well done, and just scream out "paint me!". Everything is bright and colorful, including the four guilds you can choose from, including Lion, Eagle, Fox, and Panda. They don't actually affect gameplay whatsoever, but when you have a choice, who wouldn't pick a fiercely adorable panda?
After the guild, you pick three of the 12 available heroes to play as. Once that is settled, it's time to start rolling dice and get moving. On your turn, you can either activate a hero (just one) or rest your guild. After you've taken some damage or lost a hero completely, that will be the time to rest. Other than that, you're going to activate. Once you pick a hero to control, you have a movement and an attack to resolve. You can move up to 3 spaces, but that can be eaten away by things like opening doors, entering portals, etc, so you need to plan wisely. Once you move, you can attack (or vice versa).
Your characters don't have a default weapon, so at the beginning of the game you randomly draws 5 upgrade cards, which are then distributed amongst your heroes. These can be weapons or spells, so depending on who you have you'll have to disperse the items accordingly, taking your characters unique abilities into consideration as well.
Once you set out to attack a monster, things get interesting. In many games, there is a monster A.I. card or rule-set that dictates what they do on their turn. In Arcadia Quest, it is completely up to the player to the right of the active player, and they only move or attack when provoked. For instance, if I attack an Orc, the player to my right then gets to choose what action that Orc will take. It could move towards me and attack, hit from range (if able), block a portal or item, or just run away completely. This injects some randomness to the encounter and encourages players to needle their foes to help themselves.
You can play the game as a scenario, or as a long-running campaign, but either way the gameplay stands up to the task. Whether you're a planner who likes to map out their moves a few turns in advance or someone who would rather just deal with things as they come, there is something here to keep you entertained. While there are a few layered mechanics, they really don't come into play until you start a campaign. Things like curses, which are assigned to a character depending on how many times they died during play, and can hobble certain aspects of your character in the next episode, are great for those looking for a deeper experience, but for starters, I recommend getting a few one and done scenarios under your belt.
The only real complaint I have with the game is time commitment. A standard game will only take you about 45 minutes, but throw in an extra 20 just to get everything setup. It isn't a game you can just decide to play on a whim in a time crunch. To get the max enjoyment out of it, make sure to setup the game in advance before company arrives if you're able. If you can get a new player past that initial hurdle, it is ridiculously easy to pick up, and they'll be rolling dice like a pro in no time.
Overall I'd recommend Arcadia Quest to fans of dungeon crawls and co-op play, even if the co-op here features a more competitive slant. It's a delightful game for newbies and board game veterans alike.