Welcome to Arzium, a world of fantasy and boundless discovery. In this world you will find unique locales from floating continents to sites of ancient forgotten technology. Curious inhabitants comprise the communities of the world, including such creatures like the steadfast Lizardfolk and the often misunderstood Gloglos. Adventure hides in every corner and Arzium is yours to explore with the three games we are about to discuss:
Above and Below
Above and Below starts on a dour note: you had your village ransacked and are on a lookout for somewhere else to live. You find a spot to settle down but as soon as you get started you find that there’s something deeper waiting for you underground.
A hut eventually becomes two, even three. The temptation of the underground makes life in your budding village more exciting. Will you focus on providing well for your little town or will you risk everything for a chance at greater rewards and a peek at the book of paragraphs? Why not attempt to do both and bring honor and glory to your new home?
While not part of the storytelling trilogy, Islebound is one game bursting with adventures. Ready your ship as you go on a ride across a mystical archipelago, exploring, fighting, and collecting treasure in a bid to make your capital the best nation with a dock!
The game boils down to a race with multiple paths to victory. These paths may involve actually going down areas to improve your standing or hassle another player, or involve building a really good capital infrastructure. As long as you end up wealthy and strong, it doesn’t really matter. The options are plenty, but which ones will you take?
Near and Far
Above and Below’s sequel and part two of Laukat’s storytelling trilogy takes players away from the comforts of Above to unexplored lands in a race to find the fabled Last Ruin, a city with an artifact that can grant one’s truest desires.
Near and Far takes a different route from Above and Below by putting a prime on adventuring and covering ground. The town helps our adventurers get into the game, but overstaying your welcome will put you behind. Near and Far is all about leaving your mark on the world and making a name for yourself.
And having your wish granted.
Explore the World
The brainchild of designer, illustrator, publisher, and all around great guy, Ryan Laukat, Arzium calls back to a time in our childhood where the world felt so vast and mysterious. The promise of a colossal world brings a certain kind of excitement unique to situations like those.
Arzium is painted with bold and solid colors, with each game having distinct palettes suggestive of mood and some form of passage of time. Every box is striking from cover to content, all bearing that distinct style and stroke that are otherwise muted (but still recognizable) in Laukat's other works. The games set in Arzium are unmistakably unique, but all are coherent to the world at hand.
Throughout the experience, certain locales and lore will sound familiar to players exploring Arzium. Arzium rewards experienced adventurers with the satisfaction in understanding these callbacks and references, but it does not take away from players who only have played a single game set in the world.
Arzium's sense of continuity comes at a time when games are starting to explore ways to develop linear narratives. Arzium games set themselves apart by being of a narrative but also having the capacity to be replayable in different modes, compared to legacy and single-play module type of games.
In the particular case of Above and Below and Near and Far, the two games are not sequels in the sense that Near and Far mechanically reflects Above and Below completely but instead the design of the game adapts to the progression of the story and setting. Backwards compatibility involves being able to use allies from Near and Far for Above and Below and does not intrude in the former as most modules do. Laukat makes sure that the world moves along with the changing times.
Arzium is a promising land waiting to be uncovered. In the same sense, the three games all are different adventures for you to take. Will you build your village and spelunk down the caverns in Above and Below? Sail the high seas in search of glory and loot in Islebound? or will you travel across maps in the search of an ancient city and the answer to your heart's desire in Near and Far? The choice is yours to take.
Above and Below, Islebound, and Near and Far are available at Gaming Library. Stay tuned as we explore games and the worlds they are set in. For review requests and other board game related content, contact Duane at firstname.lastname@example.org