Saturday, November 17, 2012

Arcana Agency preview - The Case of the Unghostly Ghost review

It is a great time for gamebooks as there is something new every week going on.  The end of the Windhammer competition was just the beginning of November's gamebook goodness.  Megara Entertainment is looking to release a gamebook written by Paul Gresty called Arcana Agency:  Thief of Memories via Kickstarter and just to give us a taste of what we have to look forward to, it has also released a free preview with a short 57 paragraph adventure.

Here is what I think of the preview.

First impressions:  The layout and the illustrations of the book are gorgeous.  It certainly has high production values and it really gives the gamebook a slick and polished look.  The book also comes with a foreword by Dave Morris who talks of how gamebooks have moved on since the 80s and how Paul Gresty, author the Arcana Agency gamebooks  has taken full advantage of the medium in order to deliver everything a gamebook can offer.  I certainly agree with him here.

The book certainly immerses you in the world of a 1930s New York detective agency world.

The rules:  The rules cover a mere two pages of the book but they have a lot of versatility and also enhance the depth of the characters.  The stats are strength, reflexes, knowledge, insight and charm.  They follow rules similar to fabled Lands' system where you are presented a task with a difficulty score and it is resolved if you roll 2d6 add the pertinent score and get equal to or over the difficulty. 
Your state of health is not given an abstract score, but rather five statues - perfect health, shaken, hurt, badly hurt or close to death. 

The characters:  Few gamebooks offer such depth to its characters as Arcana Agency.  In this book, you control the actions of Humphry Brown, the head of the agency who is accompanied by his two associates, Joe Strelli and Tom Shanigan.  Each character has their own page with their stats and also a little history about themselves.  Each character also has their moments during the book and you get a real feel for them through their interactions and opinions. 

Since you are reading about three characters, the book uses the third person instead of the second person which works very well.

There are also two pages devoted to supporting characters and it pays to look at the details.  You are playing an investigator after all...

Design:  This 57 paragraph book has a lot of depth.  It manages to include the hidden motives of the characters as well as a red herring and a puzzle based on translation and reading carefully (you are an investigator, after all).  It will take a lot of effort to solve the case and work out the motivations of everyone there but it is not imporssible and there are several excellent reveals and at least one thread hanging.  Let's just say that the book will keep you guessing about the metaphysics of the universe that you are in.  If the full book is like this then I can't wait to read it.

So in summary, read this preview and then back the full gamebook in order to fulfil the potential of this delight.

You can find Paul Gresty's site here.

You can play Case of the Unghostly Ghost here

You can fund the Arcana Agency kickstarter here.

And while you're on kickstarter, why not also support a gamebook app by Emil Bakalinov, Ashton Saylor and myself called Goblin's Bounty.  It's a gamebook with a collectable cardgame based combat.  It is a delightful combination of two wonderful things.  Fund our kickstarter here.


  1. Will Goblin's Bounty only be released for Android? Because neither my wife nor I have a smart phone. We do plan to get ourselves smart phone within the next year or so, but currently we're leaning towards iPhones.

    1. Goblin's Bounty will be out on Android but if we get enough money, Emil will develop it for iOS.

  2. Excellent review, Stuart
    Love the mini adventure of arcana agency. It's really well done!
    I didn't know you are part of Goblin's bounty. I wish you good luck with your kickstarter.


    1. Many thanks. yes, Arcana Agency is pretty awesome. I'm looking forward to the full version.

  3. Good day! This is Richard S. Hetley, the person who set up the Arcana Agency Kickstarter. We're all very grateful for the mention and we're glad that you like the mini-adventure. We've put a lot of effort into making something that we think people would enjoy, and we hope they check out the project (you know, at the same time they're checking out your own project, Stuart). Many thanks!