Scarabya by Blue Orange Games Review

Theme and What is it?

The land of Egypt has always been a land of great wealth. Expeditions from all over the world are descending on the Jewel of the Nile to seek out its riches and gain archeological glory. Your team has just arrived and must set up the excavation site as soon as possible. Your goal is to discover as many Golden Scarabs as possible within your dig site. Your team must be quick and precise because others have come here to seek the same treasures as you.

In Scarabya, players seek to uncover the largest number of Golden Scarabs in a designated area. Space is limited and dig sites tend to sprawl, overtaking much of the excavation area.

Gameplay Mechanics

Scarabya is a tile laying game. Players begin with the same board setup and tile combination. The tiles each have a unique shape. The game is played over 12 rounds. In each round, a Mission Card is played showing one of the tile shapes. Players take their matching tile and place it somewhere on their board. These tiles, the edges of the board, and rocks all form boundaries. To gain Scarab Points, players must leave Scarabs exposed in areas of 1, 2, 3 or 4 squares. Any number over that does not provide a score. Areas are created with the boundaries of the game. Scarab Points are awarded equal to the number of squares in each qualifying scarab area. The player with the most Scarab Points is the winner.

Initial Impressions

I was intrigued by Scarabya just because I am a big Bruno Cathala fan. When you become familiar with a game designer, you become very comfortable with future releases. Scarabya felt like a Bruno game right out of the box. My familiar curiosities soon turned to expected enthusiasm. I wasn’t at all surprised that I enjoy Scarabya as much as I thought I would. My first play through was with my daughter and my niece. Rules were discussed for maybe three minutes and we jumped right in. The game provided some immediate challenges. The individualized tile pieces were unfamiliar to us and trying to place them on the board and score points was hard to conceptualize at first. We didn’t look at the pieces other than to punch them out, so while laying the first few tiles, we did a lot of second guessing of our placements. We were not sure if a piece in a certain spot would be beneficial or not. We soon overcame this hesitancy and started to enjoy the process of excavating our dig sites.

Game Build Quality

I have nothing but good things to say for Scarabya’s build quality. All of the components are top notch. The only thing that may be an issue in the future is the outside edge piece of the board. It is used to hold everything in place and because of its size, it can easily be bent or torn. It is not manufactured poorly, it is just a large piece with no support in the middle of itself. I think with proper storage it should not be a problem. I will take extra care with that piece and would suggest the same for you.

Artistic Direction

I really like what Blue Orange has done with artwork for Scarabya. It has a great feel that transports you to the early 1900’s. Each player’s board is unique and has its own character theme based on the four characters found on the front of the game. Make sure to examine the game tiles as you lay them on your board as each tile has individual elements. Some might consider the artwork too cartoony, but I didn’t have a problem with it. It is very stylized, and I think it works very well with the theme. Players will want to take their time and enjoy the experience that the art director has created. The game plays very fast, so why not take some extra time to experience the details.

Fun Factor

Scarabya has an immediate “wow” factor. Everyone loved receiving their own boards. You add rocks to the board and it is fun placing the rocks to get set up. Since each tile is a different shape, we took some time to look at them. Because it was easy to explain the game, we jumped right in to play. Figuring out how to place the first few tiles was challenging. This attracted the attention of others who gathered around to watch us play and check out the new game. They were immediately intrigued and asked to play after our game. Scarabya gets my trifecta approval. Excellent artwork. Excellent components. Most important, excellent game play. It is hard to not totally enjoy yourself when the trifecta is met.

Age Range & Weight

The age recommendation for Scarabya is 8+. There is no reading involved so younger players will not have a tough time with this game as long as they can visualize the playing board and how to fit the current piece on the board. This can become harder as the game progresses and the board starts to have less space available. I played the game with a six-year-old, and I only had to provide minor hints to help. He figured most of it out on his own. He did not score too many points but enjoyed the game and was not upset with the outcome. 8+ may be a fair recommendation, but younger players can play it if they have the right spatial recognition skills.

Conclusions

Scarabya really showed up on my doorstep without too much fanfare. I was surprised that I had not heard about the new Bruno Cathala game. I was pleasantly surprised when I received it and was very interested to learn more about it. Once I learned more about it, I was not disappointed at all. Scarabya is a quick game that requires some forward thinking to score as many points as possible. I imagine most players will be like us, excited to play the game all over again right after finishing it. That may be the one of the best complements gamers can give a game. Break out those shovels and let the digging begin. The golden scarabs aren’t going to excavate themselves!