Arcane Alley: Moonstruck Market
Strange Space Games
Arcane Alley is a set-collection tabletop game that fully embraces its magical theme. The game (Designed by Corwin Riddle) allows for two to six players to act as merchant wizards trying to sell artifacts in the magical black market. Selling items in their storehouses quickly is vital to success so that players don’t get caught with illegal goods during the Inspect Phase.
Now a year later, Arcane Alley‘s first expansion will be gracing tabletops in 2020. Arcane Alley: Moonstruck Market‘s Kickstarter is kicking off in January 2020, giving eager wizards the opportunity to add to their game. The new expansion features new wizards, new artifacts, and a few new mechanics.
The first thing that players might notice is that artist Janette Ramos returns to make Moonstruck Market gorgeous. The box art, new wizards, and new cards are all brought to life by Ramos’ art. Fans of the base game’s aesthetic will be thrilled to see the expansion’s art has the same quality as the original.
Of course, art isn’t the only reason to buy a new expansion. Moonstruck Market adds a couple of new wizards and a few artifacts. The expansion also adds a market to the play area, which allows for players to use their gold to buy items rather than drawing from the deck or discard pile. The market is a welcome addition since it adds more cards for players to pull from, reducing the amount of luck that Arcane Alley players need to succeed.
Moonstruck Market also adds Moon Phases to Arcane Alley. Moon phases are represented by a six-sided die, which each side symbolizing one moon phase. There are three phases, and each phase will affect some of the new artifacts and wizards in different ways. At the start of the Sell Phase, the turn player will roll the moon die to determine the first phase of the game. Then, every time the first player starts a new turn, the die will be turned to the next moon phase (Full moon to half moon to crescent moon). The moon phases influence item effects and allow for sets to be sold in a new way.
The new artifact cards come with moon phases, and if a player can form a set of three artifacts with the same phase, the player will be able to sell it. This adds a bit of flexibility to the game’s set collecting mechanics, which is a welcome addition. Using Moon Sets generally leads to less money being made, so players will need to decide if it is worth shooting for a Moon Set. The new decisions add a delightful amount of strategy to Arcane Alley, making it more interesting to hardcore players.
All of the new mechanics add depth and strategy to Moonstruck Market, improving the game in just about every possible way. Even inexperienced players will be able to handle the new mechanics just fine, as they don’t make the game too heavy. There is much less luck at play when the expansion is added to Arcane Alley, making this game worth returning to if the amount of luck in the original turned you away.
Those who enjoy the pacing of Arcane Alley might be disappointed to hear that Moonstruck Market does slow the game down just a bit. Changing the moon phases and allowing players an extra artifact to choose from every turn does add to the length of each turn a bit. Players who zone out easily are at a slightly higher risk to do so. On the other hand, once players get used to the mechanics, the actual game itself will be faster. Having a bigger pool to choose from means that players can complete sets faster. This makes up for longer turns, and I found myself preferring the expansion’s speed over the original’s.
The longer turns are much more noticeable when there are more players at the table. While Arcane Alley allows for 2-6 players to play, I found that 4 player games are the Moonstruck Market‘s sweet spot. With this player count, the game goes by at an enjoyable pace and players can stay constantly engaged. With more, there is much more downtime involved. Games with three players are less are fast, but don’t feel as lively or competitive. Regardless, the game is still enjoyable at all player counts, just know that anything other than four players feels just a little less than optimal.
Moonstruck Market is everything you can ask for in an expansion. It adds tons of new depth and strategy to Arcane Alley, making it a blast for casual and hardcore gamers. While the game’s slower pace may frustrate some, this is an absolute improvement to the original, and I can’t see myself playing Arcane Alley without it.
Moonstruck Market is everything you can ask for in an expansion. It adds tons of new depth and strategy to Arcane Alley, making it a blast for casual and hardcore games. While the game's slower pace may frustrate some, this is an absolute improvement to the original, and I can't see myself playing Arcane Alley without it.