Constraint breeds creativity. There, I said it. I'm far from the first to do so, but in the realm of board games these days, there's a temptation to add more. More rules, more systems, more ways to score points, and, if at all possible, more miniatures.
Which, sometimes, is great fun! Settling in for a vast experience with something like Spirit Island or War of the Ring is a fulfilling buffet worthy of the afternoon it requires. If time had no limits, I'd probably spend an unhealthy amount of it fiddling with epic adventures like these.
But, more often, I have an hour to capture some joy. A weeknight lost to dinner prep, putting kiddo to bed, and handling any leftover chores rarely leaves more than 60 minutes to find a moment to relax. Board games provide plenty of options that can play in that time frame, but fewer that bring chewy experiences that can be set up and then played in that same window.
Res Arcana is one of those few. With a small, random set of cards dished out at the game's start and never added to, you must work to build an engine, draft your creatures and snag monuments to bring you gold and power. Rounds are swift but crunchy, with your mage constantly running into resource walls: it's either summon the dragon to attack your opponent and prevent their ramp up, or pour money into the demon that'll help you take over the Catacombs of the Dead next round.
That demon might seem like the better run towards victory, but if your opponent doesn't have a good way to block the dragon? Well, now you have a chance to really set them back. It's a fun, sometimes-vicious experience with low rules overhead that's definitely going into my 2-3 player mainstays for shorter games.
Take a look at Res Arcana on Amazon or at your local game store - it's worth a spin!