I did a brief review of my first impressions a couple of months ago and at the time promised a full review. Now that the reworked version of this game Archaeology: The Card Game has been released I thought I had better finish of this review I had half written before I get the new one and do the comparative review. I guess that last statement gives you a clue what I think of this game.
Be aware that there are two printings of this game with slightly different components. I have the second printing, June 2007. This edition is a special printing sold only at the Australian Games Expo 2007, not sure how many they sold but it looked like they had quite a lot and I was told that this printing sold out at the Expo. I understand this is the same as the first printing except instead of the cardboard chits of different amounts of money this version of the game includes coloured wooden disks to represent the money. Overall I would say the pieces are incredible for a self published game, but you can tell some differences if you look closely and compared to a professionally published game.
The box is attactive and colourful, it is about the size of a Fantasy Flight Silver line game (Arena Maximus is the closest in size I could find in my collection). It looks really great and one has to look closely to see it is a self published (and designer assembled game) You can see Phil is looking to the future while three sides of the box give you the standard useful number of players, playing time and ages, the fourth side marks this as Adventureland Games number 1.
The inside of the box has glued in inserts with a woodgrain look to hold the board firm in the top of the box and leave less space for the other pieces to bounce around. A tuck box that looks like a little shipping crate holds all the cards.
The cards themselves are smaller than standard playing cards but still a very usable size, especially as you lay them on the table in from of you not hold them in your hand. There are simple but clearly colour coded and very atractive pictures. the 5 year old daughter of one of our friends doesn't really understand the game fully but loves to play just so she can collect sets of the pretty things.
The rules are 4 pages and are professionally printed on a glossy heavy paper. The board is a bit redundant as this is essentially a card game (it's about the same amount as a board game as Lost Cities) However it does provide a nice centre piece to the game with an Egyptian dessert scene the provides places to layout the cards for the dig (draw) and discard piles and the chests (groups of cards that can be collected with keys) and the market place (face up cards that can be traded).
The money is wooden disks about the size of checkers in yellow ($1) orange ($5) and red ($10). Maybe this was an attempt to make the game seem more "euro" by including some wooden bits, but I am not sure it was a good idea. They don't have the amounts written on them so you need to remember the colours. I think the original printings cardboard chits or even a scoring track would have been cheaper and easier.
The final piece in the game is a high score log book to record your high scores for each number of players.
The basic mechanic of the game is drawing a card from the dig pile and placing it in front of you. The object of the game is to make the most money which you do by selling items you found in the dig.There are three things that seperate this game from simply luck of the draw of the best cards from the dig, these are the marketplace, the special cards and choosing when to sell your sets to the museum.
The marketplace can only be used at the start of the players turn before they dig. This area begins with 6 random face up cards is only changed when players choose to trade to it. Items only are traded, you can not purchase from the market with money. Total value of the market place doesn't generally change during a game, it can go up if someone wants to trade and can't get enough items in change, but generally the size of the market depends on the intial draw of 6 cards.
The special cards are the chest which represent a set of random cards (3, 5 or 7), keys which open the chests if they have been found, Thieves and the Master Thief, which allow you to steal artifacts from other players (for a fee)
Players can sell their treasures to the museum at any time on their turn. Set values are printed on the cards and you get more the more you collect up to a certain maximum (full sets are between 2 and 6 of the same card) It's generally best to wait for a full set, but be careful as cards not yet sold to the museum can be stolen if an opponent draws a thief.
The game finishes when there are no cards left in the dig space to draw.
I have played the game several times with 2, 3 and 4 players. I have to say my favourite is 3 players. With 4 it becomes hard to get enough keysin one players hands to open the larger chest and relies on a fair bit of luck to be able to collect the sets as they can be too widely spread. With two player there is not as much choice of strategy, which other player will I send the thief to?
Have no illusions this is a light game with a fair amount of luck but its also a fun game, and easy to learn game and a relatively quick game. It is also an easy game to think of many variants to, several have already been posted on BGG, if you want to reduce the luck and add more strategy.
This is the game that has gotten the most plays from my collection. It's not going to get highly ranked on here on BGG or win awards for innovative or strategic gameplay. But its simple and easy to teach with a fun theme and doesn't take too long for a game. I hesitate to call it a gateway game because that implies it introduces mechanics to lead into other more complex "gamers" games, but as a game people who aren't into modern games enjoy I have found this fantastic. Also as a self published game the quality of what you get is amazing.