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Archaeology: The Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Is Egypt such a random place? rss

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Bruce Murphy
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For those people who have played Thebes, the idea of a game being driven by randomness should be nothing new. Archaeology is a light push your luck filler with a couple of cute mechanisms based on a theme of excavation at a Egyptian pyramid site.

Components

This is a card game, originally self-published under the designer Phil Harding's label Adventureland games. An earlier game was also previously published with a vestigial board. Z-Man games has recently republished this game with a nicer box, nicer card finish, but otherwise unchanged from the first version.



The cards are the only components in the game and act as scoring pieces and actions, and form the basis for the scoring sets that players are trying to collect through the game. The art is basic, but clear, the only complaint I've seen was by one BGG user who felt that it was politically incorrect that the thieves in a game about Egyptian archaeology looked like Egyptians.



Gameplay

Set-up is slightly fiddly. All the action and map cards are removed from the deck, it is shuffled and face down piles of 3, 5 and 7 are dealt for the contents of the pyramid treasure chambers. Players receive a 4 card starting hand a 5 cards are dealt into the marketplace to kick it off. The sandstorm, map and thief cards are then shuffled into the remaining face down draw deck.

Each player takes it in turn to excavate, taking a single card from the face-down draw stack. Any item cards are taken into their hand, thieves and sandstorms activate immediately. A thief card allows the drawing player to blindly take a card from the hand of any other player. A sandstorm forces all players, including the drawing player to discard half their hand (rounded down) into the market.

During their turn, players can also form scoring sets by placing groups of the same card face up in front of themselves. Similar to the Hanging Gardens, each card has between 2 and 4 scores which represent the value of a set of those cards. Individual cards can always be made into low-valued sets, but scores increase sharply as more cards are collected.

Sets, placed in this way are safe from thieves or sandstorms and score at the end of the game but the players are also not permitted to add any additional cards to a face-up set. This is the only scoring mechanism in the game.

In addition to being somewhat valuable goods individually, map fragments allow access to the three chambers of the pyramid. The 3, 5, and 7 card chambers require the player to permanently discard respectivey 1, 2 or 3 map fragment cards.

Finally, players are free to trade with the open market. Each type of card has a market value printed on it. Players can freely exchange any set of cards with a set having the same (or lower) total value from the Market. As all cards of the same type are identical, it's extremely convenient to arrrange the market cards in sets of the same type.

The game end phase begins when the entire draw deck has been excavated. Players take actions as normal (including passing) and do not draw from the deck, but if all players pass in order, the first player must place at least one set down. The game ends when everyone has emptied their hands. All sets are scored and the player with the most points wins!

Notes and Conclusions

It's worth pointing out that the map tiles are never inside the pyramid because of the slightly fiddly setup, however waiting too long to try and collect three map fragments is risky because other players can grab the other two chambers and them simply sell the remaining fragment you're waiting for to the museum.

The variable value sets makes it really valuable to collect multiple cards of one type but players have to keep a buffer of low-value cards which they are more willing to discard in a sandstorm. A single high value card is probably worth less than the set of three or four low valued cards you could trade it for. Of course, it's dangerous to put it in the market until you're sure you aren't handing a big point score to another player.

It's actually interesting how over the course of the game, through sandstorms and trading the market fills up with huge piles of low-valued coins and scraps of paper. This always struck me as the best piece of theme in the game.

The randomness of the sandstorms and thieves can make this a frustrating games for those who insist on always having planning and total information. For everyone else, this is a nifty light filler that plays quickly and has some cute thematic parts. Now that it has become more widely available after the Z-man printing, it's much easier to get, too.
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Matt Cross
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I wanted to like this game so much but it just kept feeling so broken to me. It has been a while now since playing it but I felt like there just wasn't enough buying power in play to purchase more expensive things. The sandstorms only worsened this trait. We just kept ending up with high priced things in the market that could not be purchased. I was hoping I was doing something wrong. Anyone?
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Bruce Murphy
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You could try with a couple fewer sandstorms if you liked. We generally didn't find this.

B>
 
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Tomello Visello
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mattx wrote:
We just kept ending up with high priced things in the market that could not be purchased.
I think there are similar comments in other threads. I don't quite understand why high inventory in the ending Marketplace must necessarily indicate a shortcoming on the part of either the design or of the players. It may just mean you've made an economic decision to take a single (fractional) item of high value and trade it for multiple items of lower individual value - which can then be leveraged into a higher package value.

Holding the high value item is simply the "press your luck" element in the face of Sandstorms.


session report:
Session Two: Big Values Appear in the Marketplace.


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Bruce Murphy
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Sure, and then people with one of the higher value items already in their hand have the opportunity to trade for one of these items and form a nice shiny set.

B>
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Simon "that sci-fi guy"
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thepackrat wrote:
You could try with a couple fewer sandstorms if you liked. We generally didn't find this.

B>


I've said it before and I'll say it again: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2564236#2564236

 
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Bruce Murphy
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tiggers wrote:
thepackrat wrote:
You could try with a couple fewer sandstorms if you liked. We generally didn't find this.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2564236#2564236


Yes, yes, I read what you wrote then, too, but there's probably some sort of balance between all sandstorms and no sandstorms.

B>
 
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Simon "that sci-fi guy"
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thepackrat wrote:
tiggers wrote:
thepackrat wrote:
You could try with a couple fewer sandstorms if you liked. We generally didn't find this.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/2564236#2564236


Yes, yes, I read what you wrote then, too, but there's probably some sort of balance between all sandstorms and no sandstorms.

B>


Agreed. Isn't that why the number of sandstorms varies depending on the number of players? From the number of games I've played I think that balance is there.

 
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Bruce Murphy
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tiggers wrote:
thepackrat wrote:

Yes, yes, I read what you wrote then, too, but there's probably some sort of balance between all sandstorms and no sandstorms.

Agreed. Isn't that why the number of sandstorms varies depending on the number of players? From the number of games I've played I think that balance is there.

How many of those games were 2p? I think the balance seems fine with 3 or 4.

B>
 
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Tomello Visello
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I figure one source of tension (entertainment) in the game is the question about whether or not you dare to place a high value card into the Market place.
thepackrat wrote:
Sure, and then people with one of the higher value items already in their hand have the opportunity to trade for one of these items and form a nice shiny set.
Quite naturally in a card game there is that random chance that you might give away free points to an opponent.

But when another post declares,
mattx wrote:
...but I felt like there just wasn't enough buying power in play to purchase more expensive things.
it helps explain why my own conclusion is that the game contains useful balance.

 
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Steve Duff
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Not broken at all in my opinion. And the 2 player balance is fine.

It's a game of pushing your luck, do I cash in these high cards now for guaranteed points, sell them to the market for points in a different ware, risking my opponent buying them, all the time knowing that a sandstorm can kill my plans.

Great fun.
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Simon "that sci-fi guy"
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thepackrat wrote:
tiggers wrote:
thepackrat wrote:

Yes, yes, I read what you wrote then, too, but there's probably some sort of balance between all sandstorms and no sandstorms.

Agreed. Isn't that why the number of sandstorms varies depending on the number of players? From the number of games I've played I think that balance is there.

How many of those games were 2p? I think the balance seems fine with 3 or 4.

B>


I would say that most of my (almost) 50 plays were two player games. I haven't noticed any difference in balance compared with playing with more players.
 
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Kevin B. Smith
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Nice review.

thepackrat wrote:
Set-up is slightly fiddly. All the action and map cards are removed from the deck

This isn't as bad as it sounds, because at the end of the game, all of the thieves and sandstorms, and many of the maps, will already be in the discard pile, with nothing else. Grab the few maps that were sold, and you have the cards to be held out for the following game. So as long as you left them separate after the previous game, you never have to "remove them" from the deck before the next one.

It is still slightly fiddly in that you have to deal the pyramid, player, and market cards, then shuffle in the thieves, sandstorms, and maps, but that's not so bad.
 
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