This is a game about treasure hunting in the Andes for two players. Winner is the first player to put two treasures on his player mat. Let's discuss it before the rolling boulder smashes me.
What treasures do I find in that box?
You mean the components, don't you? Right.
Apart from the cards, which I'll get to soon, there is a cool looking player mat for each player, where they can put up to 5 characters, one location and, well, one treasure. Because you don't need a space for a second treasure, because the game immediately ends when a player puts a second treasure on his board, with that player as the winner. Damn, the boulder comes closer, let's move on!
There is also a no less cool looking central mat to put two card decks and discard piles on, as well as two special cards that players get when - well, we'll get to that later.
There are two kinds of player cards in this game: person cards and exploration cards. The three treasures you are looking for are in the exploration deck, the people who will hopefully salvage those treasures for you are in the person deck. (It would have been as accurate to say that the persons your opponent will try to get rid of are in the person pile, but then you would ask yourself, why get these guys? And gals?)
Last and least, there are two cards to determine the first player. And a rulebook is included, too, of course.
Huh, closely escaped from the boulder, but now people are trying to kill me! Let's run on!
Who are the heroes and the villains in this game?
Characters in this game are raiders, archaelogists, neither, or both. You need an archaeologist on your team to be able to put a treasure from your hand to your player mat. You don't really *need* raiders, but they can be helpful to annoy (or worse) your opponent.
Remember those two special cards in the central mat I mentioned earlier? One, the "Adventurer card", goes to the player with the most archaeologists in his team, the other, the "Rogue card", goes to the player with the most raiders in his team. One player can have both cards and be both the Adventurer as well as the Rogue. If the two players are tied, no one gets the card.
At the beginning of the game, a starting team of three characters per player is drafted. How to decide which characters you want to keep? Well, apart from the question whether your priority is to become the Rogue or the Adventurer, you might want to take a look at the special abilities the characters have. Some help you finding treasures. Some hinder your opponent. Some are defensive, others are villainous.
After each player has three characters in his team, every one draws five exploration cards and the game proper starts. And with "the game proper", I mean "the assault on the other player's team members Not unlike the assault on me that is going on here right now.
Killing your opponent's persons (and doing other stuff (like actually searching for treasure))
On your turn, you a) draw an exploration card or a person card, then b) use an available action, then c) use another available action or place a character, a location or a treasure on your player mat, and finally d) reduce the number of cards in your hand down to five if necessary.
What are your available actions? Well, let me count the ways: The exploration deck contains lots and lots of action cards you can play on your turn, like sending an anaconda over to your opponents camp to kill someone of your choice. The characters in your camp often have actions you can use, which may read like "Discard a character in your opponents team. Also discard this suicidal Rambo-wannabe" on a suicidal Rambo-wannabe. Lastly, if you are the Rogue, you may randomly discard one card of your opponent's hand - particularly nice for you, and infuriating for your enemy, if that card was a treasure.
There are also other, less aggressive but often no less useful actions on exploration cards and characters: A card may allow you to draw four cards if you are willing to part with one of your persons. An archaeologist who goes by the name of "Ohio Bob" (and who looks *exactly* like you would expect a character named Ohio Bob to look) might allow you to reveal the top three exploration cards and take a treasure into your hand, if one is revealed. And if you are the Adventurer, you may use an action to draw a card.
And speaking of the Rogue and the Adventurer card: Some action cards from the exploration deck can only be played by the Adventurer, others may only be played by the Rogue. You may guess which actions let a player get closer to the treasures, and which ones make the other player howl in anguish.
Damn, it's tough writing a review while people are trying to beat me up. Good that I have some tricks up my sleeve to soften the blows. Speaking of which ... Some characters have reactive abilities, and some exploration cards are reactions to, well, attacks from the other player. Someone smuggled a tarantula into your camp? Don't worry, Frank Venkra can handle this, even if that means he will be temporarily busy (i.e. going back to your hand). The Rogue looks at your hand and wants to steal a card from you? Kat Kimble valiantly sacrifices herself so you may keep them. A jaguar ate your last archaeologist? Well, that's sad, but with his final words he allowed you to draw two cards.
You get the idea: The attack is rarely completely annulled, but the attacked player often has *some* things she can do to make it easier on herself. Let's move on, I have to catch that plane to get me out of here.
Remember the locations? I mentioned that there's a spot on your player mat for one, and I mentioned that you can use your second action in a turn to place a location there (if there is none already).
What I haven't told you yet is *why* you want to do this, and *where* you can find them. Second things first, you find them in the exploration deck.
First things second: You want to get two treasures on your player mat. To place a treasure on your player mat, you have to have a treasure card in your hand, an archaeologist in your team and also a location on your player mat. After placing your treasure, the location gets discarded, and you typically need to go elsewhere to look for the next treasure.
Now, putting locations on your player mat is not as harmless as it may sound: Among the many action cards to annoy your opponent with (i.e. kill his characters), there are some that may only be played if said opponent has a location in play. So, should you play locations as soon as possible to be ready to place a treasure if you draw one, or are you too afraid of the cards your enemy might play against you? Tough decision …
And now that I've finally escaped all the dangers, sitting comfortably in a plane on my way to a museum where the treasures I found belong in, I finally have the time to muse about the ways this game works.
Hi! I'm selling fine leather jackets like the one I'm wearing.
I am pretty enthusiastic about this game, as you might have realised. It has some kinks (for example, a card would say "I discard a treasure from your player mat" instead of the more comon "You discard a treasure from your opponents player mat"), but overall, this game is a fun ride.
What is there to like? Well, apart from the potential of "take that" action, apart from the awesome graphics on the player mats and cards, apart from the way you get to know and *like* the characters over time – wait, this isn't getting me anywhere.
There were some interesting design decisions in the making of the game: The fact that you only have two actions each turn, no matter how many people you have in your team is a nice way to keep the pace of the game brisk. No ridiculous long monster turns for one player while the other player waits for his turn to do one measly thing because things didn't go as planned for him.
It is also interesting how slowly you make progress: If you have no archaeologists in your team anymore, and no location on your map, it takes you at least one turn to get an archaeologist on your player mat, one turn to get a location into play and one turn to salvage a treasure. Much time for your enemy to spoil your plans.
What I like even more than these constraints are the sneaky ways to work around them: There is one raider I like very much, Enrique Huaquero, whose action lets you place a person on your player mat. Doesn't sound like a lot, but he allows you to bring a character into play on your first turn and use that character's ability on your second turn. Before your opponent kills that character. That's fantastic! (He can also help you with the struggle to become the Rogue or the Adventurer.)
Then there is another card, an action card, that sounds ridiculously useless: Kill an archaeologist from your team to put a location into play. (It's a short cut. Not everyone survives taking a short cut in the Andes.) However, if you have two archaeologists in your team and your second treasure as well as a location in your hand, this card can bring the game to an unexpectedly quick ending.
Cards like these, and there are quite a few, are the cool little things in this game that allow you take this game beyond a mere „kill the other guy's guys“ blood lust fest, that allow you to play somewhat subtly. And while some cards are more powerful than others (Henrietta Smith, you are one damn fine lady!), they always come with a sensibly painful cost (Henrietta Smith, you *were* one damn fine lady for sacrificing yourself so that we could get the next treasure card in the deck into our hand!).
But, just to be clear here, it never gets too "subtle" in the game. This is a game utterly devoid of pretensions, a game revelling in its pulpiness. It's so pulpy, it has hardly any math in it. There is nothing like "health points" for your team members: They are alive in your team, or dead in the discard pile (or somewhere in between in your hand, but that's getting way too philosophical for this kind of game). There are no resources you have to manage to be able to play the cards in your hand. This game is so unmathy, it is literally a race where the winner is the first one to get no more than 2 "victory points".
It is, in short, a very neat 2 player game with well balanced mechanisms that keep it from getting bloated as well as from being disappointingly short. It feels a bit like Magic the Gathering for people who dislike counting to more than two about as much as they dislike carefully preparing decks in advance.
And, by golly, anytime I'm off into the sunset with a nice girl by my side, this game is very likely to be found next to the golden idol in my back pack.
Thanks for taking the time to write such a fun and enthusiastic review. It seems you have played a lot!
May your adventurers never get lost!