Today’s review is of a game that was originally published in 2007, but now has a shiny new edition. It’s called
Archaeology: The New Expedition is the 2016 Z-Man reprint of designer Phil Walker-Harding’s 2007 game Archaeology: The Card Game. This one is for 2-5 players and takes about 20-30 minutes to play. You are an archaeologist working in Egypt, and a trying to put together artifacts to sell to museums and trade at marketplaces.
The game comes with 79 treasure cards, 10 thief cards, 6 sandstorm cards, 6 map cards, 5 tent cards, and 6 monument tiles. To begin the game, first select one of the six monuments. The Great Pyramid is recommended for your first game, but you could use any of them. From the treasure deck, seed the monument as described on the tile. Deal each player four cards, and put five cards face up in the market. Each player also gets a tent. Finally, shuffle the maps, sandstorms, and thieves into the treasure deck to begin play.
On your turn, you first must draw a card (aka dig for treasure). If you draw a thief, you then steal a card from another player. If it’s a sandstorm, all players must discard half of their cards (rounded down) to the market. You could discard your tent to ignore the sandstorm, but there will be 4-6 in the game, so use that power wisely. After resolving the sandstorm, you get to draw another card.
If you draw a treasure or a map, you proceed to take your turn. You can do as many actions as you wish as many times as you wish in any order that you wish. Your options:
TRADE AT THE MARKETPLACE: You can trade cards from your hand with cards in the marketplace. The values of each must be equal. So if you want a treasure of value 3 from the marketplace, you either need to trade a 3 from your hand for it, or a 2 and a 1, or three 1s. Or you could make it part of a larger trade where you put value 5 in the market place and take out a 3 and a 2. The only rule is that the value of the traded cards must equal each other.
SELL TO THE MUSEUM: Take a set of identical cards from your hand and play them face up in front of you in a stack. Along the bottom of each card is a line of numbers that tells you how many points the set is worth based on how many cards are in the set. For example, a single Talisman card gets you 3 points, while 2 gets you 10, 3 gets you 20, 4 gets you 32, and 5 gets you 45. So you have to decide when you need to play them, always being aware that a sandstorm might come along and blow them out of your hand.
EXPLORE A MONUMENT: If you play a map card (or possibly more), you’ll get to explore one of the chambers of the game’s monuments. Here’s what you could find:
- Great Pyramid: You’ll prepare this by making three chambers – one with two cards, one with five cards, and one with eight cards. If you play a map, you can take the first chamber’s cards into your hand. The second chamber costs two maps, and the third costs three.
- Temple: Prepare this one with three chambers of five cards each. You can discard two maps to take any of these chambers. You can also peek at one of the chambers whenever you sell to the museum.
- Tomb: This one has two chambers, one with seven cards and one with eight cards. You play a map card to choose a chamber, look at the cards, and keep two.
- Mine: The mine has only one chamber, with 15 cards. When you play a map, you can start revealing cards from the Mine until you choose to stop. When you stop, all cards drawn are added to your hand. However, if the trade value is ever more than 5, you put all cards back in the mine and get nothing.
- Sphinx: The Sphinx also has only one 15-card chamber. When you play a map, name two treasures you want, then reveal five cards. Keep any that match the treasure you said and put all others back.
- Buried Ruins: Prepare three chambers with one face up card each, as well as a 12-card draw pile. Every time there’s a sandstorm, add another face up card to each chamber from the draw pile. Play a map to take all cards in one chamber, which may later get more cards in future sandstorms.
PASS: You could choose to do nothing on your turn after drawing a card.
Once you’ve done all the actions you want to do, play passes to the left. When the draw deck runs out, play continues until all players have played all cards from their hands. At that point, you add up your scores to see who won.
COMPONENTS: Archaeology is a card game, and cards are the main component. They are well laid out – the majority of the card is taken up by the artwork, but the point scoring information is all located on the bottom, and makes it easy to understand how scoring works. The only cardboard in the game comes in the form of the monuments, all six on a narrow strip. The card’s use is outlined on the cardboard, but the rules are where you’ll need to look up any questions. The box has a removable lid, and contains an insert with two trays to hold the cards. The insert also has a cutout so you can fit the monuments in without bumping the box lid. Overall, the game looks good and has some nice stuff.
THEME: Archaeology is a great theme for a game, and it’s one that I think should be used more. The game is a little abstracted here as there are apparently treasures scattered all over the place, but it generally works. Putting the cards in the market after a sandstorm doesn’t make the most sense, but it’s explained away by saying the merchants know where to pick stuff up after a sandstorm. The monuments works well thematically – I particularly like how more of the Buried Ruins is revealed after each sandstorm. Overall, the game is about set collection and you won’t be paying much attention to the treasure names, but the theme works well for what it is.
MECHANICS: Archaeology is a set collection game. Turn structure is that you must draw a card first, then you can take as many actions as you want. It seems pretty free form, but turns don’t typically take too long as you won’t have that many cards to work with. The threat of sandstorms makes hoarding cards a less appealing prospect, and thieves can of course come in an break up some nice sets you’re keeping in hand.
Scoring is determined by the numbers on the cards. The most plentiful cards in the deck tend to give lower scores, while the most rare cards can be quite profitable – there are only four Pharaoh’s Masks in the deck, and if you get all four, you get 50 points.
The mechanism of being able to claim new cards from the monument is a good aspect of the game, and gives you something to shoot for. Most of the monuments have facedown cards, so what you’re getting may be unknown. However, they’re all interesting in their own way.
The game flows very smoothly, and all of the mechanisms work together well to form an intuitive experience.
STRATEGY LEVEL: Being a card game, there is some inherent luck present as you can’t tell what you’ll draw, or when the sandstorms or thieves will come out. Still, it’s only one random card per turn, and you can mitigate that luck by trading with the market. This is a difficult one to strategize due to the ever-changing nature of the market, so it ends up being more of a tactical game. A lot of times, you need to take what you can when you can or risk losing stuff to a sandstorm or thief. It’s not a mentally taxing game, but does provide plenty of opportunities for decision making.
ACCESSIBILITY: Archaeology is a very straightforward game, and pretty easy to pick up. The rules are very intuitive, and this is a game that can be played by gamers with a wide range of skill levels. I’d say it probably falls on the gateway end of the accessibility scale. Some of the monuments are more complex than others, but really, the game is not too difficult to learn.
REPLAYABILITY: You’re going to have a different experience every time you play this game. Sandstorms and thieves will come out at different times, and you’ll end up going for sets you haven’t gone for before. The monuments do add a new dimension, but only if you manage to collect maps. I’d say this is a very replayable game.
SCALABILITY: You can play this with 2-5 players, and I’ve actually played with all of those player counts. I think it works best with 2 or 3 players, but 4 and 5 is fun too. With 4 and 5 players, you get extra treasures added to the deck. You are welcome to add them to a 2 or 3 player game, but the game will be that much longer.
INTERACTION: The only direct interaction here is with the thief, which allows you to steal from another player. Other than that, the interaction comes with the manipulation of the market and trying to use what other players have put there to your own advantage.
FOOTPRINT: You’ll need some room for all of your sets in front of you, and the market has the potential to be pretty sprawling as well. I’d say that a medium table is needed for the game.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes. This is a great game, and I’m glad I picked up a copy. I had played the original 2007 edition, and this appears to be the same thing with extra monuments (the original only had the Great Pyramid). If you like set collection at all, this is one you should really look into adding to your collection.
That will do it for today. Thanks for reading!