I have found it often difficult to find light games that have much depth, let alone replayability. Archaeology: The New Expedition by Z-Man Games manages to have both of those things, including a forgiving learning curve and easy to set up components. The theme is a bit obvious but fits really well with the mechanics and overall goal of the game. I mean, who doesn’t want to be Indiana Jones?
OK, there are no Nazis, but you and your friends are playing as archaeologists exploring for lost artifacts. As you find them, you begin to build collections that you can sell to museums for victory points. Smaller collections yield less points and larger collections can be worth exponentially more. The challenge comes from deciding when to sell and when to hold your collections. Do you sell it now for a guaranteed amount, or risk losing portions of the collection to thieves and sand storms but maybe get that bigger payoff?
There are all kinds of artifacts; from broken pottery and parchment, to jewel encrusted urns and the pharaoh’s death masks. Each has its own collection which varies in value. While there are many shards of pottery, their collections are worth far less than the rare death masks. Fortunately you do not have to find all the treasure, as the locals have already picked some up and brought it to the marketplace. There, you will have the opportunity to trade so you can get just the right collection.
Each time you play, you choose a single monument as the centerpiece of your expedition. They have everything from the Sphinx, to the Pyramids, to buried cities and mines. Each has a slightly different way of allowing players to acquire more artifacts. In the case of the Pyramids, there are three chambers that cost Maps to access. If you discard the number of Maps necessary to find that chamber, you get all the cards (and therefore artifacts) that were hidden there. The mines have a little more of a push-your-luck mechanic; you may keep drawing relics, but if you draw five points worth of artifacts, you lose it all. Because you play with a different monument each time, each session can have quite a different feel.
As mentioned prior, there are thieves that can appear as the game progresses. When drawn, thieves allow players to steal random artifacts from other players’ hands. Sandstorms will affect everyone playing when they are drawn, forcing everyone to discard half of the artifacts they haven’t sold, unless you manage to hide in the safety of your tent. Players only get one tend throughout the game, so use it wisely.
All in all, Archaeology: The New Expedition is a fantastic light game for all ages and types. It is easy to learn and set up, and with the variation of monuments you can choose to play with, the game has a lot of replayability. I would love to see them release more monuments that could be unearthed across all the continents. There is a lot for this game to offer, we just need to dig it up.
Images courtesy of Z-Man Games and Robert Hornbek