Egypt! Home of myth, legend and The Rock. There are plenty of games out there based on the land of the pharaohs – the recently released Egizia has been praised,while the more creative amongst you may have picked up Reinier Knizia’s entertaining effort for Lego, Ramses Pyramid. Neither of those two are small enough for me keep in my bag as I travel around on my holidays, however. Archaeology – The Card Game, designed by Phil Harding and released through Z-Man games is a much more portable affair, and very entertaining as well.
Between two and four players are cast as archaeologists, raiding tombs to collect treasures in a bid to make their fortunes. A very simple set collecting card game, Archaeology sees you building groups of different types (fragments of parchment or pharaohs masks, for example) to sell on to the museum. Collecting more of a type will get you more points at the end – the plentiful pot shard will give you fifteen points if you submit a set of five, but a solitary point for giving in one. Manage to collect a full set of the four pharaoh masks in the deck and you’ll get a hefty fifty points, though going for the rarer card types might not always win you the game – remember to keep an eye on what your opponents are putting down, because the points for lesser sets will soon stack up!
You begin each turn by ‘digging for treasure’ (in other words, pulling the top card off the dig deck). If it’s a treasure card, it goes into your hand, but there are some surprises in there too. Eight thief cards are hidden away which entitles you to steal a random card from another player. Another problem are the sandstorm cards – draw one of these and you lose half the cards in your hand. You can get them back by visiting the marketplace, however. This is a group of face up cards that you may trade for ones in your hand – each card has a point value between one and four, so you can trade a pair of twos for something worth four, for example. This is a good way of building those sets quickly, especially if there’s a group already waiting in the market to be taken cheaply!
You can also pick up a special type of treasure – the map. If you like, each one can be traded in at the end of the game for a few points, but they’re much more useful for exploring… You see, at the start of the game, three piles of cards are placed face down, representing the tombs of the local pyramid. Discard one map and you can take the small pile of three, two maps will get you five cards, while three yields a massive seven cards to add to your hand. You’re never totally sure of what you’ll get, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a few points out of it, even if your hand is laden down.
The game ends when the dig deck is empty and no more sales can be made to the museum. Each player adds up the money they get for each set sold and whoever has the highest total amount is declared victorious, and that’s about it. As you can probably tell, Archaeology is simple to play and even easier to explain to those new to the game; it also works as a perfect filler, as even with a maximum four players you can finish off a game in less than twenty minutes. It’s far from earth-shattering, but Phil Harding’s little game of digging around is a decent laugh, and the ridiculously cheap price point (I picked up my copy in the States for a measly $10) means it should certainly be a part of anyone’s travelling games collection.
Archaeology is available through Z-Man Games, designed by Phil Harding and should be available for less than a tenner from your FLGS. And you should be impressed that I got through the whole review without referencing The Bangles.