ARCHAEOLOGY: THE NEW EXPEDITION
2-5 Players. Best With 3+
Phil Walker-Harding (Imhotep, Cacao, Sushi Go)
Z-Man Games (Agricola, Stone Age, Grimoire)
Set Collection, Hand Management, Push Your Luck
I bought this game because I needed $16 to cross $100 to get free shipping on an obscure website that had several expansions to Nightfall, an amazing game that was out of print. Archaeology: The New Expedition was listed as $16.99, had good reviews and came in a small box, so it seemed like a good fit and I purchased it. I'm glad I did - you'll see why later.
In Archaeology: The New Expedition, players earn points by trading in sets of artifacts where the value of the set increases with higher quantities. Some sets are relatively worthless until the maximum quantity is reached while others increase according to varying scales. Players draw one card per turn, which may be a thief or a sandstorm that removes cards from your hand, adding urgency and danger to hoarding cards. There is a tent card for a one-time reprieve from sandstorms which can be used at any time. There is also a market where players can exchange any number of artifacts for artifacts of equal or lesser value, as well as monuments of variable value where hidden artifacts may be obtained. The game ends when the deck is depleted and players have sold all their artifacts to the museum, with the richest player winning.
Archaeology: The New Expedition adds cards as more players are added to the game, but it does not provide a noticeable difference in game length. The game can be setup, played twice and cleaned up in a lunch hour. It lends itself to a third playthrough often enough because the footprint is so small.
Each players hand is hidden from all other players but that is necessary for the game to work; otherwise, thieves become too powerful and trading with the marketplace loses its risk. The various monuments add levels of hidden information but nothing prohibitive. The anatomy of a card is straightforward so there is no confusion as to what is drawn, unless it is a thief or sandstorm, which must be played immediately anyway. The only exception is a Map, which will differ depending on which monument is used. If a Map has to be explained, that indicates a Map is in hand, which is unfortunate as it will make that person a target for thieves.
Archaeology: The New Expedition will have some close scores between the top players. Luck will play a large role, as drawing the best cards will yield many points, but there are definite strategies to the game that will mitigate the randomness. It is more likely that a player will play themselves out of a game rather than to victory by trading poorly or not using their tent properly.
Since the sandstorms affect everyone, players are always mindful of when they are drawn and players take great pleasure in watching their opponents lose half of their cards. While many rounds of the game will be drawing and doing nothing, this is OK as players know they will be risking their opportunity for immediate points by holding out for more.
While writing this article, I was unaware that the game is currently out of print, with the listed Amazon price at $175. This is more than ten times the price I paid for it, which was extremely reasonable. When it comes back into print, it is likely to be available online only.
Archaeology has very simple gameplay but requires a very specific setup. Admittedly, it took me three plays before I remembered to do everything in sequence, and it’s easiest to follow the rulebook until you master it. The anatomy of a card makes it easy to explain and easy to pick up, indicating the scale, trading value and frequency of an artifact. The Maps will require periodic explanation but no other cards will. The rulebook has twelve small pages which includes detailed monument explanation.
Accessible: 1/10 (8 out of 10 at time of purchase)