Last Friday night, Sean and I went out for a nice Italian dinner at Picolinos in Ballard and then went to Sambar for cocktails. I had a bunch of games in my purse, but we didn’t feel like Picolinos was the right environment for it, so we finally pulled out Archaeology: The Card Game at Sambar.
I’ve played Archaeology: The Card Game two-player with Sean many times but have enjoyed it just as much in three-player and four-player games.
Basic stats: 2-4 players, 20 min, ages 8+
We enjoyed some delicious bread, prawns, pasta, and wine at Picolinos restaurant first. They have a bakery, coffee shop, and three different large rooms for meals (one is a bar), plus a big tent outside for outdoor dining in nice weather.
After dinner, we went to Sambar for fancy cocktails from their talented bartender. Sambar is a cocktail bar attached to the French restaurant Le Gourmand.
We sat at a low table and decided to play Archaeology: The Card Game, since we hadn’t played it in a while. The concept of the game is that players are archaeologists recovering treasures from a dig site and from pyramid chambers that you can explore if you collect enough maps.
Archaeology is a set collecting game, because the goal is to collect sets of specific types of treasure and to then bank them by selling them to a museum. Different types of objects are worth different amounts of points depending on how many of that item you collected at the point when you sold it.
Pot shards are worth 15 points if you have five of them (otherwise 1 point each), parchment scraps are worth 10 points if you have four of them (otherwise 1 point each), coins are worth more points but the value increases significantly with a large five-card set, talismans are worth even more points, etc. The symbols on the cards tell you how much they are worth when you have collected specific amounts of them.
The setup for Archaeology is a bit complicated for the quick game it is. The main deck of cards is shuffled and then dealt into three chambers in a pyramid. Three cards go in one chamber, five cards in another, and seven cards in another.
Then each player gets four cards, and five cards go face up into the market in the middle of the table. Then the maps, thief cards, and sandstorms get shuffled into the main deck.
On your turn, you dig at the dig site, which means drawing one card from the deck. If it is some sort of treasure card, you move on with your turn and do as many other things as you can and wish to do. You can trade items at the market by exchanging items of equal value with items from the market, you can discover chambers in the pyramid, or you can sell treasures to the museum. You can do a combination of any and all of those things.
If you trade items with the market, you choose treasures worth a specific amount of points from your hand and exchange them with treasures that add up to that amount (or less) from the market.
If you sell a set or multiple sets to the museum, you lay those cards in front of you and can no longer add to that particular set. So if you sell three coins to the museum, you can’t add more coins to that set in the future. But you can sell a separate set of coins to the museum later, all at once.
Mixed into the dig pile are six map cards. It takes one map card to explore the smallest chamber of the pyramid. If you do that, you get the three cards from that chamber and can use them immediately. It takes two maps to get into the middle chamber with five cards. And it takes three maps to get into the largest chamber with seven cards.
Also mixed into the dig pile are thieves and sandstorms. If you draw a thief, you get to steal a card at random from another player. You then continue with your turn, but you don’t get to dig again.
If you draw a sandstorm, all players (including you) must discard half of the cards from their hand into the market, making them available to all players. You get to dig again after that, but at that point everyone’s hands are usually pretty decimated. Getting a thief at that point is great though because everyone has already discarded their fluff cards and tends to be holding on to their best cards at the end of a sandstorm.
The best time to get a sandstorm is when you have just sold all or almost all of your cards to the museum. The longer you wait, and the larger you let your hand of cards grow, the more a sandstorm will hurt you. It’s risky to wait and try to collect a huge set because you may end up discarding a bunch of the cards you worked so hard to collect.
In a two-player game, the randomness of sandstorm timing and who gets the most thieves can make a big difference in the game’s outcome, but there’s still enough strategy to feel like you have an impact on the outcome. And a game with three or four players feels a lot less random. There are fewer sandstorms in a game with more players and a lot more options when you get to steal from someone.
In our quick game at Sambar, Sean won big time! I had such a promising starting hand, but it didn’t go anywhere. Sean got into the small and middle chambers of the pyramid, and I sold a map to the museum to prevent him from getting into the large chamber.
Sean and I both enjoy Archaeology: The Card Game. We like how light and quick it is. It doesn’t make your brain hurt, but it does make you think a little. But setting it up with the pyramid and shuffling and adding of cards is not especially fast and easy. It’s not nearly as difficult as setting up most board games, but it’s a little involved for a card game.
The box is very compact, the game is easy to learn and teach, and it is fairly quick. The downsides are that it takes up a significant amount of table space, as you can see, and the setup is not as easy as I would expect for a game of this length. After you learn the setup process, it isn’t bad, though, and it’s a great purse game because the box is so compact. If you have the table space and don’t mind spending a couple of minutes setting it up, it’s a nice light game to have around.