Archeos Society Review – Card-venture Awaits!

Archeos Society - Card-venture Awaits!

Adapting designer Paolo Mori’s earlier release Ethnos, publisher Space Cowboys production of Archeos Society is a beautiful and accessible card drafting game that works well from 2 to 6 players featuring a low rules overhead that almost anybody can pick up within a few turns. Theme wise, players are exploring a series of famous archaeological sites from around the world in the early 20th century – think Indiana Jones without the Nazis. In Archeos Society, players choose one of three options on their turn; draw a card from the deck, draft a card from the central area or play a set from their hand in front of them, including a single card if they wish. A set is comprised of one or more cards of the same occupation icon or colours, with larger sets equating to more points at the end of a round as well as allowing players to move along the Archaeological boards, each of which represents an important site. Moving up these site ‘tracks’ usually bestows points each round, unless the advanced side of a site is in play which will enable extra effects like drawing more cards or taking points immediately rather than round end.

The key twist to Archeos Society, as in Ethnos, is the central card area and how it is populated; when a set is played, that player must discard every other card in their hand to this central area. With a maximum hand size of ten, there is a delicious tension in working to build up a set, only to realise you’re best off laying a set of three cards down and letting the other players at the table swoop in on the other seven cards you’d been hoarding. Often you’ll pivot part way through as you draw a particular card or another player leaves something too good for you to ignore in the central area. Some occupations like the Physician allow players to hold on to cards in their hand matching the size of the set they just played, helping keep the surrounding card vultures at bay. If the central area is ever clear, players draw two cards instead of one from the deck which keeps things moving at a brisk pace…until the round suddenly ends.

You see, players don’t have too much control over the end of a round in Archeos Society – instead, the bottom half of the draw deck is seeded with three ‘Monkey’ cards. Once the third card is revealed, the round ends immediately and points from sets and Exploration Boards are tallied. The first Monkey reveal is mildly interesting, perhaps a small murmur from players now sizing up the remaining half of the deck, but things ratchet up when that second idol shows up – now all bets are off, as any card drawn from that point could spell doom for every player at the table unable to get their next run down and get ahead in scoring. With plenty of room for hate drafting, or even rushing end-of-round, there’s bound to be plenty of banter at the table throughout. Lasting two rounds at two/three players and three rounds at four/five/six, you can get through a game in an hour without breaking a sweat.

The sole ding against the production to my mind is the lack of any included player aides in the box which makes the first few games difficult as players struggle to remember the individual special actions of each type of card, especially if they’re swapped out between games for variety – the back of the rulebook is fine, but having six extra cards containing this information would make games move much quicker and make it easier to return to Archeos Society after a break. While there could have been a better range of colours for player pieces than ‘white, black, grey, brown, other brown and tan’, many publishers are nowadays making an effort to cater to various levels of colour vision deficiency, making it hard to knock Space Cowboys for trying to be more inclusive.

Archeos Society is one of those rare games that checks so many boxes for gamers; plays well at all counts, moves quickly but still contains weighty decisions and is both easy to teach and remember after a lengthy break. With Ethnos very much out of print, it’s a no brainer for gamers of all types to grab a copy of Archeos Society for their shelves, so absolutely versatile is it as a design.

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