Meetup

OTK Meetup 10/1/2014 – Archipelago & Artifact

Boardgamecafe.net Meetup Report @ OTK Cheras 10/1/2014 – Impression of ARTIFACT and Quicklook at ARCHIPELAGO
By jack208

EXCERPT
Heavy coop ARCHIPELAGO was in play along other lighter games like BLACK SPY, ALHAMBRA and the exciting & tense JUNGLE TREASURE from Haba. The main course of the evening would be White Goblin’s ARTIFACT and Rass Game WILDCATTERS.

Games: Black Spy, Alhambra, Archipelago, Haba Jungle Treasure, Artifact and Wildcatters

Location: OTK Cheras | Google Map | Lat-Long: N 03° 06.179′ E 101° 44.237′
Date/Time: 10 January 2014 (Fri) 9.00 PM – (Sat) 5:45 AM

APPETIZER GAMES

Though we formally say OTK Friday Gaming starts 9 pm, not all gamers arrive at this hour. Some earlier, most later. Therefore it’s a customary practice on our Friday Gaming nites the early birds get started with some light / quick games (usually card games).

Here’s a quick coverage of the light / quick card games seen at the OTK tables tonight before we dive into the main course ie ARCHIPELAGO and ARTIFACT (yes, WILDCATTERS was for desert).

Damien got his group going with another light card games that I did not catch. Hope someone enlightens me?

Not sure which card game Sinbad brought to his table for tonite.. but they did appear to have lots of fun. J

BLACK SPY was brought to the 3rd table by Kareem…

ARCHIPELAGO

After one or two rounds of the light card games above, the gamers started gathering into their own group of choice to start on the  main course. One of the three main courses for the evening ARCHIPELAGO, a medium-weight coop game from Asmodee that came out last Essen.

ARHIPELAGO plays over three different modes – Easy, Medium and Difficult. I suppose “Easy” is for a learning game, while “Medium” would be suitable for experienced euro gamers and “Difficult” is when you need a bit more challenge. This group started with the Medium mode.

Lots of pieces in the game. The game – when setup – can appeared daunting but once you get past the rules, it’s pretty streamlined. It plays very much like an Euro with the usual cooperative game element (but rewards single player victory) and there’s the possible element of a traitor within your ranks (he wins by a different winning condition).

I didn’t follow this game but I got the sense the group was managing it quite well though Damien decided to reveal his treacherous plans very early in the game… to the extent everyone told me his traitor identity was almost an open secret. That guy has too honest-a-face. 😛

Game has good exploration feel where you are sending your assets to gather resources.

Can’t wait to play a proper session so that I can write a fuller sessrep on it.

ALHAMBRA

Sinbad’s group continued after Black Spy with an old classic ALHAMBRA.

HABA JUNGLE TREASURE

This group of gamers – obviously still in the mood for light games – moved on to Haba’s JUNGLE TREASURE. We’ve a few HABA games in our library, mainly for waiyan to run in her BoardgameKids sessions but sometimes these children games, I tell you, are great fun for adults too!

In JUNGLE TREASURE, players take turn trying to complete simple missions racing against a sand-timer.

For each completed mission, you gain VPs. However if the sand-timer runs out, you won’t get any of the VPs achieved for this round!

You can always call for time and quit while the going is still good.. but very often we tend to underestimate the time left.

Some of the missions do require some dexterity skills.. Tsk tsk.

Loads of fun in this “supposedly” children game. Next time you are in OTK, ask for this – or the other Haba fave of ours ANIMAL UPON ANIMAL.

ARTIFACT

We’ve two main draws for tonight, ARTIFACT from White Goblin Games and another low-profile game that kaz picked up WILDCATTERS from Rass Games. Let’s look at ARTIFACT first.

ARTIFACT caught my attention at Essen 2013 as it was co-designed by Bernd Eisenstein who’s famous for his Iron Game series (Peloponnes, PAX, Palmyra). Given the game is distributed by White Goblin Games, we half expected them not to reach wide distribution so decided to bring in one case for retail sales here.

In this game, you are an archaeologist moving around the world looking for artifacts – competing with other players to bid for them – in order to produce exhibitions at museums.

The game board is divided into three areas – the Museum Exhibition spaces at the middle (white meeples), the Black Market & Shipping Track below it (black meeples) and the four Archaeology dig sites at the bottom (colorful meeples).

Above: Black marker marking the year, which is also the game timer.

This game does not have a fixed number of rounds. Each round is a year-in-elapsed-time and while the game would end by the 9th round (from year 1920-1928), it could also end earlier depending on certain conditions being met eg all exhibition tiles taken, last artifact card from a site is drawn etc

Each round starts with players collecting income (a base of 7 plus any bonus income from completed exhibitions) and you then take turns performing worker action until you are out of workers or you chose to pass (since worker action cost money).

There are four different type of workers, which determines which area on the gameboard you can perform action. The Museum worker (ie the white pieces) allows you to Research a new archaeology site or produce an exhibition at a museum, the black Ship worker allows you to ship out artifacts from an archaeology site or trade (buy/sell) artifacts on the black market, and worker huts (in your own player color eg blue above) used to indicate the number of workers you have at an archaeology site.

The last type of workers is the Site workers (in the site’s respective color) allow you to add new workers to an existing archaeology site (where you get to discover and ship out more artifacts). In the picture above, you can see the site workers for Middle East (turqoise color) and Asia (purple).

Archaeology Sites – researching, hiring workers and shipping out artifacts

The first order of action must be to start excavating at some sites, hoping to find some valuable artifacts to ship back and produce in exhibitions. There are archaeology sites in four continents (differentiated by the colors of their workers ie turqoise for Middle East, brown for Africa, etc).

If you have not yet set up camp in a site (eg Middle East above has no worker/camp yet), you’ll need to start with the Research action for which you’ll have to use a Museum worker (white meeples) and pay the corresponding research cost. The action costs get more expensive as more players choose that site so it’s always good to be an early bird.

Above: Research camps and workers being added to Middle East (first site on left with blue & red workers) while there’s only one yellow camp/worker in the Africa site (the one with brown workers next to Middle East).

If you already have a camp set up, you can just add more workers to the site by using the site’s worker (in the respective color) – and paying the Hire worker action cost accordingly.

The archaeology sites worked in a semi-cooperative manner… when the first camp/worker is set up in a site (eg yellow worker in the Africa site above), nothing happens. However when additional workers arrive – whether yours or other player – that site would start discovering artifact cards eg the Middle East site which had 2 blue workers and one red workers have discovered 2 artifacts. Basically you’ll always have one less artifact corresponding to the number of workers (all players) in a site.

Artifact cards are what you are after as you’ll need to exhibit them (in the correct combination) at museums.  A successful exhibition brings more income for future digs. Shipping out artifacts from a site is where things get a little cutthroat. When you choose to ship out artifacts (you use the black Ship worker to perform this action), you’ll get to choose as many artifacts as you have players in that site, so if you have three workers you get to pick three artifact cards.

However since each site always has one less artifact than corresponding number of site workers (all players), it meant the last player left on the site – if he chose to ship out artifacts – would always get one artifact card less. Ouch. Now that’s not good since it gives you poor return for the cost of sending site workers there. In fact, if you are the last player left in a site with only one worker, there’s no artifact card at all for you to even ship out!

You could of course try to monopolize a site eg two green workers (above) but in this case, if no other player came to help you dig more artifact cards from this site, you’ll still end up on the losing end as you’ll get one less artifact cards when you decide to cash-in from that site by shipping out.

So in short, the archaeology sites in this game encourage the players to work together to quickly dig out the precious artifacts, then try to be the first to ship out and not be the last fella left in the site! Tsk tsk.

You collect artifact cards (above) with the plan of collecting certain sets / combinations in order to produce an exhibition at any of the museums. You need to be fast though before your opponents steal a march on your exhibition plan.

Museum Exhibitions – producing exhibitions and trading of artifacts

After procuring the priceless artifacts from the dig sites (hopefully at the expense of your co-players who helped you, haha), you would want to be able to assemble the right set of artifacts to be exhibited at one of the museums. You use the Musem worker (the same white meeples used in researching archaeology sites described earlier in this report) to perform the Exhibition action.

Above: White Museum workers can be used either to research at a new archaeology site or to produce an exhibition at a museum. Both the white Museum and black Ship workers have dual use.

To exhibit at a museum, you need to have the required matching sets of artifact cards. You can select from four types of exhibition tiles to match (see above) and the choies are pretty broad to allow you to make flexible plans when it comes to making the exhibit decision. However this also means when you ship out artifacts from archaeology sites, you should have some pre-planning as to which type of exhibits you are planning to complete. The caveat is that you’ll hope none of your opponents are also going for the same type of exhibit else it’ll be a race to be the first to claim the exhibit tile.

Above: The various exhibit tiles available for you to pick from should you choose to perform the Produce an Exhibition action. Each combination is exhibited once and therefore you need to ensure you are in a position to grab that exhibit type before your opponents.

Producing exhibitions successfully also yields you prestige points (ie VP). There are actually only two ways to earn VP – 1) producing exhibitions, and 2) from coins leftover at end of game

The other complementary actions are to sell / buy artifacts from the black market. Here you use the black Ship worker to trigger a Black Market action which allows you to either 1) sell an artifact card to the market at the current price, or 2) buy one of the four artifact cards available in the black market.

Leftover money can be converted to VP and I think in our session, we realized a focus trading strategy could yield good VPs without having to resort to producing exhibitions (which is the obvious VP path).

The underlying tension in the game comes from 1) picking the right set of workers (Museum, Ship, Site?) for each round, and 2) timing the play in the archaeology sites so that you gain the better of your opponents when it comes to shipping out the artifact cards you cooperatively helped to discover from the sites.

While this is essentially a worker placement game, here you do not have generic workers where the type of actions you can perform is dependent on where you send the worker to (eg Agricola). In ARTIFACT, you have distinctive worker types – Museum, Ship, Site, Hut – and the type of workers you send out determines what type of actions they can perform.

I also liked how the game is not always played out to a fixed 9 rounds and can be rushed for an early finish (obviously you only do that if you feel you are in the lead and would win if the game finishes early). This can throw a spanner into your opponents plan especially if they had crafted a longer-term plan to max out the returns of their actions.

Our session ended on the 5th turn (above) when one of the sites ran out of artifact cards. I dun think anyone planned for that… we simply dug that site out too fast!! LOL.

Well, it can also be planned if you felt you are in the lead and wishes to rush-out the game instead of waiting for 9 rounds which may allow your opponents to catch up.

There are four ways this game can end;

1. The usual end when the game has played out all 9 rounds (indicated by the black round marker), or

2. All the ten exhibition tiles were produced from the the (top) Income track ie the track just below the round track, or

3. Three exhibition tiles of two different artifact types have been produced, or

4. The last artifact card is drawn from a site (as in our session).

The game could have done with better written rules. It took us some time to bend our heads around the rules but once you get the rules down, it’s not that difficult to teach the game. So this looks like another game where the rules are easier to teach than to read/learn yourself.

The box comes with the base game plus two expansions! So it’s really not a bad value for your money. I’ve had a read at the expansion rules and felt that the game would shine with the expansions in play.

The Archaeologists in the top right corner of the pic above are part of the expansion.

We were trying to grapple with the rules of the base game else would have tried the game with all expansions (as recommended by the designers). The expansions do not seem to make the rules any more difficult to teach.. Will be looking forward to doing this game again with both expansions.

The other downer is the game suffered from Dutch-based White Goblin Games lack of distribution plan in the US (or anywhere for that matter). Without getting this into the hands of US gamers, the game would suffer from lack of buzz. Which is what tends to happen to past & new White Goblin releases.

Get this from our webstore while stocks last.

WILDCATTERS

Stay tune for the sessrep of WILDCATTERS in the next instalment of this session report.

For more pictures of this meetup session, pls see our Facebook photo album (below).

140110_BGC_Meetup_FB_Album

 

 

 


For more photos of this gaming session, visit our Facebook Album.
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