Board Game Gumbo: Spice It Up with Ancient Artifacts
Roll and write games are one of the hottest genres in board gaming, capped off by the recent nomination of Ganz Schon Clever to the SdJ, I am a fan, albeit one without a lot of experience in this particular genre. My ears always perk up when I hear of another good roll and write game being touted.
So, I watched with interest last year as former Louisiana resident, Derik Duley of Lagniappe Games, teased us with details of a new roll and write idea. He posted a request for themes for his game out in Twitter land, and laid out the broad strokes of the game play. He had a few clever nominations, but when someone suggested an Indy Jones adventurer type theme, his game quickly took on a life of its own.
Fast forward to 2018, with a successful Kickstarter project behind him, and Derik is delivering on his promise to get copies of his dice chucking, push your luck experience to adventurers all over the world.
Does your game group enjoy roll and write games? Do you thrill to the chase of a good push-your-luck dice fest?
Well, then, Spice it up – with Ancient Artifacts!
In Ancient Artifacts, from one to four adventurers will roll their way to locate three separate artifacts, diving into the ocean or trekking across deserts or even slithering through the jungle to find them. The game takes about thirty minutes, comes in an attractive two-hand-sized box, and can be taught in less than five minutes.
As is typical of roll and writes, players each get a score sheet that lays out the dice tracks — basically the progress track for desert (orange dice), ocean (blue dice) and jungle sections (green dice). There are three dice of each color in the game that will be placed in the included velvet bag for randomization.
Players will take turns drawing the region dice (the number depends on the player count, but generally it is two for solo games and one for 2-4 player games) and attempting to play them on the very beautifully drawn atlas. This atlas is a small board that has all three regions on it, with each region have special actions. These range from exploring, to diving, to research and each represent different areas on the player’s score sheets. Of course, there are placement rules on the dice that make for some delicious decisions when placing the dice, especially in the middle to late rounds of the game. In short, some of the areas require certain colors, and some require certain numbers, so placement is key.
The players also start out with ten dollars (and can earn more by completing stages of the progres tracks), and can use the money to draft more dice if they are not happy with their first result. It is very important that players get a good placement. Why? Because if a player puts a die down that not only matches the color but also matches the right number for that color, and that puts the player into the bonus for that action. That bonus can be VERY powerful.
Next, it is time to start rolling the action dice. But first, the other players will survey the action chosen, and if the other player also needs to complete that action in the same region, then they can choose to “follow” by paying a dollar from their ever dwindling stash. The active player than adds one follow checkmark for each player that follows the active player, and starts rolling. (Whichever player has the most follows at the end of the game gets either social media stardom, or more likely, three additional points at the end of the game.)
This is the push your luck stage. Players will try to match the symbols necessary to complete their action, and getting too many raider results can cause you to lose one of the three chances you have at completing the progress track. (Of course, so long as you don’t “bust”, you can always pay that dollar again to reroll all your dice.)
Once a player cannot advance any longer on the score track, the rest of the players take one last turn, and then count up the victory points for each section of the progress track that was completed plus all the dollars that the player has not spent. The winner is the player with the most points.
Faithful readers of the Gumbo know that I love small box games that pack a big punch, and so it will come as no surprise when I say that I love Ancient Artifacts’ boxed presentation. The box is a little bit bigger than Dice Hate Me Games’ monkey sized boxes, so it can easily fit in your hand or stowed in a backpack for traveling. There is a picture of the components on the back, and the box cover gives that mysterious feeling that comes with any adventure game of this genre. Full disclosure, I was a Kickstarter backer so somewhere on the bottom box part is my name, a nice touch by Derik to recognize all of the supporters of the game.
The dice themselves are nicely sized, and the adventure dice have custom etched symbols of all of the potential roll results, from the dreaded raider to the diving helmet and machete. As for scoring sheets, you probably won’t run out — Lagniappe Games has included a ton of them and they are double sided.
The atlas board may be my favorite part of the presentation. It is a small board that fits perfectly between all of the players, and has a tidy graphical presentation of the world that you are exploring. The symbology is clean and simple, and makes teaching the game a breeze. Plus, the set up is so quick, even for new players, that the game will be up and running in a minute or so, which is handy for those who like to game on the go.
BUT IS IT FUN?
I am relatively new to roll and writes (other than my formative years of gaming in the 70s and 80s playing Yahtzee, of course.) I think I have only played three or four, with No Siesta being the first, followed up by Harvest Dice earlier this year, and then Ancient Artifacts.
The three are so different that I can easily justify keeping all of them. But as much as I like the other two, it is the solo component of Ancient Artifacts and the luck elements that l come out in the multiplayer games that have really won me over. I find myself going back to Ancient Artifacts over and over again, trying to better my last score.
When we last played it Sunday night, there was so much cheering and razzing that I am sure the neighbors thought it must have been akin to a Saints versus Falcons game on TV. The combination of the follow and push your luck mechanisms really make for some interesting dice based theater!
That brings up an aside. Maybe the real reason I like roll and write games is that they can use the core mechanic in so many clever ways that having two or three (or even more) does not seem superfluous. When I want a thinky but fun euro style game, I’ll go for something like No Siesta. When I want a game that’s a little more breezy but with some fun take that elements, I’ll bring out Harvest Dice. And when I’m in the mood for a solo game, or have a bunch of friends who like to push their luck and egg each other on, I’ll definitely grab Ancient Artifacts.
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler et rouler et rouler! (But watch out for those Raiders!)