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ARTIFACT

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Outset Media, 2-6 players, ages 12 and up, about 60 minutes; $29.99)

 

One of the crimes of modern times is the theft of archeological treasures. In Artifact, you do something about it as part of an Artifact Recovery Team, winging your way around the world to recover these stolen goods.

Artifact comes boxed with a mounted board depicting the world bordered by a movement track, 72 artifact cards, 24 informant cards, 6 legend cards, 180 Challenge cards, 90 pieces (in six colors), a pair of six sided dice, a bunch of gold coins, a 15 second sand timer and 4 pages of rules.

Players begin their quests equipped with 8 coins and 15 pieces in their chosen color. The artifact cards are shuffled and each player dealt a hand of 8 cards. On each turn, a player goes through three phases.

First, a player may either spend coins OR earn coins. Coins are used to buy informant cards at 2 coins each and/or Artifact Recovery Teams (ARTeams) for 3 coins each. Informant cards are the chance cards of the game except you’re not taking a chance when you buy them; they are all good, allowing you to do such nice things as grab artifact cards or move ahead on the board. Purchased ARTeams are represented by a player’s pieces and are placed on the stone circle of the player’s choice located below a specific country on the board. These teams are essential in returning artifacts – and returning artifacts is essential to winning the game! Money can be tight in the game so, rather than spending coins on one of these two options, you will be forced to earn coins at some point or another by drawing a Challenge card.

Three components make up a Challenge card. Memory is a 15 second challenge (that’s where the timer comes in) to memorize a list of facts. Each fact you can recite gets you one coin. Quiz is similar to memory in that you look at the back of the card, memorize the answers and, for each question you then get right (when asked by an opponent), you get two coins. The final choice is Surprise! where you toss a die or two and earn that number of coins.

Next comes trading. A player may either trade Artifact cards with another player OR trade with the deck. In trading with another player, only ONE player may be involved in the deal; if trading with the deck, the player discards as many Artifact cards as he wants to the bottom of the Artifact deck and then draws an equal number from the top.

Artifacts are represented by three card sets. (There are 24 sets of three in the game.) The cards indicate the country from which the artifact came, the assigned number of the country (ranging from 2 to 12) and how many spaces you move once you return an artifact. The least likely numbers to appear (such as 2 or 12) jet you farther along the track than countries given more likely numbers (such as 7).

Once a player has a set of Artifact cards, he may return that particular artifact to its home country PROVIDED that an ARTeam is in place at that location. If no ARTeam is present, the artifact CANNOT be returned! If an ARTeam is there, no matter what the allegiance of the particular team, the active player places one of HIS pieces on top of the ARTeam piece in the matching country. His reward is to move the specified number of spaces around the board (ranging from 3 to 5) AND draw a new Artifact card from the deck. The player who has the ARTeam on that space benefits as well by moving ahead three spaces.

Finally, the dice are rolled. Dice rolls matching a country’s number allow players with ARTeams there to draw one Artifact card for each match. (No hoarding here. There is a hand limit of 10 cards.)

The first player to successfully circumnavigate the world by traveling around the board perimeter and returning to start is the winner!

Artifact could have fallen into the “trivia trap”, relying on the arcane at the expense of playability. Fortunately, the game avoids that pitfall as the thrust of play is on set collecting and placement of ARTeams to propel players around the board. Positioning is paramount. Place your ARTeams in countries with numbers more likely to be rolled and you’ll be sure to draw more Artifact cards. Place your teams in least likely positions and you increase your movement potential, a significant factor as the track is only 36 spaces long. (For example, return an Artifact to Korea, numbered 7, and you advance 3 spaces – and another 3 if you have an ARTeam placed there. Return an Artifact to Egypt, numbered 2, and you will advance 5 spaces. Should you also have an ARTeam positioned there, you’ll move ahead a considerable 8!)

While searching for lost treasure, Artifact is a found treasure offering players a clever mixture of knowledge, strategy and fun.- – – Herb Levy


 

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