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One of the many wonderful aspects of the board game hobby is that you can often be so pleasantly surprised by the enjoyability of games that you were initially neutral about, or perhaps not having very high expectations of.

01 BoxRecently, I was lucky enough to get my hands on ArchaeOlogic. That game had in no way appeared on my game radar before that, and when I saw the title and the picture on the front of the box, the only association the lazy part of my brain made was, "It must have something to do with history and archaeology." That a solid link to Logic was also made by the French game makers at Ludonaute (after all, it says 'ArcheOlogic' and not 'archeological'), only became clear to me later.

Needless to say, I went in virtually blank. Hadn't read any reviews on board game forums. Didn’t watch any instructional videos. Just opened the box and let the contents come at me. Rule books in French and in English. Fine. Punched a couple of things out of cardboard. Took a closer look at the artwork. Hm. It has quite a high-tech look to it, so let's adjust our preconceived notions about 'archeological excavations' and 'antiquity'. This all looks rather futuristic. Could it not be a history game at all, but something SF-like?

04 PlayerboardHey, that’s cool: the shape of the tiles reminds me of the computer game Tetris. Ah, OK: so it's a puzzle game and apparently there are codes to be cracked. Nice. Always liked brainteasers (cryptograms, sudokus). Going through rulebook step by step. Doesn't seem too complicated in terms of gameplay.

Would you look at that: there we have some sort of a backstory. A city has been discovered in the mountains, but it turns out to be full of traps and no one dares to enter the area before it is properly mapped. You are an archaeologist and have a reputation for being a formidable logical thinker. In addition, you have the very latest technological gadgets at your disposal, and you will primarily be using the Archaeoscope--an instrument that can be used to decipher the encoded maps of the Ancients. The Ancients? Who are they? No further explanation.

But ArcheOlogic isn’t really about the story or about the theme. After all, it could just as easily have been about the Explosive Ordnance Survey or something similar. No, it is about puzzling, asking the right questions, using your time sparingly (because Time functions in this game as a bargaining chip to pay for the clues) and finding the solution to the riddle faster than your opponents. OK. All clear. And I'm starting to get more and more excited about it. Some details still to go through step by step. Setting things up for two players ... Only to discover that the rulebook also provides for a real solo mode. So let's get into that first. And ... let's play!

13 App3About twenty minutes later, I think I have cracked the code. There are two ways to check the solution: look up the example in the back of the rulebook or scan the QR code of the Code Card. I'm a little curious whether that works well. And yes, it does: it works very well indeed and of course it fits nicely with the technological look and feel of the game. Let's see. Have I properly mapped out the city and traps? Check, check. Yes!

So. What do we think? Nice. Very nice indeed. Immediately played it again. And a few more times in the following days. As a solo game, ArcheOlogic is very successful in my opinion. The gameplay is easy to master, there is little set-up time, the Archaeoscope and the other Clue Disc are easy to use and solving the puzzles is challenging and satisfying. You can challenge yourself even more by adjusting the difficulty. Specifically, you do this by allowing yourself fewer starting clues (not 5, but 4, or 3).

As far as replayability is concerned, the 28 code cards in the game box will get you through quite a few play sessions. And given the well-functioning app, and how the publishers presents themselves online, I expect additional puzzle fun to be delivered soon.

ArcheOlogic is also a fine game with opposing players, by the way, but then it reveals itself as a (much less relaxed) race. After all, we mainly want to be the first to crack the code. In the collective game, cardboard screens are used, behind which everyone tries to combine the Tetris tiles in the correct way as quickly as possible. Obviously, the aim is to hide everyone's progress from each other, but unfortunately, the screens are not of the best quality (rather flimsy, not high enough and, oddly enough, they consist of two separate parts). Furthermore, you and your opponents all affect the Time Track together, so everyone's plans are constantly thwarted and tactics have to be constantly adjusted. Thus, compared to solo mode, quite a few frustration elements are added. Or put more positively, when you face the puzzle with more people, ArcheOlogic becomes more exciting, complex and challenging. For some people, perhaps. Personally, I prefer the solo mode.

Anyway: a very pleasant surprise, this game. In any case, ArcheOlogic has caused my game radar to be recalibrated and from now on will also beep when puzzle games appear.

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