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Race to Solve a Tricky Deduction Puzzle in ArcheOlogic

Map out the plans of an ancient city, one tile and one trap at a time. Be the first to find the correct layout with deduction, reasoning, and good use of time.

Published by Ludonaute, ArcheOlogic is a 40-minute puzzle deduction game for 1-4 players, ages 12 and up.

Gameplay

The goal of the game is to be the first to figure out the exact positions in which the six tiles should be arranged in your game board, leaving three spaces in the grid open. Tiles are made up of squares, with some of them showing special-colored icons. These icons must also be in their correct positions on the game board.

Turn order is determined by who is currently last on the turn track. The turn track circles around the viewfinder track. At the start of a player’s turn, the viewfinder token moves forward. This track will show either a number, which corresponds to one of the rows on all the player boards, or a letter, which corresponds to one of the columns. First, the active player may choose to spend one time point to move the viewfinder another step on its track, or two to move it to any location on the track. Then the player chooses one of the available questions. These questions cost 1-3 time points. For each time point spent, that active player’s pawn moves forward one space on the turn tracker.

Questions will be about the tiles or colored icons on the row or column indicated by the viewfinder token. For example, questions might be about how many squares of a specific tile lie on that row/column, or which colored icons. The active player checks the answer on the archeoscope device. This requires you to set your question, and then place the active puzzle’s code card underneath the device to reveal the answer. 

When you believe you have found the solution, you arrange the tiles behind your player screen in the formation you believe to be correct and spend four time points. The next time your pawn is in last position, you will check your layout to see if it is correct. There are two possible ways to do this: with or without the companion app. With the app, you tell the app your answer and the app will tell you which tiles are correct and you can continue playing. Without the app, you check your answer in the rulebook — if you are correct you win the game; otherwise, you are eliminated.

Review

The puzzle at the heart of ArcheOlogic is clever, inventive, and unique. It’s a real workout for the brain, as players try to both gather enough information to point them towards the specific tile layout they need, and then put those pieces of information together to reach the correct answer.

Using more time to ask more useful questions is also a fun mechanic, even allowing players potentially to have multiple turns in a row if other players skip too far ahead on the time tracker. It leads to a fun balance between what piece of the puzzle to pursue and getting too far ahead of the other players on the track. The viewfinder mechanic can also force players to be creative with what questions they ask if they want to avoid spending time on adjusting it. The result is an interesting merging of action selection and deduction mechanics.

However, there is next to no player interaction here. People don’t hear the answers to someone else’s questions. The result is a lot of downtime at the higher player counts. This is especially true early in the game where no one has enough information to really even be working on a solution. There’s also only so much planning of your next question you can do, since players can’t be certain where the viewfinder will be on their turn.

Aesthetically, the game is pretty. There’s a steampunk look to the game, with a fun archaeology theme to go with it. Unfortunately, the device for checking answers is a bit clunky to use, and you need to follow the steps in the exact order for using it, or you’ll accidentally see answers to the other questions. Given that there is an app, it’s a little strange that there’s not also an option for checking questions on there, as well. We did like that the app gave the option for an incorrect guess at the solution not leading to immediate player elimination.

ArcheOlogic is almost a great game, and there are a lot of great elements here. While we enjoyed the restraints that the viewfinder mechanic imposed, it could also be frustrating at times. If you enjoy logic puzzles, you can have a lot of fun with it, but just be careful not to play with too many people. In fact, the solo mode is quite enjoyable and allows the puzzles to really shine.

Pros: Aesthetics, the puzzle that is the meat of the game is really fun, the app allows you to avoid player elimination

Cons: Little to no player interaction, downtime at higher player counts, device to check questions is fiddly

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.



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