I’ve had a chance to play Ancient Artifacts in several iterations. In its present (and near final state), Ancient Artifacts is a roll and write game about searching for hidden treasure by accessing abilities through dice placement and push your luck rolling.
One of the really great things about this game is how it makes you feel like you are working very hard to achieve your goals. It never felt “easy.” There are other games where you play along and it’s all easy-breezy. There isn’t a feeling of tension or struggle. Those really aren’t my kind of games.
In Ancient Artifacts though, success is something that feels good. You may have struggled a bit or were *this close* to landing the die roll you needed! While the game is entirely competitive, there is sense of camaraderie for success. Though if there is too much success by one player the eyes may get a bit narrowed and the trash-talk may ramp up.
This reminded me in certain ways of Camel Up (though they are so far apart as far as game play). There is a definite sense of engagement throughout this game. While I’m playing Ancient Artifacts I’m much less inclined to be on my phone or getting up from the table to do something else while others are playing. My attention is right there!
As I play Ancient Artifacts more and more I see myself searching for tracks. Looking into new and different options. I rarely feel like my quests are the same. I’ve had games where I doggedly pursued 1 artifact track at a time and others where I started on each track, then gradually worked along all of the tracks simultaneously. This is easier in solo, by the way, as playing multiplayer can definitely feel like a race to glory! Each roll of the dice gets me closer to my goal, but how can I disrupt my opponents? Conveniently, I can draft the dice they’re after or place in the territory they need for their next move. This can certainly slow down the opponents’ progress. Another fun trick with Ancient Artifacts is Following. Pay a little money and you get to ride the coattails of your opponent. This can be extremely helpful if you are getting close to where you need to be or even just to encourage the opponent to try for a lesser gain. It may even be a viable strategy to encourage opponents to follow you, then Bust! Nothing like being able to work that metagaming in to really make the opponents question your play and actions.
Another truly cool thing about Ancient Artifacts is the solo mode. I can run through a game on my own in pretty short order, around 20 minutes or so. Each time I’ve played this game solo my mind didn’t wander off. I never felt bored or like I was just going through the motions.
In thinking about all of this, it reminds me of watching Indiana Jones as a kid. Tensing up as he weighed that bag of sand in Temple of Doom as he’s about to displace the gold statue. Ancient Artifacts really captures that feeling of tension, can I get the right combo of dice I need? Will I bust and be out for that turn? Did I plan my moves just right?
I feel this level of engagement at certain times in certain games, but rarely am I this engaged. Every moment of playing feels like a high wire act. Do I take the matching dice and go diving for a bonus or do I instead wade deeper into the jungles? There is a lot of solid choice in a game like this.
Roll and Write games feel like a new-ish trend. Granted we’ve had Yahtzee since the 1940’s and many new ones hit the market every year. Ancient Artifacts, for me, fits into a place next to Roll Through the Ages. It has meaty decisions, clever actions, and most importantly, it’s a blast to play!
As I have had a chance to play and review the nearly final game, I want to give a shout out on the graphic design. This game is stunning to look at! It absolutely drips theme! I can’t wait to see what they do with stretch goals. I believe they are planning for engraved dice, which would be really awesome. I highly encourage everyone to check this game out on Kickstarter this August. Feel free to tell them Benny sent you!
Disclaimer: I received a (p)review copy of the game from Lagniappe Games.