Saturday, August 22, 2015

Thebes: The Tomb Raiders - a review

Number of players: 2-4
Time: 20-30 minutes (with 2 players, at least)
Complexity: Low-medium
Style of game: Set collection/Hand management

Before I begin the review, I should be honest and say that I've never played Thebes only this game.  I got this game off of a BGG auction after reading a recommendation for the larger game.  This game offers a fun experience with a couple of interesting mechanics that I haven't found in a lot of games (as of yet).

For set up of the game, you will fill out the card row with knowledge cards, scientists, tomb raiders, assistant professors, and thieves.  Once the card row is filled out and the top card of the deck has a green back, the game begins.  For each card marked with a "P" (also with gray backgrounds) you set aside in the storage area, marked by the board.

Cards that do not have a green back go in the respective piles indicated by the board.  These are your artifacts that you are trying to raid.  They are worth victory points at the end of the game; are worth knowledge points; or are rubble, in which case they are added back to the artifacts pile.

The normal sized cards are dealt to each player.  These are your excavation cards.  These are finite and have to be played if you want to excavate (which you do as it is the main way of scoring victory points).  The only other way to excavate is the general excavation cards that will be available in the card row.

During your turn, you have a couple of choices for what you can do.  You can take a card from the card row paying its cost in time.  If it is a knowledge card (showing books) you get to add it to your play area signifying how much knowledge you have in that subject.  If it is a person, such as a thief, a tomb raider, a scientist, or an assistant professor, you add it to your hand.  The other card is that added to your hand is the general excavation cards.

You can take a presentation card, either the museum or the exhibition cards and pay the time.  The museum cards allow you to trade artifacts in to score more points.  The lowest museum point total is 4 points, which only costs 1 artifact.  You can essentially trade 1 victory point for 4.  The exhibition cards can be purchased from the card supply if you have the required artifacts listed on the card.  As you have more artifacts, the time cost for the exhibitions will decrease.

You can play a card from your hand.  To play a card from your hand, you must pay a time cost.  Each of the cards do separate things.  The scientist allows you to look through a given stack for the tomb.  A thief allows you to take any one of the cards from a tomb (excluding rubble from what we understand from the rules).  A tomb raider allows you take any one artifact from a tomb.  For each of these, you draw the cards from the tomb and you are able to look through and select the card of your choice.

You can choose to excavate.  To excavate you look at the number of knowledge points that you have for that tomb color and decide how many weeks you would like to excavate.  You look at your chart for excavation and see how many cards you flip over from the tomb color.  The artifacts are worth various amounts of points.  When you choose to excavate, you can play an assistant professor from your hand to increase your knowledge points.  You do have to play an excavation card to excavate or a general excavation card.

When you have 4 or more knowledge points in a given color and more than your opponent, you receive a card with 8 victory points at the end of the game.  This card can be taken from you if another player plays more knowledge points in a given color than you.

I keep talking about time in this review.  In this game, whoever is behind on the time track is the one who gets to go.  This is an interesting twist as it changes the normal flow of play of going back and forth between the players.  This allows you to strategize for your turns.

The game ends when the deck runs out.  You score all the victory points on your cards and bonuses.  The person with the most points wins.

Pros: The time determinant for who gets to go next is very interesting.  I really enjoy this mechanic (is it technically a mechanic, I'm sure someone on BGG will correct me) in Tokaido and even moreso in Patchwork (oh, how I enjoy Patchwork).  The game is full of interesting decisions which is why I got into board games as a hobby, in the first place.  The search for artifacts in the tombs is fun and makes you decide on when you need to excavate.  You need to balance out how much time you want to spend with how many cards you may need.  The presentation cards also presents interesting decisions to decide when you want an exhibition and if/when you want a museum.  The game allows you to prevent your opponent from getting too many artifacts from the tomb if you can excavate before them or you can steal from the tomb.

Cons: Those dumb small cards.  I hate these small cards.  It is the reason why the 1910 expansion for Ticket to Ride is so necessary.  Given normal sized cards, there are very few complaints about this game.

Overall: 78/100 (trending up)

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