Before I begin I was provided a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review. If you would prefer to watch a video review of this game, check it out below.
There are a ton of game mechanics out there, and I will be honest the least exciting sounding ones to me are “hand management”, and “set collection”. In general this is because it makes me think of hearts and spades, which are delightful games, fun games, but dry. On the other hand (see what I did there?), an Indiana Jones meets National Treasure meets Carmen San Diego themed game is exactly what I am talking about!
So clearly I had no clue what to actually expect when I busted out Antiquity Quest, but having heard many good things about the publisher’s games I wanted to check it out and see for myself.
Antiquity Quest plays like many set collection games. You are collecting cards (various antiquities from different ancient societies) into your hand and trying to create sets worth the most points, and place them into your tableau. It is possible in this game to place cards out before you have completed a set, which allows your opponents to add cards into your unfinished sets to make them less valuable. The ability to do this makes it different from a fair number of set collection games in my experience.
However, what really makes this game feel different to me is that you have two hands of cards. Yup. Two hands. One of them however, is placed face down, and you cannot even look at it until you get rid of your first hand. This adds a certain amount of unknown to the game, and makes it much harder to plan the “perfect strategy”. The round ends immediately once someone gets rid of their last card from the second hand. This causes a bit of a mad scramble to get rid of your cards as players start to get close to placing their last card, because every card left in your hand is worth negative points, this includes your ENTIRE second hand should you not get to it.
The last thing that needs to be be mentioned is that there are two special cards in the game, Remmington cards, which allow you to draw additional cards immediately, and Tess cards which, when discarded cause the entire discard pile to be removed from the game. (It is possible under the right circumstance to take the discard pile into your hand). The game ends after three rounds (or just a single for a faster game).
So what do I think?
The game is simple to learn, with enough variety and strategy to be engaging, but not so much that a family can not learn it. I played first with my mother, who often has many many questions until she has played a game several times, and with this one she grasped it quickly, and only occasionally had questions.
I also really enjoyed that though the sets are simple enough to figure out there is enough variety that you have meaningful decisions to make. Do you want to use your treasure cards to just complete a set for some points? Or do you want to use a treasure to sabotage an opponents set? Or do you want to hold on to your treasures in an attempt to get the ultimate 1500 point treasure set? I also really like that you can sabotage your opponents sets, but not to the point where their efforts are wasted. You see by putting a treasure into their set you merely reduce the value of the set, not eliminate it completely.
Finally, I love the way the second hand works. It really changes the game. While everyone is on their first hand the game seems more strategic, you are trying to get the most value from your sets, you are holding cards longer, you might be taking the entire discard pile, giving you a ton of cards, but potentially giving you the potential for a lot of points. However, once people start on the second hand, the game is not a bit of a push your luck. If you are holding cards you are risking significant negative points, so many players start playing faster trying to go out, and harm the other players. This is a cool twist.
Finally (part 2), the game does come with a couple of advanced options you can add, these effect the scoring and how you will try to claim your sets. They are complex enough to feel like you are adding value to the game, but not so complex that pretty much anyone could not use the variants. I also appreciate that the game comes with a teams mode, while that is not especially exciting to me, I am sure that a lot of people will be pumped by that.
I will start with the art. It is fine, it does the job, but after looking at it the first time, I find that I am not really paying attention to the art as the game goes on. The second thing that I will point out is that the scoring at the end of a round is not as simple as you might like. You see there are different point values for each set depending on exactly what is in them, so you have to go back at the end and really pay close attention to what you are doing, and it takes a just a bit longer than I might like. I suspect that when I have time I will make a small play mat to easily track finished sets and scoring.
Finally, I think the theme is not fully realized. I will not go so far as to say it feels pasted on, because the inclusion of the special cards, how they play, and their flavor; in conjunction with the ability to sabotage other players collections does help with the theme. However, at the end of the day it is more of a vibe than a fully realized theme.
My only real complaint is that the game takes longer than you would expect it to. I will say that the estimate on the side of the box is accurate, but when you learn how to play it just does not seem like it can, or should take that long. This is likely more a critique of my own expectations, not the game, but if I found that, then I suspect others might as well.
Bringing it all together
Antiquity Quest is a fun, easy to learn game that has a fun theme, and has more strategy than you would guess at first glance. The art is solid, and the game mechanics, which allow for some sabotaging of opponents tableaus, and the inclusion of a mystery second hand of cards makes for exciting gameplay. The game itself takes longer than you might expect to play (with a full three round game), and scoring can take a little while.
I will be an antiquity myself before I can read all that
* Easy to learn, deceptively strategic set collection game
* Decent art, decent theme integration
* Core mechanics of the game are quite fun
* Variants offered with the game are all great additions
* Not a fast game, and scoring can take longer than expected
* My mother really wants to play again…need I say more?