Posted by: gschloesser | August 2, 2011


Design by:  Klaus Palesch
Publihed by:  Gold Sieber and Rio Grande Games
2 – 6 Players, 45 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

When I first read the description of Fossil, I thought it sounded quite a bit like Tutanchamun, one of the few Reiner Knizia games that I do not tremendously enjoy.  I found Tutanchamun to be fairly bland with not much excitement.  I feared that Fossil would fall into this same mold.

I was able to give Fossil a try for the first time while attending The Gathering convention in Hartford, Connecticut.  I expected the worst, but was pleasantly surprised.  In fact, I found the game so intriguing, I actually played it three times while at the convention, the most of any game I played.

The idea behind Fossil, now available in the United States from Rio Grande Games,  is for players to collect sets of fossils.  Each of the nine fossils has nine pieces scattered about the board, which is a 9 X 9 grid.  Each piece has a value ranging from 1 – 3.  However, there is only one ‘3’ value piece contained in each fossil set, two ‘2’ value pieces, with the remainder being only ‘1’ value pieces.  Of course, the higher valued pieces are the more desirous.

Movement is executed by moving one of the two stones on the board to a fossil piece you are looking to collect.  The stones move either horizontally or vertically (similar to a rook in Chess).  You are free to move it as far along the row the stone is in as you desire.  However, you must pay one point for each fossil piece you pass over and one point for the piece you actually land on and collect.  Players begin with 30 points and the only way to gain points is when all nine pieces of a fossil have been collected.  Thus, one must watch how he spends his points.  Do you spend three points to pass over several fossil pieces and take that tasty ‘3’ value piece, or do you conserve some points and simply move one space and settle for a ‘1’ value piece?

Points are scored when all nine pieces of a fossil have been collected.  The player collecting the ninth and final piece of a particular fossil can force a trade with any other player, usually boosting his own score.  The player collecting the final piece gets to trade any fossil piece from his collection – even those that are not of the particular piece which was just completed – to any other player and take a piece from that player.  The only restriction is that the pieces traded must be of equal value (for example, a ‘2’ value piece for another ‘2’ value piece).  When a fossil piece is closed, it is scored.   All players having none of the just completed fossil must pay a penalty to the player who was able to collect the majority of pieces of that fossil.  This penalty is equal to the number of pieces of the completed fossil that the player with the most pieces of that fossil has in his collection (example:  if Jay has 5 pieces and Eric has none, then Eric must give Jay 5 points).  Then, points are totaled for each player who managed to collect pieces of that fossil. Basically, each player receives points based on the following formula:

Number of fossil pieces collected X the cumulative value of the pieces collected

The game continues until all fossil pieces have been collected OR the two movement stones reach spaces where they can no longer be moved.  At that point, final points are tallied and the victor determined.

During the course of play, one must constantly keep an eye on what pieces are being collected by one’s opponents and be very careful not to make a move which will allow an opponent to scoop a high-valued piece or, worse, collect a ninth and final piece of a particular fossil and thereby be able to execute the extremely powerful ‘trade’ power I mentioned above.  As the game progresses, the decision on how to move the stone becomes tougher and tougher as the fossil pieces become fewer and fewer.

Another big feature of the game is no one is ever out of contention for victory.  After the first fossil is completed and scores are tallied, usually one player shoots ahead on the scoring track.  However, players are usually concentrating on collecting different fossils, so as those particular fossils close out, each player has a shot at a large score.  Final scores in the many games I have played have always been very close.

This game gets more and more intriguing each time I play it.  I caution players to not judge the game after only one playing, as it is the type of game wherein the strategies and tactics become clearer and more evident with each playing.  In spite of very simple mechanics and rules, it is, indeed, a thinking-man’s game.




  1. Good abstract. Because of the nature of the set collecting, all players need to be of similar skill level. One weak player will give the game to the person sitting to their left. 7/10

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