Posted by: gschloesser | September 9, 2020


Designer Uncredited
Published by AEG
2 – 5 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser

Curios is part of AEG’s line of games that are aimed squarely at the family and casual gamers market.  These are games that are designed to be fairly simple, easy to understand, and playable quickly.  The idea is to tap into the vast market of folks who aren’t nearly as into games as hobbyists, but do enjoy playing an occasional game around the dining room table.  Who knows which game will be the next UNO?

Curios casts players in the roles of rogue archaeologists, attempting to find hidden treasures and artifacts at various locations across the globe.  Players vie with their opponents to uncover and collect rare artifacts, hoping that they will prove the most valuable.  Fame and wealth awaits the cleverest…and perhaps the most unscrupulous…archaeologist!

There are four sites where these potential treasures can be uncovered:  The Great Pyramid, The Forbidden Temple, The Lost Shipwreck and The Ancient Colosseum.  Each of these locations is represented by a small board, each of which has five columns of spaces where players may place their archaeologists.  The columns range in capacity from one to four archaeologists.

Each treasure site also has a set of corresponding cards valued 1, 3, 5 and 7.  Each set of cards is shuffled individually and one is placed face-down by the respective sites.  This number on this card—which is hidden—is the ultimate value of the treasures found at that site.  For example, if it is found at game’s end that The Great Pyramid’s card value is 3, then each treasure collected from that site is worth three points.  Of course, a player will want to collect the most valuable treasures, so deducing the value of each site’s treasures during the course of the game is a primary goal.

After each treasure location receives a face down card, all of the remaining cards are assembled and shuffled into one deck.  Each player is then dealt a number of cards based on the number of players.  For example, with a full complement of five players, each player receives only two cards.  A player will now have some information as he knows that the two cards he possesses cannot be the value of those sites’ treasures.  This isn’t much knowledge, but fortunately more information will be gained as the game progresses.

In addition to a few cards, each player also receives five archaeologists (plastic pawns), with the remaining set aside as a pool.  These can be acquired during the game, but at the cost of revealing more information to one’s opponents.

Each turn, a player must take one or more of his available archaeologists and place them at one of the four treasure sites.  However, he must completely fill the leftmost unoccupied column at that site.  If he cannot completely fill a column, he cannot place archaeologists at that location. The numbers of archaeologists required increases from just one up to four.  Thus, the first player to place at a site only needs one archaeologist, while subsequent players will need more.  Conserving archaeologists allows the player more placement options on future turns, so this usually results, especially early in the game when the actual value of the treasures is unknown, in players choosing the least expensive option on their turn.

If a player does completely fill a column, he takes one of the treasures from beneath that site.  These treasures are small plastic gems with a color that matches the site.  A player saves these as they will be worth points at game’s end.  The actual number of points each gem is worth is what the players are attempting to decipher.

Once all players have placed as many archaeologists as they can, each site is examined to determine which player has the most archaeologists present there.  That player receives a bonus artifact from that site.  Ties are unfriendly, with no player receiving the bonus artifact.  Archaeology can be a cruel occupation.  All archaeologists are then returned to their owners.

At this point, each player has the opportunity to recruit an additional archaeologist from the pool.  To do so, however, he must publically reveal one of his Market cards, which gives his opponents more information as to the actual value of the treasures.  Having more archaeologists is certainly advantageous, but revealing information to one’s opponents may increase competition at the sites that are perceived to be the most valuable.  While this choice may appear at first glance to be difficult, in reality acquiring a new archaeologist is much more vital, so the choice isn’t really difficult at all.  Each player can acquire at most two more archaeologists during the course of the game.

Play continues in fashion until two or more treasure sites have been depleted of artifacts.  The game concludes at the end of that round.  At this point, the cards at each site are revealed, thereby determining the value of each site’s artifact.  Players use this information to tally the value of their collected artifacts.  The player with the greatest value rises to prominence in archaeologist circles and wins the game.

Upon reading the rules, I initially thought that Curios would be an engaging game filled with some interesting decisions and a challenging deduction element.  Sadly, I found that the game is sorely lacking in these departments.  There are numerous flaws, with the result being a game that is mostly scripted and unexciting.  A shame.

The rule wherein a player must completely fill the leftmost column at a site generally results in players rushing to take the most inexpensive sites.  This is especially true through much of the game when players have little knowledge as to the value of the cards at the sites.  With four or five players, only a few cards are in one’s possession, so one can never really ascertain these values until it is far too late to act upon this knowledge.

Often there is really no choice on a player’s turn as to where to place his remaining archaeologists.  Often there is only one place where these archaeologists can fill a column, so the player has no choice.  Many times a player has only one or two archaeologists remaining, and they cannot be placed anywhere.  The rules create this situation frequently and force a player to simply place their archaeologists wherever they can legally fit.  Unexciting and forced.

As mentioned, acquiring new archaeologists is vital, so revealing the identity of a card is not a high cost to pay.  The intent was clearly to create a tough choice for the players, but in reality it is a no-brainer.

The deduction aspect also seemed intriguing, but in reality players have such meager information to start, that choosing which artifacts to collect is little more than a slightly educated guess.  By the time enough information is gathered to have better than a 50/50 guess at a location’s value, the game is nearing its end and the supply of treasures is just about gone.  While brevity in a game can be good—and is clearly the aim of this line of AEG’s games—in this case, a bit more time would have been helpful.

While I applaud AEG’s efforts at releasing games aimed at the family and casual gamers market, this particular installment is a bust.  The game seems poorly developed, as the problems I outline should have easily been identified during the development process.  I have played two others in this series and both are far superior to Curios.  Hopefully, this is just an aberration in a line that will ultimately prove to be successful.


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