There’s a reason that franchises like Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider and Uncharted have proven so popular over the years, everyone loves a good adventure. Rugged people travelling to exotic locations and engaging in adventurous antics can be a feast for the soul. But capturing that sense of danger and adventure in board game form can often be hit or miss. Lost Ruins of Arnak presents its own take on the adventure game genre capturing the spirit of exploring forbidden temples and battling terrifying creatures in gloriously illustrated style!
You Call This Archeology?
Lost Ruins of Arnak is a 1-4 player adventure game incorporating euro game elements and a resource driven engine powered by combined deck building and worker placement systems. Players are explorers competing against one another to make the most significant discoveries in the jungles of Arnak, seeking out ruins, uncovering artefacts and defeating monstrous guardians. The game includes a solo mode as well, so you can go it alone.
He Chose… Poorly!
While on the surface the game appears to be another by the numbers deck builder, Lost Ruins of Arnak does things a little differently. Rather than placing purchased cards in a discard pile and then waiting and hoping to see that card come up in an undetermined future round, two adjustments have been made to the tried and true deck building formula to lessen the randomness of play and ensure you see your newly purchased cards in a timely fashion. The first of these is that new cards are placed at the bottom of a players’ draw pile rather than in a discard pile, in fact, there is no discard pile at all, this guarantees the card will come up in the next round or two. Secondly, cards used during a turn are shuffled then placed at the bottom of the draw pile again providing actionable information about when you can expect to see those cards again. This semi-predictable cycling of cards helps players to make more informed decisions about how and when to spend their precious resources and anticipate when they may want to take on a guardian or explore a new location.
The second major system is worker placement, this is used primarily to explore new locations in an effort to secure resources which, in turn, can be used to purchase cards, defeat enemies or further progress on the research track. Players have only two workers each, so this system functions to complement the deck building elements and provide players with further options for advancing their position. Much of the worker placement is where the luck element is present, newly explored locations are unpredictable and bring with them the added threat of the guardians (discussed in the next section), but little progress can be made without driving further inland and uncovering new points of interest. I feel this part of the game is what most encapsulates the sense of exploration and discovery that Lost Ruins of Arnak tries to convey.
Snakes! Why Did it Have to Be Snakes?
As mentioned earlier, newly discovered ruins are not only home to resources, but the fierce guardians who protect them. These beasts range from giant scorpions and gigantic predatory raptors to even more terrifying mythical creatures. However, while the imagery on the guardian tokens may depict them in all their gruesome monstrosity, defeating any guardian is as simple as spending the required resources to overcome it and remove it from the game, netting the intrepid explorer who vanquished it with a nest egg of victory points. If a player should fail to defeat a guardian before the end of their turn, that player adds a fear card to their deck. Fear cards may be used for only the most basic movement to one of the starting action spaces, and are worth -1 point for each obtained fear card at the end of the game. They take up valuable space in the player’s hand so keeping these to a minimum is advisable.
The theme works well and gradually exploring the island encompasses a sense of adventure
Component quality is excellent, the plastic resource tokens as a nice tactile element
Gameplay is fast and simple, yet offers a wealth of decisions during any given turn
The deck building mechanics here provide a fresh take on the concept.
Luck mitigation and reduced randomness due to the clever interweaving of systems
Gorgeously illustrated game board
The game feels over too quickly, just one or two more rounds please!
Research track seems cumbersome
Guardians are a bit underwhelming
It Belongs in a Museum
Lost Ruins of Arnak does just enough differently to stand it apart from other adventure games, while not alienating its core audience. When playing you get the feeling you’ve already seen everything here before, only now it’s a little different, a bit… spicier somehow. Yes, you’ve seen deck building before, but not quite like this, of course you’ve played worker placement games before, but not with this level of uncertainty. Every element of Lost Ruins of Arnak serves a specific purpose, the developers gave players just enough of the things they like, but not so much that you never want to revisit the game again. You’ll likely finish a game and then think of a different way you would have done this or that, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself once more trudging into the unknown jungles of Arnak in search of fortune and glory!
I hope you enjoyed this exploration of Lost Ruins of Arnak. Have you played it? If so, why not leave a comment below telling us all about your experiences, or, head over to our Game Kings Gamers page to engage with our warm, welcoming community. Until next time, may your compasses point true.