Summary Of Game
Lost Ruins Of Arnak was one of the big splashes at Essen in 2020. A big box game from CGE with a lot of table presence. This worker placement and deckbuilding mash-up gets you channelling your inner Indiana Jones, exploring the jungle to find ancient treasures and battle fearsome guardians. During this game, you are explorers discovering new far-flung dig sites and finding treasures. These treasures are then to bribe away guardians (no fighting them in this game) and move up the research track.
How To Win Lost Ruins Of Arnak
Generally, the best place to start is at the beginning, except when teaching game rules. First, we have to know how to win. So how does one win Lost Ruins Of Arnak? Get the most points by the end of the four rounds. Nothing groundbreaking there, most games are “win by having the most points”. This is a point salad style game. You can get points by progressing up the research track. You can also gain them by defeating guardians, collecting idol tokens, and getting points on the cards you build your deck with.
Lost Ruins Of Arnak has a lot of moving pieces, but there is very little in the way of game management after each round. The board is a long tall portrait board, so the designers suggest you use it sideways. The board comes in two pieces. The top, larger board is for the exploring, market, and research track. This is where the game really happens.
For a two-player game, you'll need to block off one of the base camp spots at each location using the blue wave tiles. In a three-player game, randomly flip over three of the tiles and block one space at each of those three locations. The bottom board is for storing the resources, location and guardians tiles, apprentices and research track counters. To aid with set up and tear down, I pour the components into small dishes on this board. Keeps things all neat and tidy. There is a space for everything on the resource board. The five resources are coins, exploration compass tokens, red ruby gems, blue arrowheads and stone tablets.
Next set up the most important part in an exploration game, the exploration site stacks. There is a spot on the resource board for a stack of level 1 sites and a stack of level 2 sites. Shuffle these chunky tiles and place them face down in their respective spots. Do the same for the pile of guardian tiles. These are not specific to level one and two, it is a common pool of guardians.
The spot above these is used for the apprentice tiles. These apprentices are shuffled and put into three equal piles of four tiles each all facing silver side up.
The idols in the game are mixed up and randomly distributed to the level one and level two sites. Some face-down and some face-up according to the iconography on the board. The face-up idols offer an additional bonus resource or banish action to the person who finds it. They are also worth victory points at the end of the game. These idols are stored on your player board and may later be used to activate additional actions when times get rough.
At the top of the research track, there is the temple. This area has the temple tiles which offer 11, 6 and 2 points per tile. Each stack has the same number of tiles as players. There is one stack of 11 point tiles, two stacks of the six-point tiles underneath that and then three two-point tile stacks under those. Just below this, there is an additional bonus tile space. As many tiles as players are placed in this stack face down and unseen. The first player to reach this high on the track will get to choose their bonus.
The research track is now set up with face down bonus tiles onto all spaces which have a square outline. Some of these spots won’t need a tile in a two or three-player game. The player count is shown on the top left of the square. Once all the tiles are distributed onto the track, you can flip them face up. This open information can really help with decision making later in the game.
Each player takes the four starting cards of their colour (two exploration compass cards and two funding coin cards) and two fear cards from the central deck. They then shuffle them together to make their starting deck placed face down on their player board. Your workers in your player colour go onto your player board ready to be used. Your magnifying glass and diary tokens are stacked at the base of the research track, with the book underneath. This is because the book can never go higher on the track than the magnifying glass, it may be level with it but never above.
Lost Ruins Of Arnak is the king of the double-sided board! The player boards? Double-sided. The resource boards? Dos sides! The huge game board? Two sides with varying difficulty levels. The main change between the two sides of the game board is on the research track. The harder side switches up the way that you need to work the base camp and level one sites in order to get the right combination of resources to get up the track.
The market starts with one artefact card and five item cards in it. The moon staff that is the round marker denotes how many of each type are available. In a two-player deck builder sometimes you can end up with a stagnant market. Where deck building is only part of the game, I was initially concerned that the market wouldn’t cycle enough. The moon staff moves one spot to the right after each round. The cards on either side of the staff are removed and discarded; everything shuffles down and is refilled. I like how the spread between item cards and artefacts alters as the game progresses. Also, you always get an almost fresh market for the new round which stops it becoming filled with high-cost cards.
The item cards can be bought with gold, and at the start this is likely a great use of your coinage. In a regular deck building way, you won’t get to use these cards until it all comes back around in your drawn hand.
The artefact cards work in a different way. You get to use them for free when you first buy them, then you can reuse them when you draw them again from your deck as long as you are able to pay the activation cost of one stone tablet. This twist initially I could not get my head around, but once I did it improved the play no end. You want to maximise the usage of your cards and workers to give you the best bang for your buck when playing cards.
The first player is determined as the person who last went to a new place. Very on theme although during the pandemic we were having to think a lonnnggggg way back to work this out, so ended up doing rock, paper, scissors! The first player gets to take two coins as their starting resources. The next player takes a compass and a coin. The third person takes two coins and a compass, and the fourth player takes a coin and two compasses. At the start of the game, you need compasses to explore, and these are not that easy to come by, so these asymmetrical starting points help everyone to have a fair crack at the start of the game.
During your turn, you may take any number of free actions, and one of the following actions: play or buy one card, place a worker on a previously discovered or base campsite, discover a new dig site or move up the research track. Just like many of the best games, the actual gameplay actions are easy to understand and ones you have seen before. However, the way that the game plays out is awesome.
In Lost Ruins Of Arnak the cards from your starting hand are instant compass and coin cards in your player colour and some fear cards. The fear cards are only usable as a boot to visit a base campsite (the lowest power ones) and are negative points at the end. And worst of all, they're deck cloggers. You want those cards to be binned out of your deck ASAP. You can use them in the first round or two to visit base camp and get some resources to help push you up that research track. But then you want to burn those cards out of the game so they stop cramping your style.
During your turn, you may play a card from your hand either for its effect or for its boon. The travel boons come in four types - boots, cars, boats, and planes. These are what allows you to travel to dig sites. Getting your inner-explorer on is a key part of this game, that is how you gain resources to research and defeat guardians which are both the way to getting those sweet points.
The market row will have item cards that can be paid for with coins, and artefacts can be bought using compasses. These cards all bring a couple of victory points with them, but the powers are why they are great. There are no cards that don’t feel powerful, so you want to get these in your deck.
Aside from the cards, the other key part of this game is worker placement. You have two workers each round, and you can place these at any available previously discovered dig site. For base camp that will be a boot symbol, for level ones it can be cars or boats, and level two can have planes as the symbols. Whenever you place your worker at a site, you gain the resources depicted to go into your personal supply.
When discovering a new site, you must also pay the required amount of compass tokens to represent finding the site. If you place a worker at an undiscovered site, you gain the idol token at that site. If it is face-up you gain the bonus before flipping it face-down and placing it on your player board. The idols may also be used to gain additional resource-related actions if you're prepared to sacrifice the victory points.
You flip the top location from either the level 1 or level 2 stack depending on the worker placement and gain the resources shown. You then flip the top guardian over from the deck and place it over the location tile. The guardian shows a fearsome creature and also the resources required in an offering to defeat it. If you manage to get the guardian away then you gain the guardian token which is worth victory points.
If you are unable to defeat the guardian before the end of the round, you are still able to remove your worker from that spot but you will have to take a fear card for your deck. These clog your deck and are negative points at the end. Sometimes a guardian will be easy to bribe, other times not so much. This luck of the draw can work out perfectly or badly for you, but that excitement of the flip is part of the thrill for me.
The first round is going to feel a bit flat. For each round, you only have two workers. You actually never get more than that. There are cards that allow you to move a placed worker, a little like a third worker I guess. You also all start with a very basic deck of not great cards, and the order of turns will matter significantly in how effective you feel like that turn went.
The game only lasts five rounds, and after the speed at which the first round will be over, you'll worry that the game will only last 15 mins. But, have faith, because as you start to get cooler cards into your deck and are able to do more things and create more combo-tastic moves. In fact, you’ll be astounded by how much you are able to do with only two workers and five cards in a round.
End Game Trigger And Scoring
As I previously alluded to, there are simply five rounds. Once you have done all that you can in those five rounds you are able to finish your game. Other players may continue to complete their own game too. Then at the end, you add up your points from your cards in your deck. Your defeated guardians are all worth 5 points each, your idols are worth points, and any unused idol spots too. You also get a lot of points based on where your magnifying glass and logbook tokens end up on the research track.
In terms of strategy, you need to get up that research track as far as possible. there are lots of sweet rewards on the way up the ladder, as well as there being some big point scoring options too. Lost Ruins Of Arnak is a point salad style game, where everything you do will get you points. Though you need to do some of the non-research stuff too in order to get up that track successfully.
Now, I’m not saying I am a GrandMaster in the dojo of the Lost Ruins game, so definitely take my suggestion with a pinch of salt, but it is for sure a place to start. What I love about this game is that there is so much space in this game to explore. The game is enjoyable regardless of whether you win or lose. Anytime you pull off a combo move you will feel smart!