Review – Lost Ruins of Arnak
|Artist||Jiří Kůs and others|
|Publisher||Czech Games Edition|
|Category||Deck Builder, Worker Placement|
|Length||30-45 minutes per player|
Lost Ruins of Arnak is a deck-building/worker placement game from Czech Games Edition that sees players exploring a fabled lost island full of ruins, dangers, and treasure. It taps into the same vein as the Uncharted video games, or the first three Indiana Jones movies. The appeal is easy to understand – who doesn’t want to discover lost civilizations, uncover piles of gold and rubies, and blaze deep into the jungle where no person has set foot in decades? So is it worth the trip, or are you better off staying home? Read on for our review!
Some of the guardians or ruins feature monsters or enemies with large teeth, or ancient skeletons in different modes of decay. No blood or gore is present.
A couple items and artifacts mention drinkable spirits: an ancient wine and a couple different flasks. They function just as other items in the game with no other special emphasis.
Lost Ruins of Arnak can feel pretty dense, even once you get everything out on the table and sorted. There are 4 different types of cards, 4 different tiles (5 counting the solo variant) and 11 different token types. I also feel obligated to point out that after searching high and low, my copy of the game shipped without any tablet tokens, so I had to substitute. I’m sure this is a fluke, but players should always get everything out of any new game and make sure nothing is missing.
Once everything is out, you still have a lot to decide from. Players can perform any one main action and unlimited free actions, which are identified by a lightning bolt. Main actions include Dig at a Site, Discover a New Site, Overcome a Guardian, Buy a Card, Play a Card, Research, and Pass.
Dig at a Site is just getting resources from one of the five sites in walking distance, indicated by the boot symbol. Anytime you go somewhere on the board, you have to pay a travel cost. Discover a New Site means the player will pay 3 or 6 compasses, plus whatever travel cost is indicated at the site. They then put their archeologist at the site, and draw a level 1 or 2 ruin, based on where they chose to go. Whenever a new ruin comes out, it gets covered up with a Guardian, who must be fought or the archeologist has to take a fear card at the end of the round. Fear cards lose you points at the end of the game. Buy, Play, and Pass are fairly self-explanatory, but players can also advance on the Research Track if they have the materials to. Doing this is the only way to make it to the Lost Temple at the top of the Research track, but I have to say I never made it that far.
In case it doesn’t seem this way yet, let me be clear: there’s a lot going on in Lost Ruins of Arnak, and not a lot of time to do it. You only have two archaeologists, and five rounds to do everything, and it will never be enough time to do all that you want to do. Each player starts the game with 6 cards, but rarely will you finish the game with more than 10-12 cards.
I like the push and pull of having to decide whether to use a card for travel, or for its main effect, but you also get pulled in multiple directions with all the different tokens. Do you spend your coins on a new card, or save up so that you can advance on the Research track? Do you use your compasses on an artifact, or save them for a trip deep into the jungle at a level 2 ruins?
With a hand of cards and several free actions, there’s a lot to take in and the chance for analysis paralysis is high. I like the round reset mechanics in which the two cards next to the staff are exiled, but I just wish the cards were cheaper or easier to get. For a Deck-builder you don’t spend much time getting new cards, and for a worker-placement you never get more archeologists to place. You finish the game with the same two you start with.
I enjoyed what this game felt like it tried to do, but in the end it just felt like there was too much going on. Arnak might be a bit more fun if a few mechanics were simplified or made easier for the players, like simplifying the Research track or making Items cheaper. I did really like that each item and artifact was unique, and some of them obvious references to popular movies or games. They even include a solo mode, and a harder backside to the game board. I just think some streamlining would have gone a long way. The theme is the biggest draw; if you really want a deck builder I would suggest Clank!, and if you really like worker placement games I would point you towards Lords of Waterdeep.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
The Bottom Line
With so much going on, it's easy to have high hopes when you land on the island of Arnak, but in the end, there's too much to do and not enough time to do it.