English language edition
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When you see people walking about with eyes fixed downward, it usually signifies some form of collector. When a prime location becomes known, it often creates an atmosphere of gold fever, with everyone trying to search the finest ground.
Each of the 9 different Fossils which have been broken into 9 fragments lies scattered on a board of 9x9 squares. To make the pieces easier to collect, matching fragments have the same symbol. This is shown once on 6 pieces, twice on 2 pieces, and three times on the most valuable piece. Each player begins the game with 30 points on the scoreboard. Two semi-precious stones serve as playing pieces. A player may move any one of these two stones vertically or horizontally to any fragment in a corresponding line. You pay one point for every square you move, so when you have used all your points, you cannot move any more in that round.
When the last part of a Fossil is collected, it is evaluated. The player who triggered the scoring may first exchange one of his fragments with a piece of similar value (number of symbols) from any other player. Each player multiplies his fragments by their number of symbols and scores accordingly. Any collector who has failed to find any of the fragments within the round has to give the most successful collector a point. When it is no longer possible to find another fragment with any of the two semi-precious stones, the game comes to an end. After a final evaluation of the players remaining pieces, a winner is declared.
Fossil is a captivating racing and gathering game. All players have an overall view of all the possible moves and of the other players' desires, since all pieces lie openly on the board and all scoring is done on public display. You must continually make judgements whether to take a valuable piece for yourself, snatch one away from under a rival's nose, or move a stone to a square so that your neighbor cannot score. In a similar vein, a player collecting the last piece could create a problem for another player when he exchanges that player's most valuable fragment for a piece of "trash."
Fossil often takes surprising turns, even into the final scoring round. The leading player can never feel completely secure from unwanted and potentially damaging acts.
The theme is splendidly set with artwork by Franz Vohwinkel.
I've had this game for about 6 months now and my friends and I have had a lot of fun with it, even though the maximum we've played is a 3-player game. I look forward to playing with a larger group. It's definitely worth the investment, especially given the quality of the components. At first the game looks almost random in its possibilities, but after a few plays the strategic concerns come out.
Some long-term planning is possible if you look at the concentration and placement of fossil pieces, but it's tough and luck definitely comes in. Luck is not too big a part of the game though, and especially during the endgame careful thinking is a must. The best strategy to choose depends on the first few moves that are possible in each game, so there's a nice variety in the gameplay. Often, you may find yourself switching strategies midstream as you realize you are close to having a monopoly of one fossil, giving you a good chance to bury your competitors. If you see your opponent is close to having a monopoly, on the other hand, you can hinder him or her by purposely moving the search stones away from the most valuable fossil pieces. The give-and-take of each turn adds another nice bit of depth... do you invest heavily or play it safe?
I'd compare this game to a pointillist painting. At first glance it looks fairly simple, but further examination reveals elements that increase the 'just one more time' factor.
The gamer's first reaction involves turning over a group of tiles. Then, the game begins to take on some strategic significance. You first want to form as many tiles of your fossil as possible. In our three-player game (49 tiles) it soon became evident the strategy was to grab as many different fossil tiles to avoid becoming the 'uninvolved player.'
The first game proved rather rocky with lopsided fame scores of 101, 85, and 69. In the second game our group better understood the idea of 'exchange.' You have to give up one of your number 2 fossils, for example, to collect another number 2 from another player to finish your fossil display. When you draw the last tile of a fossil, all players total their scores with that fossil. It soon became necessary not to move close to number 2 fossils. The other player can quickly grab that prized tile on the next turn.
What is the best strategy? It depends. You may want to build an almost complete fossil as you are choosing different tile fossils to protect your base. I liked the free movement on the board, once certain fossil tiles are removed from the board. For instance, you can skip through four free spaces and only have one space charged to your fame. The game is so fluid that you don't know the final winner until the end.
The movement has to be watched carefully. All three players decided we could not turn corners. The movement had to be all vertical and horizontal. You need to be careful in the game to avoid one of your search stones being stranded without its movement possible. We encountered that concern. It narrowed all of the players' choices immediately with all empty spaces for one search stone. The second game ended with a more even distribution of fame points: 83, 73, and 65. As one of the players cogently commented, the end game makes all the difference. Also, a real advantage is to become the player to pick up the last fossil tile. I don't like the uninvolved player having decreasing points for no tiles of a particular fossil. However, that is life and gaming.
We enjoyed the game. It kept our interest, but I do think many other games might have been awarded Games Magazine's Game of the Year.
The premise of Fossil is that you and your fellow players are fossil collectors. During the course of the game, you have the opportunity to collect pieces of a variety of different fossils. Once all the pieces to a particular fossil have been collected, it is scored, and those players who have pieces of it find that their fame increases, while those players who don't have any pieces of that fossil lose fame to the 'primary researcher', the player who collected the largest portion of that fossil.
This game is absolutely charming. It has simple, straightforward rules that can be taught in five minutes. It's quite fast moving, taking less than half an hour for two players, and less than an hour with the largest number of players, six. However, the strategic possibilities are quite extensive, and it's not at all obvious who's winning.
One of the particularly good features of this game is that it really does play well with any number of players. And since the game changes substantially with different numbers of players, this adds to the replay value.
I think this is a great game, and would recommend it to anyone who's looking for a short non-luck-based game. While I expect that I'll continue to play this game with my hardcore gaming friends in the years to come, it will be particularly valuable as a family/social game.
This is an abstract game that works better with a lower number of players than a higher. The game is played on a square grid that varies in size according to the number of players. Each player is trying to gather fossils of a similar type. When the last one (of nine) of each set is collected, the game pauses to score that fossil. Fame points are awarded for having the most of each set and you may also lose points for not having any of that type of stone.
Fossils are collected by moving one of your two dobbers orthogonally across the grid. The cost of moving your piece rises as you travel further distance and then you collect the fossil from the square you landed on. Fossils come in three values (1, 2 and 3) and to score the value of a fossil, you multiply the number of pieces, say 2, by their value, say 5, and this is the number of fame points scored (10 in my example).
The game continues until either someone can't go because their orthogonal movement options do not allow them to land on a fossil, or the last one is taken. Highest fame wins. My first impression in a 2 player game was that this was ok, without getting the heart moving quickly. It's the sort of game that you'd be happy enough to have designed but feels like a typical Germanic game. Interesting system, not a great theme, and suitable for your German games collection. Nothing in the game is a brand new as a device and sadly, this one will probably have to wait before it makes the 5+ list.