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Store:  Family Games
Theme:  Archaeology / Paleontology
Genre:  Set Collection
Format:  Board Games


English language edition

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Product Awards:  
Games Magazine Awards
Game of the Year, 1999

Ages Play Time Players
10+ 20-40 minutes 2-6

Designer(s): Klaus Palesch

Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Goldsieber

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Product Description

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.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Game of the Year, 1999

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Klaus Palesch

  • Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Goldsieber

  • Artist(s): Franz Vohwinkel

  • Year: 1998

  • Players: 2 - 6

  • Time: 20 - 40 minutes

  • Ages: 10 and up

  • Weight: 820 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 3.2 in 9 reviews

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A Quick-Playing Strategy Game with Lasting Appeal
April 13, 1999

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.

by Dr Jay
Simple and elegant game
February 12, 1999

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.

Delightful short strategy game
January 10, 1999

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.

Better the more you play, BUT...
March 23, 2001

...once you solve it, you solve it.

This is not to say it isn't an enjoyable game, without an element of chance except for the variable layout of the board. Or even that it doesn't have a high replay value.

But once you figure out the strategies involved for a successful fossil-hunt, the game deteriorates into table-talking one's way into one's only truly sound choice in movement.

It's just that it takes a little bit of practice playing the game to learn how to predict what that only true sound choice in movement is.

Good for very casual, entry gaming. Very simple rules. Nice design.

But with a little more effort directed at the rules, a prospective player might be more satisfied with a slightly more ambitious title.

I don't regret having Fossil around for entertainment purposes, but only in the same sense that I don't regret having a wine cooler in the refrigerator for when company comes over and wants something light.

Better the more you play it, but it does plateau fairly early.

Colorful, elegant... and dry
January 14, 2001

Some games elicit a certain amount of excitement when I think of them. I look forward to playing them, and there is a tiny thrill in opening the box and setting up the game in anticipation of the match. I have played Fossil a number of times now, and I just don't get that feeling. As nice a game as it is, something is missing for me.

The design is simplicity itself, and the game looks great when set up. This is one of those games that looks great on the coffee table. When I play it, though, I find myself only minorly involved. The game is in a strange middle ground between totally abstract and themed. The mechanics of the game have nothing at all to do with the purported subject matter.

Don't get me wrong. It isn't that I don't like Fossil, its just that I don't love it. When I play a game I want to be deeply involved in the experience, and this game just doesn't give me that feeling. While I can admire its elegance, it is admiration from a certain distance.

Simple mechanics, yet interesting strategies
May 25, 2000

When I first read the description of Fossil, I thought it sounded quite a bit like Tutanchamun, one of the few Reiner Knizia games that I do not tremendously enjoy. I found Tutanchamun to be fairly bland with not much excitement. I feared that Fossil would fall into this same mold.

I was able to give Fossil a try for the first time while attending The Gathering convention in Hartford, Connecticut. I expected the worst, but was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I found the game so intriguing, I actually played it three times while at the convention, the most of any game I played.

The idea behind Fossil, now available in the United States from Rio Grande Games, is for players to collect sets of fossils. Each of the nine fossils has nine pieces scattered about the board, which is a 9 x 9 grid. Each piece has a value ranging from 1-3. However, there is only one '3' value piece contained in each fossil set, two '2' value pieces, with the remainder being only '1' value pieces. Of course, the higher-valued pieces are the more desirable.

Movement is executed by moving one of the two stones on the board to a fossil piece you are looking to collect. The stones move either horizontally or vertically (similar to a rook in Chess). You are free to move it as far along the row the stone is in as you desire. However, you must pay one point for each fossil piece you pass over and one point for the piece you actually land on and collect. Players begin with 30 points and the only way to gain points is when all nine pieces of a fossil have been collected. Thus, one must watch how he spends his points. Do you spend three points to pass over several fossil pieces and take that tasty '3' value piece, or do you conserve some points and simply move one space and settle for a '1' value piece?

Points are scored when all nine pieces of a fossil have been collected. The player collecting the ninth and final piece of a particular fossil can force a trade with any other player, usually boosting his own score. The player collecting the final piece gets to trade any fossil piece from his collection--even those that are not of the particular piece which was just completed--to any other player and take a piece from that player. The only restriction is that the pieces traded must be of equal value (for example, a '2' value piece for another '2' value piece). When a fossil piece is closed, it is scored. All players having none of the just completed fossil must pay a penalty to the player who was able to collect the majority of pieces of that fossil. This penalty is equal to the number of pieces of the completed fossil that the player with the most pieces of that fossil has in his collection (example: if Jay has 5 pieces and Eric has none, then Eric must give Jay 5 points). Then, points are totaled for each player who managed to collect pieces of that fossil. Basically, each player receives points based on the following formula:

number of fossil pieces collected x the cumulative value of the pieces collected

The game continues until all fossil pieces have been collected or the two movement stones reach spaces where they can no longer be moved. At that point, final points are tallied and the victor determined.

During the course of play, one must constantly keep an eye on which types of fossil pieces are being collected by one's opponents and be very careful not to make a move which will allow an opponent to scoop a high-valued piece or, worse, collect a ninth and final piece of a particular fossil and thereby be able to execute the extremely powerful 'trade' power I mentioned above. As the game progresses, the decision on how to move the stone becomes tougher and tougher as the fossil pieces become fewer and fewer.

Another big feature of the game is no one is ever out of contention for victory. After the first fossil is completed and scores are tallied, usually one player shoots ahead on the scoring track. However, players are usually concentrating on collecting different fossils, so as those particular fossils close out, each player has a shot at a large score. Final scores in the many games I have played have always been very close.

This game gets more and more intriguing each time I play it. I caution players to not judge the game after only one playing, as it is the type of game wherein the strategies and tactics become clearer and more evident with each playing. In spite of very simple mechanics and rules, it is, indeed, a thinking man's game.

by Mike
A Great Appetizer--Not A Main Course
February 06, 1999

I bit the bullet and bought FOSSIL on the strength of its recommendation as Games Magazine's Game of the Year. I did so with some apprehension, because I've been disappointed by Games' picks in the past.

The rules are colorful, easy to read and well written. The board enhances the game play and is high quality as are the thick cardboard pieces. I sat with my fellow gamers, and we had at it.

The game is fun. The turns move quickly and I was disappointed when the game ended so quickly. The game play is cute. I expected more.

FOSSIL is like a piece of hard candy. It is sweet and wonderful, yet after its gone it loses its savor. It's a great appitizer, but won't do for the main course.

Fun, but Game of the Year???
February 03, 1999

Fossil is a delightful set-collecting game that I hastily grabbed up when I heard it was named Games Magazine's 'Game of the Year.' I have now had the opportunity to play it a few times (as a two player and a five player game), and while it is certainly enjoyable to play, I have to doubt the wisdom of the Games editors. There is a fairly nice blend of strategy and luck, but in the end the game turns into a 'grab all the fossil pieces as fast as you can' kind of game. I am certain that with further play I will become more adjusted to the intricacies of strategy associated with the game.

I will certainly NOT go on record as stating that I did not enjoy the game - I did (and my fellow players did as well). I just didn't enjoy it as much as others of the German-game genre. In a year full of interesting, intriguing games, Fossil is one of the most gorgeous to look at, but fairly average to play.

Decent game that may be played again, maybe not
January 15, 2001

This game has everything a good game should have--nice elegant rules, nice pieces, strategic choices. But when they all come together, the game falls short.

I played this with a gaming group and never once has anyone asked to play it again. That speaks fairly well about how great a game it is.

The strategies are really reduced to affecting the player who goes next, rather than being able to influence anyone on the board. This is a major problem in my book (it is almost like a joint solitaire game in that regard).

Player interaction is limited to setting up, or not setting up other players. Table talk is reduced to pointing out how moves may help other players; everyone sits around watching waiting. There is no long term strategic planning to do until it is your own turn, because everyone is playing off the same piece(s) on the board.

Ok, the game may be better than dismal, but still if you are going to invest time into playing a game it better rock the boat or else it will be thrown overboard.

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