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As with many games now, I came across this game via the web, this time through Mik Svellov's excellent site (www.brettboard.dk). Mik's description intrigued me, I contacted the designer and a few days later the game arrived in the post.
This is a desk top published game from Germany that requires players to work out where the buildings were located in a ghost town. The setting is the Wild West, which might not be the most obvious setting for a game about an archaeological dig, but is OK.
The game board is made of thick card that does not easily bend and is sufficient for its purpose. It depicts the roads that existed in the old town and there is one point of reference -- the graveyard. The game system provides clues about the location of each building through the use of cards. These describe the clue -- for example "The parish hall is behind the post office". (Both the parish hall and post office are buildings to be located somewhere in Old Town.). A diagram at the bottom of each card gives you an easy way to digest this information.
A small picture of the town and each building location is shown, with colour coding linking the parish hall in one colour and the post office in another. So you can quickly see the combinations of where one building could be in relation to the other. Not only that, but a red arrow links specific locations of the buildings. In my opinion, this is an excellent way that the designer has found to increase playability.
Players receive a set of cards at the start and each card gives the location clues and shows the maximum number of places that the building could be found, with no conflicting information. Continuing with the parish hall and post office example, the parish hall could be in 7 locations while the post office could be in 10 possible locations. A building can be placed on the map of the town once the positions where it would fit have been reduced to one. This could be because other buildings have already occupied possible locations, or because one half of a clue has already been solved. There are other ways to reduce the possibilities, but the options at the beginning of the game are many and generally reduce towards the end of a game.
When a clue fixes the placement of a building, the player scores the points on the clue card (3 in my parish hall/post office card) and the building is placed on the board. This is 1 to 4 points and is related to the maximum number of positions that the building could have been placed -- the higher the number, the more points are scored. This placement might trigger further clues to be clarified and if that player places a second or further building on that turn, a bonus is scored.
Clue cards are picked from one of two piles, but as these only become visible after the previous player has played, there can be some down time as a player ponders which cards to pick up.
Gradually the town is rebuilt and the options for the remaining buildings decrease. This also speeds the game up and the game ends when all buildings are positioned.
The game works fine, but the English translation had a few uncertainties, which slowed up the first game considerably. Fortunately, my persistence won out and we completed the game. Stephan has subsequently improved the rules, and emailed a cleaner set of rules to the English speaking buyers, much to his credit.
If you like problem solving games, then this might be one you should try. These types of game can be rather dry, so players may find that the number of outings this game makes is limited. Nonetheless, it is a good effort, and other designs could benefit from the way in which the information is displayed on the cards, so I am pleased to have picked this game up.