multilingual edition of Jenseits von Theben
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Games Magazine Awards
Best Family Strategy Nominee, 2009
Best Family Game, 2008
Spiel des Jahres
International Gamers Awards
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2007
Deutscher Spiele Preis
9th place, 2007
The Dice Tower Awards
Best Family Game Nominee, 2007
The Dice Tower Awards
Best Game Reprint, 2007
Deutscher Spiele Preis
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2006
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More than 100 years ago, within a period of only a few decades, unusually many historical finds, treasures and whole cities of antique cultures were found and excavated; Schliemann discovered Troy, Evans investigated Crete, Carter found the grave of Tutankhamen and Koldewey excavated Babylon.
In Jenseits von Theben the players travel back to this time at the end of the 19th century, take on the role of these famous archaeologists and discover those antique treasures and places, which lay buried in the sands for thousands of years.
Each player slips into the role of an archaeologist, travels across Europe, finds suitable knowledge in different archaeological areas then excavates at antique places. The players receive points (= fame and honor) from discoveries at these locations; the player with most points wins the game. Additionally, the players can acquire articles for better excavation and travel conditions and can visit exhibitions to present their finds.
Thebes, what can I say? I am a glutton for games about archeology. Thebes should have been named Game of the Year, although I do like Zooloretto... and so do the gaming group I occasionally play with.
Thebes keeps you interested from the first digging to the last. You start out with your archaeologist in Warsaw. Warsaw gives you the advantage of taking all four cards from the board and replacing with four new research ones. You discover immediately as a gamer you are dealing with 52 weeks for each year -- 1900-1901-1902. You measure how many spaces you move from city to city in weeks. For example, if you want to move from Warsaw to Paris, that costs two weeks of the 52.
Next, you are governed by cards, much like Thurn and Taxis. You look at four different research cards as they are called. Some research cards relate to cities, some to Congresses (gathering of archaeologists), some to assistants, and some to shovels. You pick a card, for example, that says Rome. You are in Moscow when you draw the card. It takes three weeks or movement to reach Rome. There, you place the card you have selected as a later preparation for the dig. Cards are colored coded for the five different dig areas.
Digs are housed in five different locations at the bottom of the board. You can dig in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine, Greece, or Crete. I had to get used to reading the top of the cards in German, but the cards are generally self-explanatory. Five different languages of rules are included in the game, so you can also practice your language skills. Now, let's return to that card I picked up and can later use from Rome. Each card is color coded for a particular dig. You look at the card as general knowledge or specialized knowledge. You are furnished five bags where you can house treasure and debris round tiles for later digging. I put the Rome card aside, which happens to have two closed books at the bottom of the card. That means specialized knowledge. It is important to remember the adage from the rules: "You cannot have any more specialized knowledge than general knowledge." General knowledge is the symbol for a closed book(s).
As I learned in the first playing of this game, you don't want to plunder too soon. My opponent waited on his digs until the second year (after you pass the first 52 weeks). I decided to dig on the first year with about five books. Now, comes the fun part with a specialized wheel. To simplify, let's say we have five books, either specialized or general only. You take the wheel (have to put together) and turn to a white 5 on a blue background. Then, you decide (and that is the fun part) how many weeks you are willing to dig, for example, in Greece. You have already moved your figure to Greece--that cost so many weeks, also. You decide on five more weeks and remove five circular tiles from the beautifully illustrated Greece bag. Your first three picks are duds (debris), and then you draw two artifacts. You have already received a "1" artifact for being the first to dig in Greece. Now, you are lucky to have drawn a "5" artifact and a "2" artifact. These artifacts will give you points at the end of the game.
Let's talk for a moment about victory points. You earn points for the Congress cards you hold. You earn points for all the artifacts. You earn special points if you draw circular tiles of specialized books from the bags as part of the digging. The person for each of the digging areas (e.g. Egypt) achieves special points (usually 5)for the most specialized knowledge accumulated.
You don't know until the end of the game whether you have achieved the most points. You have an idea, but the digging may continue even in year, 1902, until the 52 weeks is exhausted. How else can you achieve victory points? Don't forget the exhibits. Some of those research cards are exhibit cards. You have two numbers on the exhibit cards and three places to store exhibits on the board. The first number on the top left indicates the number of victory points. The number on the upper right indicates the number of weeks to move ahead on the 52 to achieve those points later. Unfortunately, with only three board slots the additionally drawn exhibit cards to replace the original four research cards cause you to constantly replace cards as A moves to B to C, and the entire deck (as we found out) of exhibit cards could be exhausted early.
Have I in a whirlwind way given you the flavor of the game? The game is spirited and quite intense. You never what you are going to dig. Would I play the game again? In a heart beat! The sands of time will never run thin.