Play Time: 30 min per player
Age Recommendation: 12+
Difficulty to Learn: 6/10
Mastery Curve: 5/10
Luck Variance: 3/10
Publisher: Czech Games
Awards & Honors:
Theme and Overview
Lost Ruins of Arnak blends worker placement and deck-building game mechanics to tell the thrilling story of exploration on the lost island of Arnak. In it, players race to uncover dig sites, combat Guardians, and collect artifacts buried throughout the island to advance progress on their research leading to the discovery of the ancient lost temple.
Players play the entire game with just two archaeologist tokens (workers) and a base deck of a cards that provide basic transportation (“boots”), coin, and compass resources (which are used for exploration and the purchase of relic items among other things). Like all good deck-builders, these basic resources can be used to upgrade one’s starting deck or used to accumulate more powerful resources via the spaces on the board.
There are two types of cards that can be purchased into one’s starting deck: item cards and artifact cards. Either can be bought from the card row at the top of the game board as an action. At the start of the game, there will be five item cards available but just one relic card. A cardboard moon staff divides the two different types and points to the current round number. As the game progresses, this will move from left to right and change the balance of relic and item cards available until there are five relics and one item available in the fifth and final round.
At the bottom of the colorful game board, players will find five basic dig sites in which they can place workers at the cost of one boot to accumulate consumable resources such as coins, compasses, arrowheads, tablets, and jewels.
The dig sites to the north of that must be discovered at the cost of either three or six compasses (more for the farthest tier dig sites). When this is done, an idol token is collected and a new placement location tile is flipped from a stack and immediately activated for the player who has explored it with their archaeologist. Unfortunately, returning home safely won’t be that easy! A guardian will appear at each new location forcing a player to fight back by paying a certain combination of resources or discarding cards. When they do, they’ll not only receive some additional boon for defeating the beast but also a nice chunk of victory points.
To the right of the island, players will find the research track. This functions a bit like the prize wall and allows players to cash in their accumulated resources to enlist the help of assistants, earn boat loads of victory points, and accumulate…more resources. At the top of this track is the temple. Though not every game will result in enough research to reach the temple, doing so will payout big points in the end game scoring and award lots of useful prizes along the way. Of course, there will be advantages for the player who is able to do this the fastest.
On their turns, players perform one of the previously mentioned actions (placing a worker, playing a card, purchasing a card, advancing their research progress, etc) before passing to the next player. When a player can no longer perform an action, they must pass. Play continues until all players have passed. At this point, the moon staff advances and the next round begins.
The final turn is cued when the moon staff moves to the fifth and final position in the card row. At the end of this turn, points are totaled up based on each player’s final position on the research track combined with the total points shown on their defeated monsters, claimed totems, temple tiles, and any victory points on all cards added to their decks (minus points lost from fear cards).
Lost Ruins of Arnak contains 110 item, relic, fear, and starting deck cards (63.5x88mm)
Corey: Lost Ruins of Arnak is a fantastic mid-weight game that expertly combines worker placement and deck-builder elements without really being describable as either a fully fledged deck-builder game or a Euro-style game. It’s just the right amount of both concepts to feel fresh and unique when so many collections are likely to feel so well-stocked with either one already.
Beyond that, the deck-building is done in a way that I’ve never seen before. Players begin with a hand of five cards and a total of six in their entire starting deck — just enough to cause some degree of variability to that initial hand. Purchased items move to the bottom of your deck so you’ll be sure to see them sooner and can more effectively plan for their use. Artifacts, on the other hand, get activated immediately when purchased. This can help to get you out of tricky situations in creative and constructive ways.
Rather than encouraging play patterns that involve arduous turns in which players cycle through their entire decks with ‘draw’ cards, playing a card in Lost Ruins of Arnak often counts as one’s entire action and play will then pass to the next player. This keeps things moving and keeps players engaged in a way that I don’t often feel in other deck-builders.
COREY POINTS: 9/10
Nikki: I’ll say this up front: Lost Ruins of Arnak is a joy to play and is definitely one of my favorite games. Players being limited to two “archaeologist” workers to gather resources and a small deck of six cards might make it seem like there won’t be much going on in this game each round, but the game designers cleverly provided so many different ways to convert the few resources you collect into points, other resources, and boons that players will be amazed by how much they accomplish each round. It’s so much fun to try to figure out how to get the most out of the resources your workers pick up each round – will you use them to further explore the island finding new sites with new resources and encountering powerful guardians, will you trade them in to improve your research gaining points and more resources, or will you cash in your resources for powerful artifacts and helpful gear?
NIKKI POINTS: 9/10
Corey: When all of the dig sites have been discovered, there are two of each type remaining in the stack. This means that you’ll see most of the possible sites in every game. The order of their appearance will differ.
The biggest variable that I’ve noticed which has contributed to variety of experience between games comes from the assistants that are available via the research track. Assistants provide activated abilities that can generate or convert resources, reduce purchasing costs, draw cards, or provide other advantages and seem to do a lot to motivate different play patterns in different games. Overall, the strategies that I seem to follow seem to be relatively similar in each game and there isn’t a lot of specializing to do in a certain resource or a theme.
COREY POINTS: 8.5/10
Nikki: The base game of Lost Ruins of Arnak includes a two-sided board with different research tracks and different movement costs to visit new dig sites. We’ve played using both sides and can confirm that each side plays differently with one side (Snake Temple) being a little bit trickier than the other.
Additionally, with this being a new game in 2020 there is plenty of potential and room for future expansions from simply adding new guardians, sites, and assistants to adding more creative ways for players to score points. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping to see some expansions in the next few years.
NIKKI POINTS: 8/10
Corey: Everything about this game is drenched in theme. Each players’ board is even a camp site where their archaeologist tokens regroup at the start of each round before visiting each dig site. The board is a gigantic mural of the island with an ominous smoking volcano looming in the background. This is truly an incredible delivery.
There are just a couple of minor things that bug me. Combat against the guardians feels a little strange. The game doesn’t involve any true combat mechanic and instead makes it feel as if I am merely bribing an attacking beast to leave me alone by paying gold or jewels. Who knows? Maybe that’s how things are done in Arnak!
The assistants are such a cool mechanic but they would be so much better if they were given names. I know this matters very little for the actual gameplay and many readers may disagree entirely with this one but I find a lot of joy in these little nuances. They are just faces with activations. Why can’t they be…”Bob”?
COREY POINTS: 9.5/10
Nikki: Lost Ruins of Arnak truly delivers on the theme of being a group of adventurers exploring a deserted island in search of treasure and secrets. Everything in the game from the gear and artifact cards to the illustrations of the sites on the island and the resources make players feel like they really are exploring a beautiful and unknown land.
For added thematic immersion, I highly recommend playing the Indiana Jones soundtrack in the background.
NIKKI POINTS: 9/10
Quality of Components
Corey: My one and only comment here would be that the cards are very flimsy. This is nothing that card sleeves can’t fix and I’m certainly looking to sleeve a game that requires this much shuffling anyways. It’s a little frustrating that this game includes 110 cards and sleeves tend to be sold in packs of 100 but…I’ll deal with that.
Aside from that, everything else is FANTASTIC. Even the quality of the cardboard components is top notch. They are thick, sturdy, and detailed.
COREY POINTS: 8.5/10
Nikki: All of the pieces included in the game are awesome. The little “archaeologist” workers have little explorer hats and all of the special resources (tablets, arrowheads and rubies) are made of thick plastic (and really look like the resources!). On top of all of that, there are also nice wooden markers for the research tokens and the gold coin and compass tokens are nice thick cardboard. It would be nice if the gold coins were actually metal, but I understand that would probably increase the cost of the base game and can always be upgraded at a later date.
NIKKI POINTS: 8.5/10
Corey: Every inch of Lost Ruins of Arnak is covered in art that is colorful and incredibly detailed. No corners were cut here. The beautiful game board takes center stage with its gorgeous mural of the island and detailed research track but the dig site and guardian tiles are no slouch either.
COREY POINTS: 9.5/10
Nikki: Lost Ruins of Arnak is one of those games that when we take it out and set it up on the table I can’t help but smile because it is just so bright, colorful and engaging. From the two-sided board with the beautiful detailed illustration of the island to the fantastic guardian artwork there is no question that careful attention was placed on the artwork.
NIKKI POINTS: 9.5/10
Our overall score based on the responses of both reviewers in five different categories (10 points possible for each).