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CURIOS - the Game in a Tin for 2-5 Players

Fifteen Minutes of Fast Fun. Published by AEG (Alderac Entertainment Group).
Designed by ???    Lead Artwork by Carl Frank

I am not sure what the thinking was behind putting CURIOS in a tin because when seen on a shelf in a non-games store (department store etc) it looks like an exotic tin of biscuits or sweets; even the name sounds like something you would give your neighbours at Christmas. Obviously CURIOS is not a tin of sweets or speciality biscuits, but it sure is something you might like to give your games-playing neighbours/friends as a Christmas or Birthday present.

It is a beautifully crafted production that fits neatly into the genre of games the great boardgame designer Reiner Knizia made famous in the 90s; colours and numbers. There is nobody credited with being the designer which is kinda unusual. If I had come up with this I would have wanted my name emblazoned all over it. It is not unique in play or game mechanics but it does have that special game feel about it, and because each game takes only about 15 minutes to play it has instant replayability.

The components are 4 sets of different coloured numbered cards (aka Market cards), 4 larger cards (aka Treasure Sites), each of which match one of the colours on the number cards, 4 sets of 14 each different colour gems (aka Artifacts), which match the 4 colours of the cards, and 5 sets of regular game pawns (bobble top curvind slimly down to a wide round base, aka Archaeologists) with 7 pawns in each colour: Black, White, Pink, Purple and Orange; each player is given one set of same colour pawns.

The Market cards are each numbered 1, 3, 5 & 7. The Treasure Sites are: The Great Pyramid (Yellow), The Lost Shipwreck (Purple/Blue), The Ancient Colosseum (Green/Blue) and the Forbidden Temple (Red). Each of the Treasure Site cards has a series of visible, but unobtrusive, columns of separate circles; four columns made up of 1, 2, 3, 4 & 4 circles. Players do not begin with all of the 7 Pawns in their colour, only 5. It is almost impossible to win without obtaining the other 2 Pawns asap.

The Market cards are separated into their colours, shuffled and (this is where the shuffler must be careful) one of each colour removed unseen and placed face down above the same colour Treasure Site. The remaining Market cards are shuffled together and carefully dealt out to the players, varying numbers according to number of players - a side deck is necessary for 2 and 5 player games. It is important that the cards are always kept secret from the players - players may, of course, look at their own cards. The cards above the Sites and the cards in your hand remain in situ until the last phase of the game; with the exception being you may disclose a card to all other players to gain extra Pawns. By disclosing/discarding a card from your hand you are giving the other players a clue as to the value of the Artifacts in that card's colour.

On their Turn the players can fill up one column on any of the sites by placing their Pawns in the vertical spaces of a column - the important thing is that you must (that is a definite 'must') fill the column in one placement, beginning with the leftmost empty column (to begin with this will require a single Pawn) you cannot fill any other column even if you have the necessary Pawns available. Thus if the One space was filled on the Site you wanted to play on you would have to fill the Two space, you could not bypass the Two and fill the Three space).

The game is all about clever placement and deducing which are the best Artifacts/Gems to collect - the value of the Artifacts is revealed when it is time to score by flipping over the cards along the top of the Site card row. Multiply the number of each Artifact you hold by its value, add up all the points and the winner is he or she who has the highest number/value. Thus, for example; 8 Red Artifacts with a value of One (8) are worth less than 2 Blue Artifacts with a value of Five (10).

At first this might seem to be an almost pointless abstract time-user, but once you begin to play you realise that there is more than first impressions give. CURIOS has many faces: as a filler between games, as a superb way to spend 15 minutes (though be aware that every time we thought we would spend quarter of an hour on it we have never played less that three games), as a positive introduction to a different style of game (instead of basic card or board game), and as a game that children can easily learn. If all else fails you can always tip the components into a large Ziploc bag and use the tin for biscuits or sweets ☺ It became a firm favourite of ours very quickly and tends to be in 

CURIOS should cost you around £20.00 - £30.00 depending where you are looking and whether Tax and/or Postage are included. Probably a little expensive at the high end of those prices but definitely good value at the middle to lower pricing. Plenty of replayability and thus a happy addition to your games shelf, it's certainly happy on my shelf.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015