Review – Lost Ruins of Arnak

The Lost Ruins of Arnak. Czech Games Edition, 2020. Mín & Elwen, designers. Jiří Kůs et al, artists.

Lost Ruins of Arnak, by Czech Games Edition here in the US, is one of those games that we almost missed out on. Somehow, we slept through the initial marketing of the game, and by the time the reviews were coming in, it was sold out and back-ordered everywhere. We searched across the land and delved deep into the depths of the internet secondary market, where the few copies that were available sold for well over the retail price.

On a whim, Em called a local big-chain book store known for having surprise board game sales, and just like that, our quest was over. We quickly traveled by map across town where the game was being held for us by top men, and we had our prize.

So, does Lost Ruins of Arnak deserve to make it to the table, or does it belong in a museum? Does it soar, like an archeologist swinging from a trusty bullwhip, or does it fall like a lead refrigerator? Does it…do…another Indiana Jones thing, or…Look, the Indiana Jones movies are great, OK?

What’s Going on Here?

In the Lost Ruins of Arnak, players take the roles of adventurers searching for…wait for it…the Lost Ruins of Arnak. Not the game, like Em and I did in the first part of this review, but actual ruins. What’s an Arnak? I don’t know! It doesn’t matter.

To find these ruins, you’ll spend compass tokens to move your workers to dig sites. There, you’ll unlock ruins tiles that give you resources such as more compasses, money, stone tablets, arrow heads, and gems. You’ll also be spending movement symbols that take the form of feet, automobiles, and boats, and there are airplane symbols that act as “wild” symbols. Where do you get these movement symbols?

You get them from cards, because this isn’t just a resource management game; it’s a deck-builder. On your turn, you can spend compasses and money to buy cards to add to your deck. These cards give you abilities, or you can play them for their movement symbols. Some cards also give you resources or allow you to ignore certain resource costs. You’ll also spend resources on a research track, which will net you even more points, as well as additional resources and access to assistants who give you more abilities.

There is an element of danger to this adventure. When you unlock a ruins tile, you also unlock a guardian. The guardian attacks you at the end of the round if your worker is still in its location and it has not been defeated. Defeating a guardian usually requires spending resources, but if you can’t defeat it and you can’t escape, it’s not so bad. The guardians’ attacks come in the form of “fear” cards that you put in your deck. These are worth -1 point each at the end of the game, but they do give you a foot icon, so they don’t completely clog up your deck like negative cards do in many other deck builders.

What’s Good Here?

A deckbuilding, worker-placement, resource-management game with a research track and an exploration element sounds like it would be trying to do too much. Luckily, Lost Ruins of Arnak manages to balance these things by keeping them relatively simple. Decks start with six cards, and I don’t think I ever had more than 12 cards in a deck by endgame. You only have two workers to place, and there are plenty of places to put them, so it’s fairly easy to change up a strategy if your opponent is on the space you need. There are five resources, but you never need too many of them. For a game that does so much, it leans towards minimalism in each mechanic.

Also, the components are great. The arrowheads look like some sort of blue stone; the gems are nice, heavy, translucent plastic that looks like it would taste cherry; and I’m considering using the tablets as resource tokens in games of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. The board is gorgeous and really sets the jungle island scene, and it’s clear where everything goes. The ruins tiles look great, too, and the Guardians look like mythical creatures, realistically-depicted. On the whole, it comes together to create a world that I’d like to spend more time in.

What’s Not So Good?

One of Lost Ruins of Arnak‘s shortcomings, ironically, comes from one of its strengths. Because it leans towards minimalism, rounds can feel a little short. Granted, You can use your turns to do things besides placing your workers, but I find myself taking 5-6 short actions in a round, and since the game only goes for 5 rounds, it always feels like I am just starting to get momentum when the game ends.

Conversely, because there are so many little things to do, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by options and fall into analysis paralysis. I mean, I wouldn’t, but someone *coughEMcough* might. And I realize that I’m saying this is a minimalist game that is also excessive, but that’s what this game is: it does a lot of things, but it does each minimalistically. That said, it is easy to, say, get too focused on exploring the jungle and neglect the research track, missing out on lots of points and extra resources. It’s not necessarily a problem, but it is something I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

Finally, last time I checked, this game is too hard to find in stores. Hey Czech Games Edition! Print more copies!

What Do I Think?

Overall, I love Lost Ruins of Arnak. It’s a game that scratches a lot of itches, and it never overstays its welcome. In fact, I wish it would stay longer. And while I have never felt like I quite built my card-engine, or my resource mine, or what have you, I have to wonder if that is just something that I will get better at with experience.

After hearing reviews of this game, I decided to take a chance on Lost Ruins of Arnak, and I have chosen…wisely.

That was another Indiana Jones thing. I was doing the thing from the beginn–you know what? Here’s the rating:


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