Reviews

FOSSIL - Reviewed by Mike

Category/Format: Abstract/Boardgame

Anyone seeking a quick-to-play, easy-to-learn closer would be advised to look out for Fossil from Gold Sieber. The theme is based upon explorers searching for the components of 9 fossils, each consisting of 9 'parts'. When all 9 parts of a fossil are 'discovered' the fossil is scored according to a method described later and play continues. The game ends when the stones used to perform the search can no longer be moved to a valid location and the player with the most points after a final round of scoring is the winner.

Setting up is easy. The 91 tiles making up the fossils are placed randomly on a 9 x 9 grid and the 2 search stones are placed anywhere on the board. Each player starts on position 30 of the scoring track.

Movement consists of each player in turn choosing one of the stones and moving it to a location of their choice, taking the tile landed on into their hand and displaying it in its appropriate fossil in front of them. The movement can only be in a straight line either horizontally or vertically and cannot pass over the other stone. For each tile passed over the cost is 1 point, empty spaces are free.

So where does the interest come I hear you ask ? It comes in the distribution of the fossil parts and the scoring mechanism. The 9 parts making up each fossil consist of 1 x 3 points; 2 x 2 points and 6 x 1 point. Scoring is calculated in 3 ways : -

1) Each player with parts of the fossil receives the points on their tiles multiplied by the number of tiles they have.

2) Players with NO parts in the scoring fossil lose points in accordance with the NUMBER of tiles that the HIGHEST scoring player has.

3) The HIGHEST scoring player receives the points that the players qualifying for 2) above have lost.

One novel little twist to the scoring gives the player completing the last piece the opportunity to exchange one tile of the same value with another player. This can be useful to improve your 'holding' in another fossil or ensure that a player with a single piece in the fossil about to be scored is emptied and therefore loses points !

As this is quite difficult to visualise an example may illustrate this more clearly. Suppose there is only 1 tile remaining on the board for a particular fossil (a 1-pointer) and the players distribution is like this : -

Player A has 1x3 points; 1x2 points; 4 x1 point

Player B has 1x1 point

Player C has 1x2 points

Player D has none

Player B completes the fossil by landing on the remaining tile. If he swaps one of his other 2-point tiles in another fossil for C's 2-pointer then C will lose points as they will have no pieces. However that would give more points to A, who will still have 6 tiles and will gain 6 points from both C & D. Therefore his better option is to swap his 2-pointer with Player A and even though B does not win the overall scoring on this fossil the difference to A's score is 26 points.

The final scoring is therefore : -

Player A 1 x 3; 4 x 1 = 5 x 7 points = 35, plus 5 points lost by player D = 40 points

Player B 1 x 2; 2 x 1 = 3 x 4 points = 12 points

Player C 1 x 2 = 1 x 2 = 2 points

Player D -5 points (1 point for each tile that the highest scorer has)

So you can see that you have keep a watchful eye on how the other players collections are going. If one is near to completion and you do not have a piece in that fossil you had better start looking for a piece of the action if you don't want to lose points. However you may decide to forsake that for a nice 3-point tile that goes with the fossil that you are collecting. What cost is it to pick up that tile ?. If you are able to collect say 1 x 3; 2 x 2 and 4 x 1 of a fossil that will score 77 points plus the 14 points for the players who miss out on the scoring. So your strategy could be to go for 2 or 3 major holdings but somehow, just when you are lined up to capture that useful tile, the stones get moved to a different column. This can be quite tricky in the latter stages.

The game ends when the stones can no longer be moved to a space containing a tile, which normally takes about 45 minutes, so you can see that it fits nicely into the closing spot and it's not too taxing on the brain but does provide an interesting little diversion with high replay value.

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