Introducing Pergamon



Stefan Dorra has the enviable reputation of having designed one of the greatest and arguably most popular fillers of the modern era: For Sale (1997). In his brand new release Pergamon (2011), he's joined by designer Ralf zur Linde (whose own impressive game credits include the 2009 Spiel des Jahres nominee Finca) on a new venture. There's no sign of real estate agents, or Mallorcan fruit farmers, but there are lots of archaeologists and ancient artifacts! The complexity is probably more on par with the family friendly Finca than the filler For Sale, and the result is a very pleasing and accessible game that's rich in theme despite being a real euro.

Pergamon is a game for two to four players and in it you’ll take on the role of a nineteenth century archaeologist who is excavating the site of the Greek city of Pergamon, which is considered to be one of the most significant excavation sites in the world in the 19th century. In the game, Dorra and zur Linde send us on a mission to this ancient city, to busy ourselves excavating ancient treasures in our quest to dig up fragments of vases, jugs, masks, and bracelets, which we'll then piece together and put on display in a museum. While not important for the game, a wonderful piece of game-related trivia is that the birthplace of pioneering Pergamon archaeologist Carl Humann was Essen (known then as Steele). It makes Essen the birthplace for this game in more ways than one!

Your goal is to try and amass the most impressive collection of artifacts and to display those artifacts within the vaunted halls of the Pergamon Museum. The archaeologist who attracts the greatest number of visitors to their exhibits will win an attractive, wide-brimmed fedora and will receive the honour of being addressed as “Indiana Jones” for the remainder of their days! Well, not really – but you’ll be the winner – and that’s gotta count for something right?!



COMPONENTS

Game box

Pergamon is being released by eggertspiele and Gryphon Games, and the front cover features one of the key concepts and mechanics of the game: an ancient artifact pieced together from two parts.


Game box (Gryphon Games edition)

The text on the reverse side of the box tells us about 1878, which is the year when the first archaeological excavations of Pergamon began. There's also a short overview of the game's theme and mechanics, describing how the aim of the game is for players to obtain funds which will finance their achaeological digs, and so unearth fragments of treasures that they can put together and exhibit for public enjoyment (and victory points).


Back of the box

Component list

Let’s make like archaeologists and excavate the box!


Everything inside the box

Here’s what you’ll find inside:
● 1 Game Board
● 24 Research Funds Cards
● 4 Player Figures (one in each of four player colours)
● 12 Circular Collections Markers (three in each of four player colours)
● 12 Angular Collections Markers (three in each of four player colours)
● 36 Admission Tickets (twelve in each of three point values – 1,2,5)
● 40 Coins
● 60 Find Tiles
● 1 Tomb Raider Figure
● 4 Reference Cards
● 1 Rule Book

Game Board

The game board for Pergamon is both beautiful and functional.


The game board, with the different sections labelled

In terms of functionality, the board has been designed in a way which ensures that the flow of play is both smooth and intuitive, and to that end the board has been divided into four main sections:
● Research Funds track
● Excavation area
● Calendar
● Pergamon Museum

Along the top of the board you’ll find the research funds spaces. You will use your player figure to claim one of these space during each turn and that space will determine how much funding you might receive and also indicate which galleries in which you can conduct your excavations.


The track with Research Funds spaces

On the far left of the board you’ll find the excavation site. This section of the board represents the dig site where the artifacts will ultimately be discovered. The excavation site is made up of five galleries that represent the different levels of the dig site – with each succeeding level producing artifacts of an increasingly older age, and thus more valuable for players to get.


Game board panel 1 - Excavation area

In the centre of the board you’ll find the calendar. The calendar has been broken down into twelve months and on each month you’ll place a stack of five find tiles which represent the artifacts that will be available for discovery over the course of the game. The calendar also indicates that there will be scoring rounds after turns five, seven, nine and twelve. If you enjoy inside jokes in games, you'll be pleased to note that the birthdays of the designers also seem to have been marked on the calendar, as well as some other as-yet unexplained dates! Space has been provided below the calendar for storing the admission tickets which serve as victory points.


Game board panel 2 - Calendar

Finally, on the far right of the board you’ll find the Pergamon Museum. This is where you will ultimately exhibit your finds in the hopes of drawing in as many visitors as possible and earning victory points by doing so.


Game board panel 3 - Museum

The goal of the game is to first amass the research funds necessary to excavate artifacts from the excavation site in Pergamon, then collect and piece them together as part of a collection, and finally to exhibit these finds at the Museum in order to attract an awe-inspired public (where serve as victory points in this game). The more impressive that the exhibits you put on, the more people will come to see them, and the more points you will earn.

In addition to being clearly laid out, and functioning as an excellent servant for the game mechanics, the board has also been quite beautifully illustrated. Along the top there is a panoramic view of the dig site and the excavation site depicts a variety of archaeologists hard at work in the various galleries. Overall, this is a top-notch board in terms of function and aesthetics!

Player figures

There are four wooden meeples in each of the player colours. Their primary function will be to mark the research spaces chosen by players near the start of the turn. It’s only a minor caveat – but wouldn’t it have been great if these meeples had been given cool hats like Indiana Jones wore on all of his adventures? Seriously, Indiana Jones meeples – keep it in mind for the second edition!


Player figures in four colours

Research Funds cards

Sadly, while Indiana Jones never seemed to lack for funds, in real life most archeologists find themselves constantly struggling to acquire the necessary funds to undertake and maintain these kinds of digs. In Pergamon, the research cards simulate the struggle to gain research grants and funding. There are two kinds of research cards in the game. The backs of some of the research cards have been illustrated with a money bag (worth one to four coins) and the backs of others with a money chest (worth five to eight coins). During each turn two of these cards will be drawn randomly, and they will represent the pool of potential research money that all of the players will have access to during that turn.


Back: cards with money bag and money chest icons


Front: a selection of the cards with different values

Coins

The research funds which are made available over the course of the game will be awarded to players in the form of these coins. Obviously the coins serve as money and you will be using that money to fund your excavation efforts, and also to polish your collection to increase its value before displaying it at the museum.


All 40 coins

Find tiles

The 60 find tiles represent the various kinds of artifacts that you will discover while excavating Pergamon, and there at two important details to be noted about these find tiles.


All the Find tiles

Firstly, the tiles only depict parts of the artifacts that you hope to find, of which there are four types: jugs (gray), vases (brown), bracelets (green), and masks (yellow). Each tile depicts two halves of two different artifacts, and over the course of the game you will have to try and acquire matching find tiles in order to form whole objects. Interestingly, there are good historical reasons for illustrating the tiles in this fashion. Most of what the nineteenth century archeologists who excavated Pergamon found were fragments of artifacts that had to be painstakingly reassembled at the Pergamon Museum. As such, these tiles have been designed to reflect the condition in which these artifacts were discovered (something emphasized by the fact that the tiles have jagged rather than straight edges) and to reflect the enormous amount of time and effort that went into restoring them.

The second thing to note about these tiles is that they have also been dated. In the lower right hand corner of the tile you will find a number ranging from one through five. This number represents the century to which the completed artifact can be dated (A.C. = Ante Christum Natum, although I'd have preferred to have seen the use of more conventional B.C.). The number in the lower left hand corner (0 - 99) denotes the decade to which the completed artifact can be dated. Thus, by combining matching tiles you will not only be forming a completed object, but also dating that object as well. This is important because the older an object is the more visitors it will draw to your exhibit and the more points it will be worth.


A jug, vase, bracelet, and mask - from different centuries

It's a minor point, but technically the rulebook is incorrect in calling the first digit of an artifact date as the century - for example, a vase dated 244 AC is actually the 3rd century AC, not the 2nd century! But for the sake of simplicity, we'll just adopt the terminology used by the rulebook in the rest of this review.

Collection markers

Once you have collected a number of find tiles, you may decide to mount an exhibition at the Museum, and that's where your collection markers come in. The angular collection markers will be used to help you piece your find tiles together into a row.


Angular player collection markers

The circular collection markers will help mark the location of that particular exhibit in the museum.


Circular player collection markers

The older your collection is, the more prestigious it will be and the longer it will stay on view on the museum. But be warned – as time passes the fickle public will become less and less enamoured with long standing exhibitions and they’ll start clammering for fresh exhibitions! Both the circular and angular collection markers have been numbered so that you will always know which of your collections needs to be disassembled when it is ‘pushed’ out of the museum by the addition of new exhibitions, and when its popularity wanes.

Admission Tickets

The admission tickets are stacked in their respective piles and are stored on the board beneath the calendar, and come in values of one, two, and five.


Admission tickets in three values

These tickets will be awarded over the course of the game as a means of keeping track of how many visitors view the various exhibits that are displayed in the museum over the course of the game. The notion of collecting VPs in order to win a game is hardly a new concept for a Euro game, but Pergamon does an excellent job of giving some genuine theme to that tried and true victory condition. Having visitors represent victory points and using admission tickets to keep track of those visitors really adds to the whole thematic experience of the game. This is reflected in the nifty production quality of these admission tickets – they have been produced in such a fashion that they look as if they’re tickets that have been torn off of a larger roll of tickets, both in shape, and the illustration on the back of the token which looks like an actual admission ticket. Genius!


Ticket-stub artwork on the reverse side

Tomb Raider figure

This figure is only used in a two player game and it functions as a kind of ghost player that is used to block one of the research funds spaces each round. Additionally, the tomb raider will also steal finds and research funds on each turn. Sadly, however, this tomb raider looks nothing like Lara Croft, but it does an excellent job of making a two player game viable!


The Tomb Raider figure for the two-player game

Reference cards

Each player will also be given a reminder card which illustrates the important steps that need to be followed when displaying a new exhibit in the museum, and on the reverse side what must happen to exhibits after each evaluation. It’s a bit of nit-picky complaint, but we found that these cards were not as well designed as they might have been. They have been designed to be language independent and that’s understandable. However, if you don’t know the rules to the game the cards are really not helpful in figuring things out because you need to know the rules to understand them. On the other hand, if you do know the rules, they are essentially superfluous. Although it would have reduced the language independence of the game, it would have been really nice if they could have been printed with a concise outline of the flow of play on one side - the game would really benefit from a more useful player reference card detailing such.


Reference cards in each of the player colours

Rules

You can download a copy of the rules in the BGG File section here. This is another example of a rule book done right Aside from one or two minor ambiguities which have already been cleared up, the eight page, full colour instructions have been clearly written and there are lots of excellent illustrations which make the flow of play clear and easy to learn. The designers have even provided several suggestions for variants that add tactical depth to the game, as well as a number of strategy tips for new players. Both of these additions are much appreciated!


English rulebook

GAME-PLAY

Set-up

Place the game board in the centre of the table, and place beside it the deck of shuffled Research Funds cards, as well as the supply of coins. Now, shuffle all of the Find Tiles together and then stack them in face-down piles of five tiles each on the twelve calendar spaces in the centre of the board, with the Admission Tickets in stacks on their respective spaces below the calendar. Each player should now be given a player figure, the three circular and the three angular collection markers in their player colour, and one of the reference cards which illustrate how the exhibitions are formed.


Starting items for the red player

In a two player game you will also need to allocate the Tomb Raider token – we’ll explain that later. You are now ready to play!


Complete setup for a three-player game

Flow of Play

A game of Pergamon will last twelve turns and each turn is comprised of four phases. Those phases are:
1. Laying out finds
2. Distributing research funds
3. Excavating, exhibiting, storing finds
4. Evaluations (only in turns 5, 7, 9, and 12)

1. Laying Out Finds

In this phase, you are going to be placing new finds into the excavation site - have one player take care of doing this entire step. You simply take the first stack of five find tiles from the calendar in the centre of the board and turn those tiles face up. Then you sort those tiles by age (from youngest to oldest) and place them in this order into the excavation site, one tile per level, from top down according to age, from youngest to oldest. The age of a tile is indicated by the number (1 – 5) found in the lower right-hand corner of the tile, and this indicates the century to which the artifact piece on the right will be dated. For example, a tile marked with a two would indicate an artifact from the second-century A.C., while a tile marked with a five would indicate an artifact from the fifth-century A.C., which is older. Tiles from the same century are sorted by referring to the two digit number in the bottom left corner of the tile, and the one with the larger number is considered older (a tile from the second century marked with a 50 A.C. would be considered to be a younger/newer artifact then one from the same century that was marked with a 57 A.C). Having sorted the five tiles, you place them in the excavation site box. Place the youngest/newest tile in level one, the next oldest tile below it in level two and so on until all of the tiles have been placed. This is a nice thematic touch, and is just like an archaeologist might expect in the real world - the older artifacts are more likely to be found the deeper that you dig, while artifacts found near the surface are more likely to be recent.


Laying out find tiles top-down from youngest to oldest in the excavation area

2. Distributing Research Funds

Applying for funds



Card types and amounts


Placing figures
In this phase all players will get the opportunity to acquire some research funds. The amount of funds available as a pool for players to share out is determined by the research funds cards - draw two from the draw pile and placing them face down beside the board. As noted earlier, the research funds cards come in two types: cards which have the money bag icon have a potential value of one through four dollars, while cards with the chest icon have a potential value of five through eight dollars. This means you will be able to estimate the amount the research money that will be available this turn: if two cards with money bags are drawn then there will be between two and eight dollars available that turn; if one money bag and one chest card are drawn there will be between six and ten dollars available; and if two chest cards are drawn there will be between ten and sixteen dollars available.


Meaning of the icons in this Research Fund space

Now, beginning with the starting player and proceeding clockwise, each player will have the opportunity to place their meeple on the research funds track at the top of the board. There can only be one figure placed on any given square, and where you place your figure is important because it will determine: (a) how much research funding you could potentially receive, and (b) which galleries you will be allowed to excavate later in the turn, as well as when you will be allowed to excavate relative to the other players.

Awarding funds

Once all of the players have placed their meeple on a research funds space, flip over the two research funds cards, add the two numbers together and lay out that many coins next to the game board. Now, beginning with the player whose meeple is positioned farthest to the right on the research funds track, each player will take the number of coins indicated on their research space from the coins that have just been placed beside the board. Proceeding from right to left along the track, the remaining players take as many coins as are indicated on the spaces they occupy, as long as the laid out coins suffice. The last player may always pocket all of the remaining research funds - or might even get nothing if the funds have dried up by the time it gets to him! As you can see, where you choose to place your on the research track at the start of this phase is something of a gamble. If you place your figure further to the right and you might not get much in the way of funding, but you’ll be likely to get something. Place it too far to the left, however, and you might get more money – or perhaps nothing at all!


Distributing $7 total funds - the green player misses out on some of his requested $3 funds!

3. Excavating, Exhibiting and Storing Finds

The position of figures on the research funds track also determines the order in which players carry out the next phase, which includes the opportunity to dig up artifacts. In this phase, beginning with the player who is positioned furthest to the right on the research track, you will have the opportunity to carry out the following actions, each player taking their turn to do all three actions before the next player does all three:

a. Excavating Finds

Firstly you may choose to excavate all of the finds in any one of the galleries (= levels) indicated by the research space your meeple occupies - in other words, not ever research funds space will let you dig all the way down to gallery/level five! Now, here’s the next thing: this excavation isn’t free. You will have to pay coins equal to the level of the gallery you are excavating in order to claim the treasures they hold. As such, to excavate in the first gallery will cost you one coin, the second gallery will cost you two coins and so on, up to the fifth gallery which will cost you five coins to excavate. Ah yes, the deeper you dig, the more it costs - makes sense huh?! Once you have paid the required excavation cost you may take all of the tiles in that row and lay them out face-up in front of you, adding them to any previous and unused finds that you may have collected on earlier turns.


Example of play: how to excavate

b. Exhibiting Finds

As a second action, you now have the option to exhibit the finds that you have collected.

Piecing... In order to do this, you must first assemble a collection and this is done by piecing together matching finds in order to form complete objects (masks, bracelets, jugs or vases). The trick to building your collection, however, is that older the objects you create, the more interest they will generate when you put them on display in the museum – and subsequently, the more points you will earn as a result. For example, a find dating from the 4th century AC is worth 4 points, but one dating from the 5th century AC is worth five points.


Piecing together fragments to make a collection ready for exhibit

Polishing... Once you have assembled the artifacts that you wish to exhibit, it is also possible to increase the value of your collection by ‘polishing’ it. For each coin that you pay (up to a maximum of three - except on your last turn when there is no limit), you can increase the total value of your collection by one point, by giving it a bit of spit and polish, and making it look more impressive. Don't confuse the value of your collection with the points it will earn - the points your collection will earn will depend on where it ends up in the museum, and how many visitors (points) it attracts.


Example of play: calculating the value of a collection

Placing... Once you have pieced together and polished your artifacts you now move on to display it in the museum. To place your new collection in the Pergamon Museum, place one of your angular collection markers (either I,II or III) in front of your collection, and place the matching circular collection marker on the space in the Pergamon Museum section of the board equal to the value of your collection (don't forget to include any extra value as a result of polishing!) You also immediately receive one victory point (admission ticket) when you exhibit a new collection in the museum - there's always one keen museum goer who is going to visit the very day that you put your artifacts on display! Note that once a collection has been exhibited at the museum, it can no longer be extended or adjusted.


Exhibiting a collection with a total value of 22 in the museum

But now here's another fun thing - when you do exhibit a new collection at the museum in this way, interest in all existing exhibitions of the same or a lower value will drop. After all, folks are going round to check out your newly displayed artifacts, which means less attention for the smaller stuff already in the museum! To reflect this in the game, you must move down one space each circular marker in the museum that has the same or lower value than the new collection. Eventually collections will even move out of the museum, and when this happens the player must break up that collection (by returning the find tiles to the box).


Example of play: placing an exhibit of value 12 reduces the interest in other exhibits

c. Storing Finds

It may be that, at the end of your turn, you find that you have finds which you have not yet been able to exhibit at the museum, or which you are saving in order to produce a larger and more impressive collection on a future turn. No problem - often this is a good plan! You are allowed to store three of these finds for free, but storing any more than that costs money, and for every three additional find tiles you have at the end of your turn beyond three, you must pay one coin in storage fees (e.g. storing 4-6 find tiles would cost one coin, storing 7-9 find tiles would cost two coins). You're not forced to store tiles, and can discard surplus finds if you wish - although sensible archaeologists would rarely choose to discard a fragment that might later prove useful!


Example of play: storing five find tiles

4. Evaluation

The evaluation phase occurs at four points over the course of the game: at the end of turns five, seven, nine and twelve.

Points for visitors: At this juncture, all players will be awarded points (in the form of admission tickets) according to the location of each of their circular collection markers in the museum (one to six points). Basically this represents the amount of people who are going to check out their exhibits at this particular point, and the more valuable your exhibit with respect to other players, the more visitors and points you get!


Blue earns 4 points, Yellow 3 points, and Red 4 points

Bonus points: The calendar also indicates that there are several ways in which bonus points can be earned. During each evaluation phase, additional points will be awarded to the player who has exhibited the: oldest vase (turn five), jug (turn seven), mask (turn nine), bracelet (turn twelve).

After each evaluation the museum’s visitors lose interest in all of the old exhibitions - just like in real life, they've seen what is on display, and interest wanes in favour of the new and exciting! To reflect this, all of the markers on the exhibition plan are moved down by several spaces on the museum track, as indicated with reminder arrows on the calendar (3 spaces on turn 5, 4 spaces on turn 7, 5 spaces on turn 9), and on the back of the Reminder card.

Next turn

At the end of a turn, the player who was positioned furthest to the left on the research funds spaces becomes the new starting player for the next turn. All players take back their player figures, two new research cards are laid out face-down, and five new finds are placed in the excavation area.


Levels may have more than one find tile

End of Game

As indicated by the calendar on the board, the game lasts a total of twelve turns. The evaluation phase at the end of that twelfth turn has already been mentioned above, but in addition to the bonus points given to the player with the oldest bracelet on exhibit, 3, 2 and 1 points are awarded to the players with the oldest, second-oldest and third-oldest artifacts respectively. The player who has drawn the most visitors to their collection (determined by adding up the total points on all your admission tickets) is the winner!


A winning score of 37 points

Two Player rules

In a two player game the tomb raider token (black meeple) is used to simulate the actions of a ‘ghost player’. Each turn the tomb raider will block a research funds space on the research funds track, stealing funds and also looting one of the excavation galleries. This `tomb raider' variant for two players works the same as the regular game, but before players put their figures on the research fund track, the tomb raider is placed on the space with icons corresponding to the two research fund cards currently face down for this round. The tomb raider takes money just as if it was another player.


The three possible placement options for the Tomb Raider

Furthermore, when players are excavating finds in order of their figure placement from right to left, this is also done for the tomb raider - he excavates the most expensive gallery he can afford and in which he may legally dig according to the icons on the space he is occupying (or one level higher if that level is empty). Coins to pay for this excavation are discarded, as are any of the finds he excavates, and he may retain coins from turn to turn.

Using the Tomb Raider in this way works well, and the two player game has the feel and flow of a three-player game. It certainly succeeds in making the game playable with just two.


Game state at the end of a two-player game

Variants

The rules also include two variants, which are suggested for those wanting more tactical options:

Variant #1 - Player order (for 3/4 players)

When a round ends, players move their player figures from the research funds spaces onto the four order spaces on the right side of the game board, with the leftmost figure on space one, the one next to it on space two, and so on. For the next turn player take their turns in the order indicated by the number from 1 to 4 (NB: There is a mistake in the English rules on this point). As in the regular game, the player who last excavated finds will be the starting player, but instead of going in clockwise turn order the rest of the turn order is also dictated by the reverse order in which players excavated. Placement of figures is one of the most important parts of the game, and turn order is critical in determining this, so having the entire turn order determined by the placement from the previous turn seems to be a good rule. I'd recommend playing this way as the standard way to play - one of the designers has recommended this also.


Using the player order variant to determine turn sequence

Variant #2 - Sorting finds

During phase one, when the first player lays out the five find tiles, one below the other, face-up on the galleries of the excavation site, they are still sorted by century (1-5). However, if there are several finds from the same century, the starting player may choose among those the order in which they wants to distribute them to the galleries (regardless of the two-digit figure on each tile). I'm not sure this is a good rule, while it gives the start player more control over the galleries available (although there's no guarantee he'll be starting player and benefit from it anyway), so he'd want to arrange tiles that benefit his own collection possibilities while at the same time prevent his opponents from digging up too many good artifacts in one gallery to fit the collections they're working on - so I can see it leading to excessive analysis paralysis, although some people might like this extra layer of thinking.

THEME



Ruins of Pergamon as seen today


Origin of the game

Even though Pergamon is a essentially a euro, the theme isn't entirely pasted on, but has had a significant role in determining some of the mechanics. Some understanding of about Pergamon and the history of its archaeological research can help in appreciating the game's theme. The game originated in a visit that designer Ralf zur Linde made to the modern day location of Pergamon in 2004, as part of a trip to several Greek islands and parts of the Turkish west coast. Visiting the center of the archaeological action there inspired some of the ideas and mechanics of the game. His friend and fellow designer Stefan Dorra had also visited Pergamon previously, and was quick to jump on board with the ideas for the game. The concept of having players assume the role of archaeologists in Pergamon, piecing together broken fragments, was part of the game design from the outset. For a fascinating insight into how the designers have married this theme with the game mechanics, and how the game design was largely driven by the theme, see zur Linde's terrific Designer Diary on the subject.

Pergamon the city

The ancient Greek city of Pergamon was located close to the Aegean Sea not far from what is today the modern city of Bergama in Turkey. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323B.C. the city’s favourable location near major trading routes (both on land and by sea) caused it to rise in prominence until it came under Roman control in 133B.C.. Interestingly, Pergamon has a rather divided reputation in terms of the historical record. On the one hand, she stands out as city of remarkable learning and culture. Pergamon was home to the Athenaeum which, after the Library of Alexandria, was one of the greatest libraries of the classical world. Indeed, a significant portion of its holdings were given to Cleopatra by Mark Antony after Caesar’s invasion in 48B.C. destroyed the library in Alexandria. The remarkable learning and culture of the city can be seen in the legacy of one of its greatest sons – Galen of Pergamon. Galen, physician to the gladiators and later personal physician to Marcus Aurelius, is the individual most responsible for passing on the concepts of Hippocratic medicine first to the Roman world and, ultimately, to the medieval West.

Curiously, however, Pergamon’s reputation for learning, culture and civility was not shared by everyone in the classical world. For the earliest Christians Pergamon become symbolic not of learning and light but of darkness and persecution. Besides being home to the Temples of Athena and Dionysus, Pergamon was also the site of Altar of Pergamon – a massive shrine dedicated to the worship of Zeus. In the book of Revelation, chapter two, verse thirteen, the Apostle John makes mention of this very altar. Writing to the Christian believers in that city, John recorded Christ’s message of comfort to them: “I know where you live where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives.” Christian tradition holds that Antipas was ordained as the bishop of Pergamon by the Apostle John and that he was martyred in that city in 92A.D.


The famous altar to Zeus on display in the Museum of Pergamon

Pergamon archaeology

Carl Humann:
born in Essen


Interestingly, many of the remains of this ancient city with a divided reputation – including the Altar of Pergamon can be seen today in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. The excavation of Pergamon began in the late nineteenth century. The initial efforts to uncover her many treasures was lead by the German archaeologist Carl Humann who began his excavation of the site in 1878 and who would continue to run digs there until 1886. One particularly noteworthy fact about Mr Humann is that he was born in 1839 in the German town of Steele – a town which is now known by a name familiar to board game lovers around the world – Essen! There is a wonderful sense of rightness about the fact that the man who discovered so many of the artifacts from Pergamon was born in the city that will undoubtedly see the game Pergamon played in it this coming October!

Pergamon Museum

As noted above, the artifacts discovered by Humann and those who followed him were collected and displayed in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, which is featured in the game. The original Pergamon Museum was built in 1901 and then demolished to make way for the current building which was constructed between 1910-1930. To this day, it remains one of the most visited museums in all of Germany.


Entrance to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

CONCLUSIONS

What do we think?

• `Hey there good lookin’!’ This game has been extremely well produced and it really looks good on the table. All of the components are of an excellent quality and they all perform their function admirably. The only issue we had, as noted above, was that the player reference cards really weren’t that helpful, and an improved player aid would be a good asset to the game. Aside from that, there are some nice thematic touches in both the artwork and production design, such as the way artifact pieces together, and victory points are awarded in the form of ticket stubs. The board has also been designed to really help smooth out the flow of play, and is beautiful to look at when you are waiting for your turn.

• `You’re a euro, so why ‘aint your theme thinner?’ Euros are often known for pasted on themes, but the theme of Pergamon really meshes well with the actual mechanics. Archaeology is just one of those endlessly appealing themes – after all, the lure of hidden treasure is something we can all get excited about. Everything you're doing makes thematic sense. The way in which the artifacts tokens are broken and need to be pieced back together again brilliantly captures the actual challenges faced by those who were involved with excavating Pergamon and displaying her treasures. The frustration you’ll feel in trying to find that elusive final half of an artifact must surely be reflective of the frustration felt by some nineteenth-century archaeologist who was forced to concede that some treasures are simply lost forever to the sands of time. Even the competition to try and get your hands on research money is reflective of the vagaries of applying for academic and government grants. And the way exhibits lose public interest over time, making way for newer collections, is in many ways true-to-life. This is no dry, abstract Euro where you simply push cubes around on a board. It’s a game that really succeeds in putting a rich thematic ‘flesh’ on the bones of an elegantly constructed skeleton. Ok, maybe the mummy metaphor was bit of a stretch there but you know what I mean, and the components do a good job in enhancing this thematic flavour.

• ‘Hey Grandma! You up for a game of Pergamon?’: One of the nice things about Pergamon is how accessible it is. The rules are clear, straightforward and supported by an intuitively designed and well illustrated board; as a result, even gaming newbies can be up and playing this game in no time. When you combine the ease of play with the treasure hunting theme this is also a game that won’t be hard to sell to your Parchisi loving family and friends! This game makes an excellent gateway style game that will find a happy home in many a collection, especially for those looking for a contemporary style game that's on the lighter side of things, without it being a filler.

• ‘Son of a Motherless Goat!’: An odd saying to be sure – but one heard more than a few times when we played this game. This may be an easy game to learn, but don’t kid yourself my friends – there is real tension in this game! Do you get greedy and place your meeple as far left as you can on the research track? Or, do you play conservatively and perhaps find yourself not being able to excavate that gallery which you desperately need? And what about your buddy over there? You know that he knows that you need that mask tile in gallery four – is he going to block you or place his figure on the research fund space you want just out of spite? Or worse yet, will take it for himself and scoop you on the oldest mask point bonus? And how lucrative will this month's pool of potential funds prove to be, and how much should you press your luck in your quest to get the bulk of it? We found that the competition for research funds was particularly ruthless and you should be prepared for the reality that, from time to time, you’re going to find yourself shaking your fist at the heavens in impotent rage while your buddy marches all the way to the bank!

• `Oh, you lucky fella!’: Ok, to be sure, some of the tension is generated by luck. If you’ve taken a gamble on research funds you might win big or you might lose big – and that part of the game is all in the cards that you turn over - as well as the location you've placed your figure on the research funds track! It’s also true that if the right tile comes up at the right time in a gallery you can excavate it might just make or break a scoring round for you. But you know what? The luck is the same for everybody in the game. And you can mitigate the impact of the luck factor with careful and conservative play. And here too, the luck is thematically appropriate – sometimes an archaeologist can dig and dig and dig and come up with nothing but sand and dirt!

• ‘C’mon – it’s early! We got time for one more!’: Even if the luck is a problem for you, the good news is that this game plays quite quickly. The points where some thought may be needed is deciding where to place your figure, and the optimal way to piece together a collection, but for the most part the flow of play is brisk. These two decision points are ones that AP-prone players would be well-advised not to linger on for too long, otherwise the game might have the potential to drag, and it's important to keep things moving smoothly as part of a casual game experience. Experienced players should easily be able to knock a game out in less than an hour. So if the cards and tiles don’t go your way (or you’re buddy screwed you over by scooping the gallery you needed) you can just rack’em up and bang out another game! On one occasion, we played three games back-to-back, so if you "dig" the digging, the quick game time means you can always play another!

• ‘There's nothing new under the sun, is there?’: Many euros are a regurgitation of mechanics and ideas, and to some extent it's true that there's nothing new under the sun. But remember that this game originates from under the ground, where the sun don't shine! Sure, there are some ideas here that we've seen before, including the fact that the game is driven by an (unusual) bidding system, and an (unusual) form of set collection. I say unusual, because the mechanics are very much theme driven, and the way the game comes together has a very different feel and flow than anything I've ever played before. This game has been a long time in coming, since the designers have been working on it for many years - they've dug deep to make it stand out from most other euros, and it shows. They have unearthed some good concepts, and succeeded in bringing something to the table that genuinely feels new and different.

• ‘I dig it!’: Not every game is going to go over well with every gamer, and there's no reason to think that Pergamon is any exception. But we like it! To stick with the digging imagery, the decisions aren't earth-shatteringly complex or ground-breakingly profound - but there's some fun elements of risk and reward as you try to get the funds you need, which will find you jostling for position with your opponents, in an effort to get both money and first shot at unearthing a particularly valuable layer of artifacts. It's fun trying to puzzle together a valuable collection, perhaps even paying to put artifacts in storage in an effort to increase the value of collection while making it ready for exhibit, and giving it a final polish to make it of more interest to visitors than the your opponent's existing museum exhibits. It's well paced and offers enough decisions to make it more interesting than the average filler, without bogging down into the complexity that would prevent it from being considered as a gateway game. We dig it!



Recommendation

So is Pergamon a game for you? Well, if what you’re looking for is a beautifully constructed game that’s easy to learn, quick to play, filled with tense decisions and offers good player interaction, then the answer is an unqualified yes! It’s fun to play and it will leave you with some great gaming memories, that you can dig up and reflect on in years to come! Well done all-round!



Credits: This review is a collaborative effort between EndersGame and jtemple.

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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Ryley Tolman
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So thorough a review! Loved it, and will be picking up a copy for sure. Anything to get the wife to play a game with me...

Also, doesn't hurt that my father is actually an archaeologist.
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Guan Yixin
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Another great review!
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Tim Royal
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Dang, great review. I'd almost rather buy the review than the game!
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Rick Baptist
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This went up a step on my wishlist. Would love to give this a play as I really enjoy the theme. Great job as always sir!
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Raymond Jones
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I think that the picture of the starting items should indicate that it is for the red, not the blue, player. Otherwise, a very interesting review.
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Bo Link
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The tomb raider figure is a little less busty than I remember.
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Stefan Dorra
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Thank you for your great and very detailed review. One note: We prefere to play with variante 1 (Player Order). This should be the normal rule for all players.

Kind regards
Stefan
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Jeremey Byrne
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Excellent review. I loved the puns throughout the review. What a great looking game. I was wondering how enjoyable is it as a two player game as that is how most of our games get played. Thanks for the time and effort. I might just have to dig deep and get one of your badges soon.
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Stefan Dorra wrote:
Thank you for your great and very detailed review. One note: We prefere to play with variante 1 (Player Order). This should be the normal rule for all players.

Kind regards
Stefan

It's always great to hear from a designer, thanks for posting! I'm pleased to hear that you recommend the Player Order variant as the standard way to play the game - just a few days ago I'd posted this thread:

Why isn't Variant #1 an essential rule, and the normal way to play the game?
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Nick Bornschein
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I think this is an amazing game review. Thank you so much. I just ordered the game.
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Branko K.
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I wish BGG reserves a special part of the site for reviews like this. Regardless of my actual interest in the game, reading such a nice, comprehensive review is rather relaxing and enjoyable.
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jonathan lee
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Always regret reading Ender's reviews cuz it will mean I missed another great game.. time to go get the game

GREAT REVIEW ENDER
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David Tolin
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Ender, you consistently produce the best reviews on this site. Really stellar work, and greatly appreciated.
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John Rudolph
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Great review as always. I love your pictorial reviews. Makes it easier to understand the gameplay. Just one quick question. In section 1 under placing finds, it states to place 5 tiles. From your picture example it looks like there are 7 tiles placed. Should there be only 5 or am I seeing something wrong?
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Branko K.
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Putzmanrudy1 wrote:
Great review as always. I love your pictorial reviews. Makes it easier to understand the gameplay. Just one quick question. In section 1 under placing finds, it states to place 5 tiles. From your picture example it looks like there are 7 tiles placed. Should there be only 5 or am I seeing something wrong?


They probably accumulate if no one selects a particular row, and the picture is from a later round.
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baba44713 wrote:
Putzmanrudy1 wrote:
Great review as always. I love your pictorial reviews. Makes it easier to understand the gameplay. Just one quick question. In section 1 under placing finds, it states to place 5 tiles. From your picture example it looks like there are 7 tiles placed. Should there be only 5 or am I seeing something wrong?

They probably accumulate if no one selects a particular row, and the picture is from a later round.

Branko's answer is quite correct. In the very first round of a game, each gallery will have exactly tile. But let's say players excavate galleries 1, 4 and 5. Now when one tile is added to each gallery at the start of the second round, galleries 2 and 3 will have two tiles each - as was the case in that image.

The example pictured below is from an actual two player game. On the previous round, the Tomb Raider excavated gallery 3, while the players themselves excavated galleries 1 and 4. Galleries 2 and 5 have been accumulating finds over several rounds, and due to tough finances both players weren't in a position to excavate gallery 5, or chose instead to get finds from other galleries. It's now full, and gallery 5 will prove to be a real bonanza of four lucrative finds for the player who does get it on the next round (if anyone can afford it!).

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CJ
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It has always struck me as a perversion that a work of this quality is only ever eligible for 5GG while pointless photographs generate 1GG each.

Bravo, Sir.
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elgin_j wrote:
It has always struck me as a perversion that a work of this quality is only ever eligible for 5GG while pointless photographs generate 1GG each.

Bravo, Sir.


You are truly underappreciating the skill of placing a cat in the box and keeping it still.
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Steve Duff
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elgin_j wrote:
It has always struck me as a perversion that a work of this quality is only ever eligible for 5GG while pointless photographs generate 1GG each.


Remember, each photograph uploaded and used also generates him geekgold. So, his reviews generate well over 60 geekgold, not 5. This one is well over 75 by now, with tips.

edit: removed some stupidity.

I think he is adequately compensated for these reviews.
 
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UnknownParkerBrother wrote:
Your math is off. His reviews generate well over 60 geekgold, not 5. This one is well over 75 by now, with tips. Each photograph used also generates him geekgold.

And some of them are in fact the pointless ones you complain about, as he rarely uses photos that are already in the database, and will upload near duplicates.
Ender: Pre-existing:





So, no, there is no "poor Ender" here. He is more than adequately compensated for these reviews.

Steve, I've never complained about being `poor'. I do upload a lot of images, and the geekgold reward for them is compensation for contributing pictures. I consider the image galleries a very useful and important BGG resource, so I contribute when I can, and I'd like to think that the standard of my photos is well above average when compared with most images contributed here. But these are independent of the review, the text of which is a substantial contribution in itself, and certainly a lot more work to write than taking and editing five photos.

But that aside, and more importantly, the examples you give are simply incorrect. In fact, all three images of the game board that you cite were uploaded into my personal gallery, and are not even in the game gallery - in part for the very reasons you raise. (NB: At least ten of the images that appeared in this review are in my personal gallery - the rest I consider useful contributions, and evidently the image mods agreed.)

As for the back of the game box, the existing image was a digitally generated image by the graphic designer, while mine was the first photograph of the actual game box. For the record, this isn't superfluous, because sometimes changes are made from the image produced by the graphic designer when the game goes to print. A perfect example of this happening is the game board in this very game - the digital images from the graphic design first uploaded to BGG don't include the icons for the two player Tomb Raider variant on the funds track, while these are present on the print edition of the board (so this variant must have been finalized at a later stage of game development). So it's less pointless than you seem to think, and there are people who find this useful, even if you're not one of them.

Please, give up your personal crusade against my images, because this isn't the first time you've raised such complaints. I will not be interacting with you on this subject further in this thread - if you want to discuss this further, please do so in a separate thread, and reserve this one for discussion of the game and the review itself.
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Steve Duff
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EndersGame wrote:
But that aside, and more importantly, the examples you give are simply incorrect. In fact, all three images of the game board that you cite were uploaded into my personal gallery, and are not even in the game gallery - in part for the very reasons you raise.


My mistake. I apologize.
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Andy Andersen
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ZING, Ender. Hats off for your response.thumbsup
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Nick Bornschein
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In your conclusion, you put tzhe pictures besides the text. How can I do that, I tried in my own reviews but the upright order is always text-picture-text.

-Nick
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Kopernikus wrote:
In your conclusion, you put tzhe pictures besides the text. How can I do that, I tried in my own reviews but the upright order is always text-picture-text.

It's a relatively new feature called "floating images", that you'll find explained here:

Floating images
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