Curios by AEG Games
Players: 2 to 5
Playtime: 15 to 20 minutes
Perfect for: Players who enjoy strategic deduction games with simple mechanics that are fun for all ages.
Curios is a game of value assessment. Players must vie to acquire the richest, most expensive gems but alas there is a wrinkle—the true worth of each possible stone is uncertain. Therefore, collectors must deduce their own knowledge and the actions of their competitors which commodity they should invest in to maximize wealth. Before discussing the mechanics, here’s a quick overview of the theme from the publisher, Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG):
You are a rogue archaeologist, traveling the world for history’s lost artifacts. But the market for artifacts can shift like the rains of Africa: One minute, treasures from a lost pharaoh’s pyramid are all the rage with collectors, and the next minute religious artifacts discovered in a remote temple are what’s in demand.
To begin Curios, the market is assembled by making piles of different gem stones by their four colors. For each color of stone, there are four possible values (1, 3, 5, or 7) that could be associated with it, represented by cards (for a grand total of 16 cards in the game). A value is secretly assigned to each color, and the remaining cards are distributed to the players. This means that each individual knows what values certain gems are not and can thus use this information to decide which stones they should consider collecting.
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Each player begins Curios with a set of pawns, which they can distribute to collect gems. However, as each round continues the cost per gem increases. For example, the first time a person acquires a purple gem, it costs one pawn. The next time, it will cost two pawns and so on. At the end of the round, two things occur: 1) the player who invested the most pawns to a particular stone gets a bonus gem of that color; and 2) a player can decide to openly reveal one of their value cards to give others more information in exchange for receiving an additional pawn for the next round. Depleting two piles of gems triggers the endgame at which time the true values of each color are revealed. Players count up their points given what they amassed during the game, and the collector with the most wins.
What works in Curios is the incredibly simple, but highly engaging and addictive mechanic. The rules and structure of the game are very intuitive and can be taught to any level of player in a matter of minutes. Once the Curious begins, it is very easy to become instantly invested trying to calculate optimal decisions based both on one’s insider information, but also the actions of others: the player across from me keeps buying red gems—do they know something I don’t? Gameplay is fast-paced and concluding a session typically only takes about 20 minutes at most. With this level of interactivity and alacrity, it’ll be common for people to play multiple games of Curios in succession.
Players who prefer games with deeper complexity and without deduction/slight bluffing mechanics may not enjoy Curios as much as others. To be clear, active deception and lying are not essential at all to succeed at Curios, but it is possible for players to purposely mislead others if they so choose. And if people are seeking an epic game that will take several hours filled with long-term strategy, Curios is unlikely to satisfy that need.
Curios is a fantastic game for families and players of all ages—the rules are simple enough to invite novice and younger gamers to the table (gameplay requires no reading), but yet still engaging enough to keep seasoned veterans interested. Perfect for a rainy day, or something quick to close out game night, Curios comes highly recommended.
Recommended if you like: Love Letter, Codenames, Decrypto
Final Grade: A
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