I first heard about Pergamon listening to the Boardgames To Go podcast, and I decided to purchase it without playing it based on that recommendation, which is something I try very hard to avoid doing. In this case, it worked out for the best. After 9 plays of this almost textbook Eurogame, I can honestly say that Pergamon is now one of my favorites. It’s a solid family game and I believe it would make a great gateway game for new players, but I have yet to test that theory. I’ve ranked this one 9 out of 10 on boardgamegeek, and I would give it a 10 if it weren’t for one issue, but I’ll talk about that later.
Pergamon was designed by Stefan Dorra (For Sale) and Ralf zur Linde (Finca) and was published in 2011. I have the Eggertspiele version, which I got through a German order, because I assumed there was no domestic version. Not only was I incorrect since it’s published domestically by Gryphon Games, but my copy arrived with a partially crushed box, which didn’t harm any of the contents, but it’s still annoying.
Pergamon will accommodate 2 – 4 players with a recommended age of ten or older. I prefer to play the game with three players, but the two player modification is, in my opinion, the best example of the use of a dummy player that I have ever seen. I still enjoy the game with four, but it becomes a much tighter game in terms of the amount of funds you have access to each round. It’s still good, but I like it best with two or three. You can easily get through a game of Pergamon in about 45 minutes.
Inside the Pergamon box, you will find a game board that is separated into three distinct sections, a dig site, a calendar, and a museum. Each player receives a meeple and six tokens to mark their exhibits, three for the museum and then three that mark the artifacts that make up an exhibit. There are 60 artifact tiles that are placed on the calendar portion of the game board, and there are a number of coins and museum tickets that act as victory points at the end of the game. There is also a tomb raider meeple for the two player game.
During each turn, players will place their meeple along a track that runs along the top of the game board. This track determines not only the amount of money that player may earn on that round, but also how deep they can dig for artifacts. The amount of coins a player can receive increases along the track from right to left, but the order in which players will take their actions is also determined from right to left. Basically, if you take your action earlier, you get less money but you may have access to better artifacts.
A player may choose to pay coins equal to the level of an excavation, 1 – 5, and take all of the artifacts from that level. How far down a player can dig is determined by where they placed their meeple along the top track. Each tile features one half of two different kinds of artifacts, a mask, a bracelet, a vase, and the dreaded jug. I say dreaded because all of the other artifacts are easily identified as being parts of a whole, but the jug has a shadow that makes it seem like two different items. Players will collect and match these artifacts and then place them into the museum for points. The most valuable exhibits attract the most people and thus earn the most points; however, museum patrons, like most board gamers, are always looking for something new, so after each scoring, existing exhibits quickly begin to lose value.
I thought I would toss in an actual photo from the real Pergamon Museum, just because I think it’s awesome. See, those people are just waiting for some new and exciting exhibit to appear. I imagine that will lower the worth of that Babylonian temple by at least 3 points!
Here’s what I like about Pergamon. The rules are simple and easy to explain; however, even though a player only make a few decisions each turn, those decisions are really quite interesting. Is it more important to get coins or to choose early? What is my opponent likely to do? Should I wait to build up a better collection for the museum or score smaller exhibits? Timing is key in Pergamon. In fact, if you can score a very large collection during the first scoring month, then you will most likely win the game.
This is the only reason I haven’t ranked Pergamon a 10 out of 10 on BGG. The outcome of the game is almost guaranteed with an early high scoring collection by a single player. It’s not a big deal, but it’s never fun when you can predict the outcome of the game by the end of turn five. Honestly, as long as I’m the player that makes the high scoring collection, I really don’t care.
Just out of curiosity, let me know if this is getting played in your town. I think I may be the only person with a copy in my area, and I think this game deserves some good press.