Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Wednesday 26 February 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Curios

Game: Curios

Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group

Designer:  (Uncredited)

Year: 2019

In Curios, players are archaeologists, collecting different treasures from sites around the world. But you're not simply historians, you're in this for money. The only problem is that the markets for ancient goods are constantly changing and there is limited information about the current value of different types of artifact.

Curios is a game of bluffing and deduction for 2-5 players in which you use workers pawns to acquire different coloured artifacts. Each game, the four different colours will each have a different value - 1, 3, 5 or 7 and this value will only be revealed at the end of the game, when you can add up the total value of artifacts in your collection. During the game, each player will have some limited information about the value of each artifact and more will be revealed throughout the game. You will need to either go with your gut, deduce your best options, or follow the crowd when deciding which gems to add to your collection. Or perhaps you'll throw out a few workers as bluffs as well.


Curios is a fantastically simple game. At the start of the game, four locations are spread across the table, each being assigned a number of gems of its colour depending on the player count. Each location will then be given a face-down card that assigns the value of that colour of gem for the game. The remaining cards are shuffled and distributed between the players so each player has a limited amount of secret information. Any remaining cards form a deck to the side of the playing area and 2 pawns of each colour are also placed to the side.

Players then take turns placing their pawns at one of the 4 sites. The first player to place a pawn only needs to place 1 and in return gets 1 gem. The second player at that location must place 2 pawns to get a single gem. Finally all future plays at that location require 3 pawns, then 4 pawns in return for a singular gem. Once all players have run out of possible moves (due to running out of pawns) the round ends.

At the end of the round each location rewards an additional gem to the player with the most pawns at that location. Then each player has a chance to reveal a card from their hands to the rest of the players. If they choose to do so then they will be rewarded with an extra pawn to place in the following rounds. At the end of the third round of play the value of each location is revealed. Each gem owned is then scored according to the revealed values and the player with the most points wins.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Curios is both a gateway game and a filler game and as such it actually does something incredibly clever. It has the basic gameplay of having a hand of secret cards and trying to use that information, plus information gleamed from others, to work out which is the secret card. If that seems familiar, that's because it's how you play Cluedo! Curios strolls in here, takes all of the unnecessary dice rolling, moving around the board and repetition of a classic game and replaces it with a quick little bluffing game. And it works.

But while Curios may be clever it does have more than a few flaws. The component quality is bizarre. It comes with your standard, chunky plastic gems, which are nice enough, a metal lantern as a first player marker which is in the realms of kickstarter stretch goal, and then has the pawns you'd get in a Poundland or Dollar Store copy of snakes and ladders. Sure they are functional, but they feel so misplaced, like finding a banana nailed to a wall in an art gallery. The game itself is lightning fast, which is great for a filler game, but perhaps it's too fast. An extra round might have given you the chance to feel like you are gathering power by sharing knowledge, or hording your knowledge to trick your more powerful opponents. As it is the 2 pawns you can get don't make enough of a difference in the time given. That said I always felt the urge to play just... one.... more... round!

So, Curios ends up in a curious position. Perhaps too quick and simple for the modern gamer, but lacking the obvious appeal for it's perfect audience. Curios makes for a great game that you can break out for a couple of rounds in a lunch break or with family, but to that end I wish it was more portable rather than in a large (easily damaged) metal tin. As a very light gateway game it has it's place in teaching the basic mechanics of worker placement and bluffing, but it's simply to light and fast for me.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

It's a shame when your first impression opening a game is disappointment. Board game tins are always a questionable choice, but I don't dislike them as much as some people (until they get dented and then the lid won't stay on!). They do set an expectation of quality though, and inside this particular tin, I found cheap plastic pawns that look like they came from an old game of Sorry and some big plastic gems, which were trying to impress with size, but still felt cheap. This was offset with a strangely heavy metal first player token and as a result, the game looks like a random mix of spare parts I found in the cupboard.

Curios is a very quick and simple game. It's not surprising that the designer is 'Uncredited' because it has the feel of a classic games that's been played for generations. The rules will take about 2 minutes to teach to almost anyone and the game only lasts 10-15 minutes. It's a game that you'll probably play multiple times in a single sitting. I do find that it has a quite addictive feel to it, even though its actually very repetitive in terms of its gameplay. There's only a small amount of information in the game, so every game seems to have a couple of colours where no-one knows very much and then a few bits of more certain information. Luck of the draw could mean that you know the 7 belongs to  a certain artifact, and in a two-player game, there's no doubt that the lucky player with better information is at an advantage.

Curios is enjoyable, but I think its biggest drawback is how fast the game is. There's not really enough time for anything to happen. There's not a true element of deduction because there's such a small amount of very obvious information, that it isn't a puzzle to figure out, you just know what you know and have to work off a hunch. There's also not enough time for bluffing. By the time you realise that there's a pattern to what one player is doing and think that it might be based off knowledge they have, all the gems in that location are already depleted. I really like the mechanisms of the game, they just aren't given enough time to play out and become really interesting. So, rather than me wanting to play more of Curios, I just kind of feel done with it, after only a handful of plays.

You Might Like...
  • Curios is quick and very light in rules, there's no challenge to introducing it to any audience.
  • It's not a pure deduction game and it's certainly not challenging in terms of deduction, but the bluffing aspects almost turn it into a social deduction game.
  • The two player variant is very simple and effective.
You Might Not Like...
  • Curios needs a much smaller box. Ideally made of cardboard rather than a tin!
  • Most games play out with an extremely repetitive feel to them.

The Verdict
6/10 Curios is a very basic game. From its cheap components to its simple mechanisms, there's really not a lot going on in this rather large tin. With that said, it's certainly a simple concept that works well and it's an entertaining enough 10-minute filler game. For us, it isn't unique or interesting enough to be memorable, but I can see it as an enjoyable bar game, or something you might introduce to a relative who knows very traditional games.

Curios was a review copy kindly provided to us by Lenny Herbert Games.

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