TTRPG Talks - Xenoarcheology

Today we are looking at a new game as part of my TTRPG Talks series on Youtube! You can either choose to watch it or read the blog below the fold. While not a 1:1 in their content, they are almost the same. (^_^)


 

Xenoarcheology is a solo card & dice-based journaling game by Armanda Haller with further contributions from other creators as well.

Cover for the game showing several radio towers on a hill colorshifted to suggest an alien landscape
Cover Art

Currently it is crowdfunding on itch.io. Please keep in mind that look at the game is based on the publicly available v0.7 ashcan of the game, so it does not necessarily reflect the full features or final quality of the full release product.


Xenoarcheology, as you might be able to guess from looking at the title, is about archeology. In some ways it is different from archeology today because you are examining a seemingly extinct alien civilization that we have stumbled across in the galaxy. This is reflected in the first part of the game, the Identification Phase. During this phase, the player rolls on tables to determine the atmosphere, planetary composition, local space environment, and regional climate that the expedition will encounter. These determine the flavor of your expedition through a series of related questions and the Type of expedition you are embarking on.


An example arragement of playing cards for Pyramid Solitaire. The cards are set up in rows with 7 cards on the bottom row and one fewer each row up to the top row of just one card. A deck of the extra cards waits to the side.
An example arragement for Pyramid Solitaire

The Type also determines the difficulty of the starting scenario created in the Second Phase, the Site Evaluation. Depending on the type, you will be arranging 28 cards from a standard playing deck into one several versions of Pyramid Solitaire. This solitaire board reflects the process of discovering finds that will help you learn more about your archeological site. At this time, you are also encouraged to start creating a map to lay out finds, or some other means of recording the finds you will make in the next stage.


Phase Three is Data Recovery, where we fall back on the typical practices modern archeologists by digging and using scientific methods to determine what remains. Here we play the game of solitare we had set up , making pairs from the pyramid or your deck of extra cards that total 13. Each pair (or king) represents the physical state of the find from perfectly preserved to heavily decayed or contaminated based on the value spread between the two cards. The suits of the pair combined with a d66 roll help determine the specifics about the find such as the type of artifact or trace and adjectives that you can use to describe what the find is or the circumstances of finding it.



An illustration of the example discussed about the workglove next to a stone monolith.
The Workglove

For example, if I make a pair with the 9 of Spades and the 4 of Diamonds, and then roll 6 & 2 on the dice, then maybe I found an incomplete monolith. While the monolith itself is indeterminate, a fragile workglove left behind by a carver helps tell us more about the alien culture and its technological capabilities at this time the monolith was being worked on.


Such is the way this game goes until 5 pairs. Then you begin to create hypotheses for each set of 5 pairs based on your finds about the lives of the people in the culture you are investigating. If you clear the pyramid, then you should unify these hypotheses under a single theory. However, you may not always be able to clear the pyramid. Then you can, like a good archeologist, come back the following dig season and reset your pyramid to represent a fresh attempt at digging on a different part of the site or at a new site nearby.


 

I must say that I look forward to potentially doing an Actual Play of this game. Archeology was something that I seriously considered in school as an area of study and the recent revival of the old tv show Time Team has gotten my children recently hooked as well. One thing that I appreciate about this game is Armanda's acknowledgment of Archeology's dirty past and a strong call for the use of solo safety tools considering the serious and potentially grim subject matter. If you would like to support Armanda (twitter), you can purchase games from her Itch.io store, but also support her work through Patreon and stay up to date through their newsletter!

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