Aug 302012


Anasazi is a game for 2-4 players aged 10+. The game simulates exploration of Anasazi cliff dwellings.

Anasazi is a board game designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede and published for North America by Mayfair Games. The game was first published in 2006 and is not being re-issued.

Sadly, that is already sort of the TL:DR review of the game. It is discontinued. Popular games are still in print. So we can categorize this one as unpopular before we’ve gotten into discussing it.

But let’s look in greater detail. I know I was excited when I found it on the rack. I grew up in Colorado and the place is chock-full of cliff dwellings. Manitou, Mesa Verde, I’ve been there, they really are awesome and mystical, and revisiting them in game form seemed very attractive.

Plus it was on the discount rack and I was able to snag it for less than a third of what most games cost; the discontinued thing again, I imagine.

Game Play

Anasazi is a European-style board game, meaning it has a finite time limit, and players are never eliminated.

Starting layoutThe board is created fresh for each game, consisting of 28 “mesas” which are laid out in concentric circles and will vary each time. Each mesa contains one or more “pueblos” which in turn contain a treasure, or in some cases, a tower + a treasure.

The basic mechanic is is one that I would have expected in a train game: one lays out long, narrow tiles in a continuous path to reach “towers” and score treasure. Towers and treasure each come in one of five colors; the color is obvious for treasures but hidden for towers.

The objective is to accumulate the most treasures of the color that matches the least-discovered towers. That last sentence was a mouthful, the mechanic is hard to explain. To win, try to devalue the treasure colors that your opponents are accumulating while at the same time shielding towers of the treasure color that you are accumulating.

Players take turns “guiding an expedition” which is really just laying out your track. Tracks can bend at any angle and cross each other, but are not exclusive: anyone can extend any track. Making the paths an interesting series of double-backs as one player tries to reach a tower while another tries to direct the path away from the same tower.

One does not lay the tracks end to end, but rather, places the beginning of each track over the end of the previous track: it is a zig-zag stack rather than a linear track.

There are ways to view a tower color without exposing it, although you can only see a handful of towers this way and may still end up guessing. There is also a mechanic that allows one to steal a treasure from an opponent; perhaps this would come into greater play in a 4-player game? It was not commonly used when I played with My Gamer Girl.

Pluses and Minuses

The topic really resonates with me personally and predisposed me towards liking the game. The game pieces are nicely done, very thick paperboard, quality printing.

Stacking tiles

The game play itself is less appealing. The formula to determine victory points seems unnecessarily complicated; negative logic is hard for many people, there had to be a simpler way to achieve the same result. The hidden tower colors don’t produce very much drama, the person who gets the most treasure is probably still going to win regardless.

PlayBut the biggest drawback is that this is a “fidgety” game. The mesas are rounded and oddly shaped, and the track tiles come off of them at weird angles which encourage sliding. Add in the fact that you stack the end of one tile across the beginning of another and you end up with an unstable construct that requires constant fiddling and is very subject to “crashing” if anything is jostled (gods forbid the table is bumped – oh the horror!).

Several times during the game, the existing path of a track was accidentally changed while extending it. We would try to put it back the way it was, but it wasn’t always obvious where exactly the track was – and it matters, a lot!


My rating: skip. If you are an avid collector like me, you may get sucked in by the high production values and low cost. But you will only play it once.

My Gamer Girl sez: No. The combination of precision needed to lay the tiles plus my lack of dexterity means it will be sloppy and I will be constantly messing with it.

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