ArcheOlogic – Deductive Cartography


A City in the mountain was discovered…

But without an accurate map, exploring it could have deadly consequences!

Mapping a hidden city full of traps is the theme of ArcheOlogic, a new logic and deduction game from Ludonaute. ArcheOlogic is a deduction and polyomino placement game for 1-4 players ages 12 and up. A game should take a little under an hour.


In ArcheOlogic, players race to determine the correct placement of six buildings (represented by polyominos) in the city (represented by their personal player board). There is a coded map, of sorts (a double-sided “code card”), and a special “archeology tool” called the Archeoscope.

Set the selected code card, Archeoscope, and City board (with Viewfinder token on “1”), in the middle of the table.

Randomly put the player’s time pawns on the beginning of the track on the City board. Pawns cannot share a spot.

Each player gets their own set of polyomino tiles, trap tokens, a player board, and two screens to hide their polyomino placement guesses. It’s helpful to have paper and pen to record clues as well.

ArcheOlogic player equipment: two folded screens, player board, polyomino tiles, trap markers, paper and pencil.

As a group, players decide how many starting clues they would like (from three to five). These starting clues tell the players where certain traps appear in the city. These are represented by square trap tokens with icons on them. There are two ways to get these starting clues: The game includes a special starting clues wheel OR players can use an app to reveal the clues. Once you use the app, you’ll never go back to the wheel unless you have to.

Once everyone has their starting clues, it’s time to search the city!


In ArcheOlogic, turn order is decided by player order on the time track. Whoever is in last place takes the next turn. This means that a player could possibly take multiple turns in a row.

To take their turn, a player must first move the view finder on the City Board one spot clockwise. This tells the player what row or column they must look for clues in. The player must then decide what kind of clue they want. These could be a clue about a particular shape, the number of (and type of) traps in a given row or column, or the number of buildings or empty spaces in a row or column. Each clue type costs a different amount of time to research. The rulebook and player screens have a handy key to this.

Finally, the row or column on the Viewfinder may not be of interest to the player. If so, they may pay one time unit to move the Viewfinder forward one space, or two to put it anywhere.

Once the player has selected their clue question, they calculate the cost of the question according to the chart. Then, they move their time pawn forward by that number of spaces on the time track, skipping over and not counting any other players’ pawns. Then, they take the Archeoscope and rotate the selector to circle the clue in question. Finally, they align the letter/number of the row/column on the code card with the sight at the base of the Archeoscope. This gives the player information for their effort to be the first to unlock the map of the city!

Demonstration of a question with the Archeoscope
What parts of this shape (if any) are in row 4?

Players continue taking turns like this until someone believes they have deduced the correct layout of the city.

Once someone believes they’ve done it, they move their pawn forward four spaces on their turn. On their next turn, they compare their answer to the solution key (in the book or the app). If they’re correct, they win! If not, they’re out of the game.

Solo Mode

ArcheOlogic also has a solo mode for the singular treasure hunters out there. Flip the city board to its solo mode side and play as usual. Whenever the player gets a clue, move the Viewfinder forward one space for each trap it reveals.

The solution for each puzzle has two numbers. Count the number of spaces the time pawn has travelled in this game. Beat the lower number for the hardest difficulty! Beat the higher number for medium. But simply getting the right answer – regardless of time – is an achievement too!

Archeoscope oriented to shapes question and column E
How many rooms (shapes) are present in column E?


It’s impossible to look at deduction games like this at this point and not immediately think about Turing Machine. ArcheOlogic does an incredible job hitting a lot of the same beats while carving out its own place. This is a polyomino placement game, not a numbers game, so it requires expertise in spatial deduction, not numeracy.

ArcheOlogic is also a different kind of race. In Turing Machine, the goal is solving the puzzle with the fewest number of tests. But in ArcheOlogic, you are trying to solve the puzzle in the least amount of time. This might seem like a trivial difference, but because ArcheOlogic introduces relative weighting to the tests players use (in their cost), the “value” of the information tests provide is tied to the cost of asking those questions. In this way, the time-movement mechanics offer players more choice, in which questions to ask and when to ask them.

We also noticed some differences in the way each of us think. Anitra is a far better number logician than I am, but my spatial reasoning far outpaces hers. Generally, this means Anitra will beat me in Turing Machine, but I’ll usually edge her here. That’s okay, because games like these shine due to the experience, not the competition. ArcheOlogic, like many other deduction games, is essentially multi-player solitaire.

Flexible Difficulty

Unlike Turing Machine, ArcheOlogic offers some balancing mechanics in the clues players can receive at the beginning of the game. Given we know that I will usually edge Anitra, we’ll be giving her an extra hint in the future. This will help her get a little bit of a head start. We can further adjust the rules by giving our kids yet another clue, which means the game is essentially functioning with three different skill levels simultaneously. This is a fantastic feature for a game that we would love to play across different ages in our family.

Some Mixed Feelings

Although I like the art style in ArcheOlogic (I’m getting near-future steampunk vibes) the desire to lean into this direction causes some misses. We’re constantly confused by who is what color because it’s not obvious from the players’ screens or boards who is who. We’ve defintely moved the wrong Time pawns a few times.

The letters and numbers on the code card are styled along with the theme too, and they take a second to click, sometimes. It’s a minor thing, but these are letters A-E and numbers 1-5. There should never be a moment’s pause in identifying them.

I find the Starting key card to be a little superfluous, but appreciate that it means you don’t need the app to play the game.

Starting clues wheel for ArcheOlogic
It takes me longer than I’d like to recognize this as C and 5.

There are a limited number of code cards in the box, and even with the app, players must use the Archeoscope; clue seeking isn’t built into the digital experience. There are enough cards that I think it’s unlikely players will remember them all. But some uber gamers may complain about a limitation that exists here when it doesn’t in other deduction titles with a regular flow of “daily challenges” available digitally.

I also just wish the app did give players the ability to do away with the Archeoscope altogether. I appreciate the tactile experience of using it, but implementing a code ask-and-answer mechanic in the app would only make the game more accessible. We play restaurant games a lot, even on dates, and being able to play this with just player boards and polyomino pieces (and a shared phone) would make it a much more portable game, even if we used the ‘scope at home.

ArcheOlogic phone app

Final Thoughts

Regardless, I really enjoyed my time with ArcheOlogic, and I’m really excited to see more games come out that encourage players to perform mental gymnastics in the form of abstract deduction, not the most efficient way to dispatch their opponents.

I think you might like it too! Find it on Amazon, or pick it up at your friendly local game store.

Flat River Games provided The Family Gamers with a complimentary copy of ArcheOlogic for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

ArcheOlogic - Deductive Cartography
  • 7/10
    Art - 7/10
  • 9/10
    Mechanics - 9/10
  • 8/10
    Family Fun - 8/10


Age Range: 12+
Number of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 40 minutes