This is the second of three games that I’m giving away for the 2017 Heritage Jam and Open Access Week. I hope you enjoy playing, and if you’re an artist and want to join forces to bring this game to market, please drop me a line or leave a comment.


Creative Commons License

The rules and gameplay mechanics of Assemblage are hereby licensed as CC0 (public domain).


Much like soldiers in World War II who played poker with cards designed to help them identify the enemy, I wanted to design a card game that would encourage people to think about things archaeologically. Archaeologists are storytellers, so I wanted to test each player’s creativity to look at a series of (surprising) objects and an event, and to create a story linking everything together. Artifacts alone convey information, but taken together in a single context—an assemblage—they tell a story. Artifacts are the bones of our past, but when assembled produce a skeleton.

To make the game, I first developed and wrote the rules, thinking about how to use unrelated images to create some kind of connection. Once the mechanics and rules were done, I found a bunch of oddball artifact images online (which for this prototype should be classed as “fair use”), and dropped them into InDesign CS5 to create the initial deck of 84 cards, plus 18 hazard cards and 24 events cards, the artifacts and events provided without explanation or interpretation, and the hazards drawn from real-world archaeological perils. For the prototype, the actual identification of the artifacts has been removed, although I might add them back as a kind of answer key.

Download a PDF file of the cards along with the rules. Because the game is CCO, I would encourage everyone to play the game and improve upon it, adding cards, making expansion decks, and remixing the rules.


Rules for the Game: Assemblage

The Story

Artifacts are the bones of our past, and taken together form the skeleton of historical narrative. A collection of artifacts found together is called an “assemblage”. Become an archaeological storyteller, weaving heritage tales based on material evidence discovered on excavation. What stories will you tell based on connecting the things you find, and will these interpretations survive the scrutiny of your peers?


One deck containing 84 artifact cards and 18 hazard cards

One deck containing 24 event cards

12 assemblage tokens

Number of Players



Be the first to tell the story of your site and collect 3 assemblage tokens while surviving archaeological hazards.


Shuffle the deck of artifact/hazard cards, and deal 8 to each player. Players may look at their cards but must not show them to the other players. Place the remaining cards face-down within reach of all players. Shuffle the deck of Event cards and place the deck face-down next to the first deck.


Players must collect groups of 3 cards as identified by suit: trowel, microscope, computer, and book. If a player has 3 cards from a single suit, that player must lay them down immediately and then draw the top card from the Events deck. Once the player learns of the Event, the player must describe how the 3 Artifact cards tell the story of the Event. Pending a successful story, the player receives an Assemblage token, and play proceeds with the player to the left. If a player cannot make an assemblage during their turn, the player must draw a card from the deck (aka bone pile), and the turn ends.



Archaeology can be a risky enterprise, and players can sabotage your excavation. For example, if a player draws a card, another player with the proper hazard card can “loot” that artifact, break it, buy it, sell it, or subject it to natural loss. If a player shows a 3-card assemblage, another player might claim a card from it based on the hazard card’s instructions, breaking up the assemblage. Once the assemblage’s story is told, another player might play a hazard card to challenge the story, keeping the first player from earning an assemblage token. Some hazard cards affect all players at the same time, and sometimes hazard cards can be played, but with repercussions on the person who played them.



The Events deck contains cards featuring a variety of archaeological site events that affect what story a player tells about a 3-card assemblage. Example Events include site formation/foundation, site destruction, a natural disaster, hostile occupation, etc. The player must tell a story about their assemblage (how the artifacts relate to each other) in the context of the Event card drawn. If the player cannot create a story within one minute of reading the Event card, the assemblage is lost (discarded to the bone pile), and the player forfeits their turn.

Example Turns 

  1. Player A doesn’t have enough cards to make an assemblage, so she draws a card from the deck. Player B plays a hazard card, which allows him to “loot” the card she’s just drawn. It completes an assemblage for him, so he lays the 3 cards down and draws the Events card, “Burial”. Player B tells the story of how the three artifacts in the assemblage were found in a burial and why they were there. Player A then plays a hazard card that allows her to challenge Player B’s explanation, forcing him to discard his assemblage. He draws 3 cards and the turn ends.
  2. Player B draws a card from the deck. It’s a hazard card telling all players to give two of their cards to the player on their left. Upon receiving two cards from Player A, Player B now has enough cards to make an assemblage. She draws an Events card, “Destruction.” Player A tells the story of how the site was destroyed and why the 3 artifacts remained after the destruction. No one can challenge Player A’s interpretation, so she gets an assemblage token and draws 3 new cards to replace the ones she just used.

Game End

The first player to earn three assemblage tokens wins.

—Andrew Reinhard, Archaeogaming

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