From designers Jason Harner and Matthew Ransom, Unearth is a new dice rolling, worker placement board game published by Brotherwise Games (Boss Monster). Releasing at GenCon this past weekend, Unearth should now be available at your local game store or order direct from Brotherwise Games.
How to Play Unearth
Each player is given a set of dice and two delver cards with special abilities. On your turn, you have the option to first play delver card(s) to modify your roll or for some other effect. Then the player selects a die and a ruin to roll the die on. Rolls from one to three earn a stone token, used to build wonders which earn points and grant additional abilities. High value rolls are also useful, because when the total value of dice on a ruin meets the value printed on the ruin, the highest individual roll earns the ruin. Collecting sets of different coloured ruins earns points, as does collecting ruins matching the ruin secretly dealt to each player during setup. Once all ruins have been claimed, points are tallied and a winner is crowned.
No Game is Without Faults
Unearth combines many game mechanisms I enjoy into one well-balanced game. I absolutely loved the game, so you can expect to hear mostly positive things about it from me. I gave Unearth 9 out of 10 on BoardGameGeek, with the only thing holding it back from a perfect 10 were certain luck elements and the lack of a mental challenge. Obviously being a dice rolling game, there is an element of luck in Unearth. Rolling dice and getting lucky or unlucky didn’t bother me, but rather added entertainment to the game. There are also delver cards that manipulate die rolls through adding or subtracting, and re-rolling. The luck element that had an adverse affect on the game for me was the secret ruin cards dealt to each player to collect during the game. With the potential to score a massive 30 points, if you get unlucky and have your colour ruins discarded during setup, this can be reduced to 12 or even 6 points. With players aiming to collect sets of all the colours, I’ve yet to see a player score 30 points this way, but it was still frustrating to rarely see your colour come up during the game. The second aspect holding Unearth back from perfection was the lack of a mental challenge. By this I mean that I didn’t have to make difficult decisions very often. There are two sides to this coin, this keeps the game flowing relatively quickly and makes it a relaxed competition. However, I also like games to force me to exercise my brain. Most decisions are rather simple and made quickly. Other than this, Unearth was a great game, so let me gush about what I loved.
Lots of Love for Unearth
First off, the colour palette used by artist Jesse Riggle and his geometric style made this game instantly look appealing on the table. I’ve also mentioned in past reviews how much I appreciate good box organization. Unearth has a great plastic insert with molded spaces for all the components. So before I even get to playing, I’m already quite pleased.
Many dice rolling games stick to the six-sided dice, I liked the inclusion of four-sided and eight-sided dice and how they affected strategy in the game. The four-sided die was clearly useful for earning stone tokens and the eight-sided die useful for getting high rolls to claim ruins. However, once these are used they remain on ruins until claimed, so players may want to cause a ruin get claimed to get these dice back quickly. On the topic of strategy, I enjoyed the different and conflicting paths players can take. There is the set collection method, claiming as many ruins as possible, and the tableau building strategy, earning points from wonders. Tableau building was a element I really enjoyed. Many new players just place their stones in circles to get wonders as quickly as possible. Placing stones efficiently to create multiple circles with the least number of pieces and match patterns to earn high value wonders is essentially a mini puzzle within the game. TIP: No three stones should ever touch in one spot.
Unearth is able to stay fresh through plenty of variety. There are many end of age cards (last ruin drawn each game) and different wonders to create combinations that make the game slightly different with each play. During my testing some cards needed clarification. This was not due to poor card text, but rather indicative of all the possible ways to combine abilities. There isn’t an extremely vast number of potential combos such as in deck-building games like Dominion, but the delver cards and wonder abilities allow for some creative combinations not predicted by the designers.
I have yet to play several of the popular releases out of Origins and GenCon, but Unearth is certain to stand out as a top title of the year and is currently my favorite game thus far. It is an excellent board game to play with family or competitive gamers. Since it is a fairly relaxed, casual game, I would much rather bring Unearth to a party than most games in the party category. All in all, for a couple of first time designers, Unearth is an impressive release that I will continue to get plenty of enjoyment from. I absolutely recommend adding it to your collection.