Game in Review: Unearth

Guest Writer: Robert Bird

Game Type: Unique
Category: Card, Dice
Game Mechanics: Dice Rolling, Set Collecting, Dice Placement
Number of Players: 2 to 4
Age: 8+ Family friendly
Price range: Varies from $22.99 (Cardhaus) up to $29.95 (Noble Knight Games).  Median is$26.47
Game Time: Developers say 30 – 60 minutes, and that’s pretty accurate.  The first time I played through with two new players it took approximately 60 minutes; it didn’t take any longer when I taught a new third player.
Components (What’s In The Box): Four sets of colored die (each set has 1-d4, 3-d6, 1-d8), a Ruins Deck (25 tarot sized cards depicting a Ruin of various colors), an End of Age Deck (5 tarot sized cards that are similar to a Ruin but are black and has end-of-game effects), a Delver deck (38 mini sized cards), Named Wonders (15 hex tokens with matching cards), Lesser Wonders (10 hex tokens with 1 matching card), Greater Wonders (6 hex tokens with 1 matching card), Stones (60 hex tokens, 15 of each color), a cloth bag (for storage of the Stone tokens), a rulebook, and 4 Player Reference cards.

Story
: You are a member of a small tribe that is trying to reclaim what was lost through the discovery of ancient ruins. These ruins are a testament to the majesty of a long-forgotten empire that supposedly spanned the world.

How to Play: The are two goals to Unearth: collect Ruins and collect Stones.  There are five distinct colors of Ruins and you will collect points based off how many of each color you have collected.  A Ruin of a single color is worth two points but five of the same color are worth 30.  In addition to collecting Ruins, players can collect Stones which are in four distinct colors.  The goal in collecting Stones is to build a Wonder. There are several types of Wonders and they vary greatly in how many points they are worth.  Named Wonders require specific Stones, Greater Wonders require six of the same color of Stone, and Lesser Wonders can be built by acquiring six Stones of any color.  Named Wonders are worth victory points and potentially grant various abilities to help you in the game.  Lesser & Greater Wonders are only worth victory points.

Before play begins, each player must claim a set of colored dice. In addition, each player gets 1 random face-down Ruin card and two Delver cards.  All Stone tokens are placed in the cloth bag.  The player can use their Ruin card to help guide them in deciding which Ruins to try and go after in the beginning of the game.

To set up the play area, first you must create the Ruins deck.  Discard five Ruins in a 3-4 Player game or 10 cards in a two player game. Place those cards back in the box.  Shuffle the remaining Ruins cards and set them in the center of the game area.  Next, shuffle the End of Age deck, select a random card, and without looking at it, place it under the Ruins deck.  In a two player game, reveal four Ruins cards and place them next to each other in a row; in a 3-4 player game, you reveal five Ruins.  Each Ruin card will have two very important pieces of information.  On the lower right-hand side will be a number from two to five.  A player will reach into the cloth bag and pull out random Stones equal to that number and place the Stones on the Ruin.  The number on the upper left corner is the claim number which will be explained momentarily.

Pull out the Lesser Wonder & Greater Wonder cards from the Named Wonders deck and set them to the side for the moment.  Next, draw and reveal Named Wonders cards and place them face-up above the row of Ruins equal to two plus the number of players.  Next, find each hex token whose picture matches the named Wonder card and place the token on the card.  Then, shuffle the stack of Lesser & Greater Wonder tokens and place the tokens and their named card next to the Named Wonders row.  Finally, shuffle the Delver deck and place it next to the Named Wonders.  Return the unused Named Wonders and their tokens to the game box.  The game is now ready to begin.

Picture of a three player game setup.

Determine a starting player, then, in turn order, the player starts in the Delver phase.  The player decides if he or she wants to play a Delver card; these cards, for example, can give the player special abilities that can affect future dice rolls, or affect dice already in play. These cards can only be played in the Delver phase, which is always before the Excavation Phase.  After any and all effects are completed, the Excavation Phase begins.

In the Excavation Phase, the player will select one of his or her available unused dice and declare the Ruin he or she wishes to roll their dice on.  After rolling the die, place it on the declared Ruin.  If the die roll equals a one, two, or three, that player will get to choose one of the Stones that is available on that Ruin.  If there are not any available Stones, the player will draw a Stone blindly from the cloth bag.   Unless a player played a Delver card to change the rule, players can only roll one die for one Ruin.  Play then proceeds to the next player.  That player then determines if they want to play a Delver card during their Delver phase, and then rolls a die on their selected Ruin.  They can choose to roll on a Ruin where other players have already placed a die or on a different Ruin.  After each Excavation phase, the current player determines if the combined total from all dice have met or exceeded the claim number on the Ruin they placed their die on.  If it has, the player with the single die of the highest number will claim the Ruin. The players who did not get to claim the Ruin but had die on it will then draw new Delver cards equal to the actual number of his or her colored dice on that Ruin. The claimed Ruin goes to the winning players hand.

Receiving Stones: When a player receives a Stone, he or she places it front of him or herself.  Each time after that, the player must connect new Stones to one that has already been placed; the goal is to create a circle of connecting Stones.  Once a circle is completed, the player determines if he or she completed a pattern depicted on a Named Wonder or if they completed the pattern for a Greater or Lesser Wonder.  After determining which Wonder was completed, the player gets a hex token and places it in the middle of the completed circle.

Players can continue to collect Stones if the Stones are connected.

During scoring at the end of the game, players reveal the center hex tokens to see how much they are worth. Players continue taking turns playing Delver cards and rolling dice to collect Ruins until all the Ruins are collected.  The End of Age card is the last card in the Ruin deck.  It is treated as a Ruin if it has a claim number or it will state how to win the card.


Strategy
: There is not much strategy involved in playing the game.  Players decide which dice to roll and where to play them so there is some competition for the Ruins.  Delver cards can affect other players dice but there is actually little player interaction.  I do not find either to be a detriment but the game doesn’t make you feel like you really accomplished anything either.  I feel that the level of strategy makes Unearth a light game and it’s what makes the game appealing to different age levels.  Judgement: 7/10

Components Review: The art on the cards is great.  I like the bright colors and the minimalist / blocky look, it’s very similar to Minecraft. The art on the Wonders tokens match their respective cards which is nice and makes finding the appropriate token much easier.  The hex tokens are durable thick cardboard stock.  The dice are easy to read and have a marble look to them which is nice thematically.  The rulebook is easy to read and uses good examples.  The information on all of the cards is easy to understand and did not require me to go back to the rulebook for clarification at all.  My only criticism is of the Ruins and the End of Age cards; they are made of a thin card stock which makes them fairly easy to bend. If someone spilled something on them they would definitely warp.  Judgement – 8/10

Overall Judgement: Unearth is a light strategy game of players playing cards and rolling dice to collect sets of cards and tokens that can earn victory points.  It’s easy to learn, has very nice art, the components are, for the most part, good quality.  I can see players of all ages enjoying the game making it a good choice for family game night and a good filler game for the gamer group.  I also like that it’s a unique game.  It is well worth the median price of $26.47.

Overall Score: 7 out of 10

–Birdman

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