Unearth – A Game Review

Unearth takes place in a world atop the ruins of a once-flourishing society. Sending delvers out to ruins to collect stones to build wonders with, you’ll need the help of many delvers to bring home the ruin itself. Between building wonders and collecting ruins, you’ll try to amass enough points to defeat the rivaling tribes in this quick and engaging game.

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Unearth

DesignerJason HarnerMatthew Ransom
ArtistJesse Riggle
PublisherBrotherwise Games
Type: set collection, worker placement, dice rolling

Official:
2-4 players, 25-50 minutes, ages 8+

My Opinion:
2-4 players, 20-60 minutes, ages 8+

Takeaway:
Has become a favorite in my home, building strategy off of randomness, quick play, great filler or family game.


In the Box

  • 25 Ruins cards
  • 5 End of Age cards
  • 38 Delver cards
  • 15 Named Wonder hexes & matching cards
  • 10 Lesser Wonder hexes & 1 matching card
  • 6 Greater Wonder hexes & 1 matching card
  • 60 stone hexes (15 of 4 different colors)
  • 4 sets of 5 dice (3 d6s, 1 d4, 1 d8)
  • cloth bag
  • 4 player reference cards

The art is great. I love the colors and style, it is simply beautiful. The cards are of good quality as you would expect for a game in this price range. The dice, however, feel a bit on the cheap side. They’re fine, they just look… dated I think is what it is. If you’ve played Rumis, they look a lot like the blocks. Some of the numbers on my dice weren’t colored in all the way, as well. I will definitely be looking for dice upgrades for my copy of the game.

Ruins Cards

Ruins cards are the cards you will be collecting throughout the game. They come in 5 different colors, and a large part of the final score is based off of these cards. You will want to collect them in color sets for the most possible points.

Delver Cards

Delver cards will make up your hand and give you special abilities to use during your turn.

Stones are for building rings of 6 to build wonders, which will give you points and sometimes abilities, depending on the wonder.

Gameplay

In Unearth you are in control of a tribe of delvers, represented by your dice. You send these delvers (dice) to the ruins to collect stones for building wonders, as well as to contribute to the claim value needed to gain a ruin card.

On your turn you do the following, in order:

  •  Play any number of delver cards from your hand (optional). These cards can alter the effect of your die roll, change numbers on dice already out on ruins cards, and several other things. They give you an advantage in some way.
  • Declare a die and a ruin, then roll the die and place it on the ruin chosen. If you roll a 1, 2, or 3, you get your choice of  the stones on that ruin (or a random stone from the bag if all stones on the ruin have already been claimed).

If you get a stone on your turn, you will place it on your tableau, connected to other stones you have already obtained. You will be forming rings with the stones in order to build wonders. Once you complete a ring, you place the wonder in the middle.

Unearth stones
Building Wonders

Which wonder you put in the ring depends on the stones it is made out of. The Lesser Wonders are made with any 6 stones while Greater Wonders require 6 of the same color. Named Wonders need varied combinations, depending on which one it is. Lesser and Greater Wonders both give points at the end of the game, Named Wonders will give an ability and/or points. Any person who is able to build at least 3 wonders gets a 5 point bonus at the end of the game.

Named Wonders
Named Wonders

The number in the upper left corner of the ruins cards is their claim value. If the total of all dice on a ruin equals or exceeds the claim value, the card is claimed. The owner of the die showing the highest value gets the card.

If you have dice on a ruin that ends up going to someone else, you draw a number of delver cards equal to the number of dice you had on it. Delver cards will significantly help your game, therefore giving the loser an advantage to potentially help in future turns.

These ruins will give you points at the end of the game depending on the number you have of each color. A set of 2 blue ruins is 6, for example, while a set of 3 is 12. If you are able to obtain one ruin of each color, you get a 5 point bonus.

Unearth game

 

At the bottom of the Ruins deck is an Ends of Times card. This will trigger an event or be another ruin to claim. It may grant every die roll for the rest of the game a -1, be a ruin that subtracts from your score, or be a high scoring ruin, or something else.

Once all ruins are claimed, the game ends. Whoever has the most points combined from their wonders, ruins cards, and bonuses, wins.

Experience

This game moves quickly with little downtime between turns. The randomness of the dice rolls plays a significant role in how your strategies pan out, but because there are benefits to balance out many failed attempts, you can always modify your strategies to match the flow of your luck. I definitely had to be flexible to adapt as needed, creating a rather dynamic experience.

This is a competitive game with a light touch of “take that” sprinkled in. It feels more playful than vindictive, however, especially since there are a lot of opportunities to bounce to back. If you lose out on a ruin card you were trying for, you still get delver cards. If you’re trying to roll high and end up rolling low, you’re rewarded with a stone. And the use of dice adds enough randomness to soften many blows. I mean, your opponents’ lucky rolls can only last so long, right?

Game experience between the player counts differs only slightly. The biggest difference is simply time required to play increases with more players. I was delighted at how well it played with 2-players, making it a nice quick game to play when it is just my husband and I.

Unearth moves fast, and you’ll start to really feel the time crunch about 2/3 of the way into the game. That last third becomes fairly exciting when everyone starts pulling out their delver cards and scrambling for anything to give them an edge in the final scoring.

There were some misunderstandings with the rules with some players, but I am sure that was more a reflection on my ability to teach the game than the game itself. There are areas where misunderstandings can easily happen (like what the numbers on the ruins cards are for exactly), so you’ll want to be extra clear when explaining the game.

The Named Wonders, number of each color ruins, and end card are randomly chosen at the beginning of the game, adding a little bit of variety and increasing replayability.

Wonders
Wonders

Conclusion

I really love this game. I love how it looks, how it plays, the entire experience of it. If I had any complaints it would be that it is too short. I would like to have more turns to really get things built up more. But then perhaps there wouldn’t be as much pressure towards the end of the game, and that pressure really makes the game fun.

Then there are the dice. I really wish the dice were of better quality. It really bugs me that they aren’t, but I like the game enough to justify buying different dice for it.

I played this game with children (8 and 10 years old), a teenager, and several adults. It worked well with every group I played with. I can see it joining games like Splendor and Sushi Go for me when I am wanting a quick game to teach, as well as becoming a regularly played family game.

If you don’t like dice having an impact on your play, then obviously you’re not going to like this game. But, for me, I’m already hoping for expansions so I can have even more Unearth goodies to play with.

Unearth is available on Amazon.

 

 

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