Unearthed Review

Unearthed is a game by Kat Baker, published by The Game Crafter. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of paleontologists as they attempt to lead their teams to dig up, clean and assemble the fossils of prehistoric creatures. Each time a player assembles one, they will earn fame and income from the museum. In the end, the player that can show that they are the best paleontologist by earning the most fame will be declared the winner.

To begin, each player chooses a color and takes the corresponding board and token set. Each player places their player board in front of themself. Each player places their colored rings on 0 Fame, 0 Cash and 2,000 income per turn. They will also place one of their Dig Team tokens with the color side face down on the Dig Team 1 space of their player board. The other Dig Team tokens are placed near their board. Players are also given a Quick Reference card. The Dig Site deck is shuffled and placed face down in the middle of the play area. The two Completed Creatures boards are placed together to assemble the main board, which should be placed below the Dig Site deck. The rule book is placed beside the Dig Site deck with the back cover showing the Creature Components face up. The Purchased Fossil cards are placed beside the rulebook. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played in a series of turns with each player taking a turn consisting of 4 steps. The first step is to Earn Money. Each turn the player will increase their cash by their Income per Turn, as noted on their player board. For a player’s first turn, that number is $2,000. The player will then move their colored ring on the Cash section of their player board to represent this.

The next step is to Buy. In this step, the player will have several options to purchase from. They may buy chisel upgrades, additional dig teams or fossils. On their turn, the player may only purchase up to three items, of which they may buy multiples of the same item. It should also be noted that a player has the ability to sell or trade cards from their hand to other players at this time as well. The cost for new dig teams are noted on the player’s board and may be purchased and used on the same turn. Once purchased, a new tool token is placed on the corresponding space of the player’s board. Upgraded chisels may also be purchased at a cost of $10,000. Once purchased, the player may flip over that dig team’s tool token to the colored side. This upgrade decreases the Break value of every fossil uncovered by that team by 2, more on this in a bit. Fossils may also be purchased in order to assemble a prehistoric creature. It should be noted that a player must use a purchased fossil on the same turn that it is bought. Each fossil has a set price, as noted on the purchased fossil cards. A player is only allowed to buy up to 3 of these on their turn.

The third step is to Manage Dig Teams. In this step, each of the player’s dig teams is allowed to take their own turn, starting with dig team 1 and continuing in order. On a dig team’s turn, they can either dig for fossils or assemble a prehistoric creature. They may also choose to skip their turn, if so desired. To dig for fossils, the player will flip over the top card of the dig site deck. If it is anything but a fossil, it is added to the player’s hand, of which there is no hand limit. If it is a fossil, the player must try to unearth the fossil by successfully beating the Break value. To do this, the player must roll a number on the die higher than the Break value on the card. If they’re able to do this, the fossil is added to the dig team’s Cleaning Zone. If the player rolls equal to or lower than the Break value of the card, then the card is discarded. Once all the required fossils have been found, the player can use their dig team’s turn to assemble a prehistoric creature. To do this, the player simply discards the appropriate fossils from their hand and/or from any purchased fossils they acquired during step 2. Once this is done, the player may place one of their colored discs on the corresponding creature icon of the Completed Creatures board. Doing this will earn the player a certain amount of Fame. The first player to assemble a specific creature earns an extra 2 Fame. They player is also awarded a certain amount of Income per Turn, as noted on the board. Once a dig team has completed it’s turn, the player may use their next available dig team to take it’s turn.

The final step is to Clean Fossils. In this step, the player will move any fossils in their dig team’s Cleaning Zone to their hand. This allows them to be able to possibly assemble more creatures during their next turn. Once a player has completed their turn, play passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until a certain number of creatures has been assembled. For a 2 player game, that number is 12. For 3 players, it’s 15 and for 4 players it’s 18. Once this condition has been met, each player will take a final turn including the player that triggered the end game condition. Once all players have taken their final turn, they will each add up their Fame. The player with the highest total Fame is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This game has a lot of interesting pieces to it. There are the Completed Creatures boards that are placed together to form the main board. This board shows the different creatures that can be formed and how much fame and income each one provides upon being assembled. On the back there is a really nice image that is created by placing the two boards together. The player boards are made of the same thick material and keep track of the income per turn, cash and fame that each player has, along with each of their dig teams. Of course each player requires the use of the colored rings of their player colors to be able to track these on their player board. Each player has 5 rings in their player color as well as 9 plastic discs for tracking their assembled creatures. These are all thick plastic, as is the ring for tracking assembled creatures. Each player also gets 3 double sided tool tokens that are quite thick. One side is a colored version while the other is black and white. These simply show a selection of tools that are used to uncover fossils. The game also comes with a single 6 sided die which is pretty much your normal die. Finally there are the cards, these include the dig site cards, quick reference cards and purchased fossil cards. Each of these has some really nice artwork on them and the quality of the cards is very nice too. The purchased fossils have the same image on both sides, so that you don’t get them mixed up with the other cards. The reference cards are a big help and provide plenty of info on playing the game. Overall I think that the game is well done. Of course I’d really like to see some upgraded components in the future, like maybe some wooden dig team meeples or even more thematic looking player boards. As it is though, I think the components look nice.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game isn’t very large. It’s actually only a few pages long. The book has plenty of pictures, as well as several examples of gameplay to help understand the rules. The artwork and lay out of the book is quite nice and is very easy to read through and understand. Each of the different steps of a player’s turn are explained in very good detail. The back of the book even includes a reference chart of the creature components needed to build each of the different types of creatures. This chart is used during gameplay and is a nice addition to the book. About the only things missing from this rulebook is some variants and possibly a set of solo rules. Apart from that, I don’t really have anything negative to say about the rulebook and that’s not really even a negative. It’s just more of a wish list. Overall I think this rulebook is well written and looks good. It’s quick and simple to read and it gets the job done in style.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
The main goal of this game is to get as much fame as possible. This is done by assembling creatures, whether it’s the small Ammonites or the large Tyrannosaurus. Each one of these requires a certain amount of fossils. For the Ammonite, it’s only the 1 fossil that’s required. However for a Tyrannosaurus, it takes a carnivore skull, large body, small limbs and a large tail. Once assembled these creatures will earn the player from 1 to 8 fame, as well as a bump in their income each turn. The bigger the creature, the more fame and income earned. At it’s heart this game is basically a set collection game, with a few twists. Each turn the player can choose to add more dig teams or upgrade their dig teams tools to be able to perform more actions or better dig up fossils. While the game doesn’t require a ton of strategy, it does involve a bit of thinking. Do you go ahead and build a smaller creature and earn a few extra points for being the first one to build one, or do you try to finish up a larger creature to earn more points that may be better at the end of the game. Of course this game also has a bit of luck thrown in to the mix. Each time your dig team unearths a fossil, your dig team will have to remove it from the ground without breaking it. This is done by rolling the die. If you roll too low, the fossil is broken and unusable. This is where having those upgraded tools can be a big help, as upgrading reduces this number by 2 on each fossil. Growing up I wanted to be an archaeologist. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I wound up in a completely different career, still those dreams are there. What this game does is allow me a small taste of that life without leaving the comfort of my home. No need to get dirt and sand all over my clothes. No need to learn a new language to speak to the native people of the area. No need to be on the look out for dangerous snakes and bugs. It’s all of the fun, without any of the risk. What’s not to like about that? This is a game that fans of set collection games should like, especially if they liking building dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. For me, it’s one that I really enjoy. This is one that I would recommend.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Unearthed is a game of digging up and assembling fossils with a set collection style mechanic. The game doesn’t take too long. Most game sessions last around 45 minutes. The components for the game are nice and give a good sense of the theme. I especially like the artwork on the cards and the back of the Completed Creatures board. The rulebook is well designed and does a good job of laying out the rules of the game. I do wish there were some variants and possibly even a solo mode though. The game itself is quite fun and has a very set collection style feel to it. The main goal of building creatures and gaining fame is done in a very manageable and light way. This isn’t one that younger players will struggle with and it’s a very family friendly style game. This is one that fans of set collection games should enjoy. I do look forward to seeing how this game evolves as it goes to print. As it is, this is one that I would recommend. I can dig it.
8 out of 10

For more information about this and other great games, please check out the Gamecrafter at their site.

http://www.thegamecrafter.com/

Be sure and keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign.  Coming Soon!

 

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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