Full disclosure: A review copy of DIG IT UP was provided by Nice Game Publishing.
I used to run with a bunch of fairly unhealthy board game groups. We had dudes who would get enraged if they lost, players who once famously switched to a language that other players didn’t speak so that they could exclude them, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase “you’re playing it wrong”. I offer this both to really drive home how utterly not okay that this was and to detail my solution. I started bringing a bunch more family-weight games to play. Nothing really takes the wind out of someone’s aggressive sails like playing a game that’s obviously for kids and parents to play together (Rhino Hero: Super Battle helped a lot with this). Ultimately, the fix was to perhaps put some distance between myself and those groups, but I’ve always had a soft spot for family games since then. DIG IT UP, one of the latest from Korea Board Games, looks to be a game of a similar weight, so let’s check it out.
In DIG IT UP, you play as a treasure hunter combing famous parts of the world looking to strike it big (and deprive other nations of cultural artifacts and treasures, in some cases, you hero). Naturally, it’s hard to predict what you’ll find, but you’ll press on just the same. Once enough spots are exhausted, you’ll cash out and see if you managed to make it rich. Will you find your fortune in this uncharted territory? Or will you just end up an unsuccessful tomb raider?
First off, just kinda set the money aside:
Next, sort the tiles by letter. Each tile has a letter on the back, so that will make it somewhat easy:
If you’re playing with 4 – 5 players, use both boards, otherwise use the larger board:
You’re going to want to shuffle each letter set of tiles and place them face-up from left to right on their corresponding row. If you reveal a stone, swap it with whatever tile is at the front (the left) of the row.
Place a pickaxe on the dig site (the named area to the left of the board):
Now, give each player a player board:
And deal them each three Mission Cards. They should only keep one.
Last up, shuffle the Chance Cards:
You should be all ready to start!
So, the game’s surprisingly straightforward. On your turn, pick a dig site and roll the die. Move the pickaxe that many available spaces (wrap around if needed) and take the tile at that location. If it has a star on it, draw a Chance Card. If it has a +2 on it, take a +2 money token. Either way, unless told otherwise, add the tile to your board. Generally, everything is good but Stones. Naturally, you don’t want to try to sell rocks to make your fortune, so, you need something more impressive. Place the pickaxe in the space where the tile you took used to sit; the next player to dig at that specific site will start from that spot when they roll.
Once all the tiles but one have been taken from a Dig Site, that site is Abandoned; move the tile on top of the Dig Site picture on the left, turn it face-down, and place the pickaxe on top of it. No players may go to that Dig Site, now.
After 8 sites have been abandoned (5 in a 2- or 3-player game), the game ends immediately. This means that some players may not get an additional turn; them’s the breaks. Now, all players calculate the value of their Mission Cards, and then score as follows:
- Mission Cards: Just however much you made from those, if anything.
- Chance Cards: Some Chance Cards only score at the end of the game; others give you money during the game. Score the end of game ones, now.
- Money Tokens: You likely earned these during the game from Chance Cards and tiles.
- Set Bonuses: All treasures earn (or lose) you points based on whether or not you can complete a set of them. Bronzeware even earns you a bonus +10 if you have a set of three unique items! You earn the points above the furthest right tile for each set. You can set aside your tiles that don’t count towards a set (except Stones) for this next one.
- Bundle Bonuses: Every set of three Treasure tiles that don’t count towards a set (again, stones are not included in this) earn you an additional 5 money.
The player with the most money wins!
Player Count Differences
A bunch of cards and tiles are only used at 4 / 5 players, so, that’s a major thing to keep in mind.
Beyond that, it’s harder to focus on any one particular set at higher player counts, since many tiles get taken when it’s not your turn. There’s always uh, the Gold Only strategy, which requires you to perfectly get every Gold Tile (at which point you destructively win with at least 250 points), but that’s almost laughably impossible to do (please let me know if you’ve ever done this). The added contention means you should probably choose your Mission wisely, especially if it requires going deep in any one resource. Once other players notice that you’re doing that, they can divide and conquer if they feel like it to try and shut you out. I might especially encourage you not to pick the Closing Time (7 points every time you Abandon a Dig Site) at higher player counts; you’ll get to do it once, unless the other players aren’t paying that much attention.
Beyond that, no real preference; I actually like it at any player count. It’s pretty quick regardless.
- Focus on your Mission. Most of the time that’s “get this one thing”. A lot of the Dig Sites have specializations, so, go after those. If yours is “roll a die and hope for the best at the end of the game”, well, try to just go for what nobody else is going for so that you can collect a lot of them (or invest some time into messing with other players).
- Chance Cards aren’t necessarily a bad idea. I mean, I wouldn’t call them necessarily a good idea, either. They’re mostly good, sometimes bad, and occasionally powerfully neutral, which I really respect. If you can go after a few, they might be able to help you, though. Some count as extra tiles or give you extra points for having certain tiles, which might help guide your subsequent moves a fair bit.
- Know what you’re looking for. I think this still kinda falls under the same category as “Focus on your Mission”, but, naturally, you should kind of not spread yourself thin; Bundle Bonuses aren’t that good. You should make sure that you’re going to the right sites to get actual Set Bonuses. Otherwise, you’re just gonna wind up with garbage, essentially.
- Keep an eye on what other players want. Your goal may not necessarily be to get those things, but you definitely don’t want to like, let one player hoard all the rubies. That’s a lot of points, right there, and unless you’re doing even better for yourself you’re not necessarily worse off trying to take one or two things that other players need. Worst case, they all kinda end up pooled together at the end of the game for a Bundle Bonus.
- I think ending the game on your turn is almost always the right move. If the opportunity presents itself, someone else is surely going to take it (so it’s unlikely that you’ll get another turn once someone can end the game), so you might as well beat them to the punch and just end it yourself. It’s the easiest (and most likely) way to block other players getting more points. There’s no real reason to let someone else do it unless the next player has a solid chance of getting a Stone “Bonus”, but even then they’d just … not end the game and play somewhere else, in all likelihood. I just think it makes more sense for you to do it, yourself, rather than giving another player that power.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The Chance Cards that do nothing are probably some of my favorite cards in any game I’ve played. They’re insidious. Some of them just say “Congratulations!” and then tell you how you’ve done a great job… and that’s it. No prize, no money; just nothing. My favorite set is the cards that are “Strike Oil” (you gain money) and “Strike Soil” (you gain A Missed Opportunity). It’s cruel and kinda dastardly but also extremely funny. I wish more games did something like this; it seems like a natural fit for like, Betrayal.
- It’s a very nice-looking game. Again, bright, vibrant games look great on the table and have an excellent table presence.
- The tiny pickaxes! I love them.
- Very easy to learn. There’s not much more than pick a pickaxe, roll, and move. Score sets of tiles.
- Plays pretty quickly. The nice thing about the game being pretty random is that there aren’t a ton of really intense decisions that need made, so, you can kinda just play quickly.
- Family-friendly. There’s a bit of reading on the cards, but the core mechanic isn’t too challenging to grasp, and it’s not too complex of a game. It’s a decent choice for family game night, especially if you’re trying to wean kids off of games like Candy Land.
- Setup is slightly a pain. I think that’s due to having to sort all the tiles and separate out the cards if you’re playing with the wrong player count. It’s a bit time-consuming but there’s no real way to fix that.
- It’s almost always better to end the game on your turn, if you can. It likely won’t get back around to you (since someone else will likely do the same calculus) and it denies other players an opportunity at points. It makes me wish the game just ended once everyone had a final turn or something; it would be less annoying to be the player immediately after the person who ends the game (thereby making sure you don’t get an extra turn).
- Pretty random. I mean, it’s essentially a roll-and-move. You roll the dice, move the pickaxe, and get something good or something bad. If you’re looking for a high-stakes strategy game, this is probably not going to be the right fit for you. If you’re looking for a cute, quick, family game, though, this might be right up your alley. It just will likely frustrate players that are looking for a lot of control in their games, because beyond choosing a Dig Site and selecting an initial mission, you’re kind of at the mercy of the game.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I like DIG IT UP quite a bit. I’m all for games where I don’t have to think too much, sometimes, and I can kind of let the game just go and see where I end up. I feel like I have some agency, though, in that I can pretty easily choose what Dig Site I want. Plus, the game doesn’t take that long to play, so it’s not like this is a lengthy game where I have zero agency; it’s just more of a quick family game that can be kinda random with some ability to influence it. Plus, it’s a hoot to play; one of my favorite things is to get the purely neutral cards. They don’t do anything and they’re kinda garbage, but they’re darn funny when you expect to get something else that’s actually useful. My best pitch for this game is that it’s a great way to warm up for a game day or a rock-solid game to bring to a family event if you don’t want to get stuck playing Charades or Candy Land or one of my other Nightmare Games. Either way, if those descriptions apply to you or you’re just looking for a fun game about rolling dice, looking for treasure, and occasionally getting nothing, DIG IT UP might be for you!