#774 – Mine Deeper

2 players.
Play time: ~15 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Logged plays: 2 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Mine Deeper was provided by Korea Boardgames.

Another Korea Boardgames title! I’ve been making steady progress on these, for a hot minute. Monster Dentist was a while ago now, and Showdown Tactics wasn’t too long ago. Now we’re on Mine Deeper! There are still a few more to come, like Sweet Holic and Firefly Dance, once I find where I left all of my batteries. That should be a compelling lead-in, probably. Either way! We’ve got Mine Deeper up today, so let’s check it out!

In Mine Deeper, players are digging deep for precious gems! They have their trusty shovels and some good deduction about how gems are found in the mines, but they also have a problem! Each person is now racing against another miner who is dead-set on taking their treasure for themselves! It’s head-to-head mining action, and you’ve gotta find the five big red gems first! Will you manage to out-dig your opponent?

Contents

Setup

Well, before you can do anything, you’ll have to set up the Rock Wall for your first game:

To do that, you’ll need to use the included pieces to push the tiles into the Rock Wall so that each side matches one of the Memory Boards:

After doing that, deal each player a card to help them determine their gem setup:

Keeping the card hidden from their opponent, each player places the gems into the appropriate spaces. Try to be careful with this, so you don’t push an opponent’s placed gem out!

Give each player a tiny shovel, as well. You should be ready to start!

Advanced Setup

Once you’ve gotten familiar with the game, you can also change Setup to accommodate your own setups rather than using the cards. Just follow these rules:

  • Each purple gem must have exactly 2 gems above, below, or to the left and right of it.
  • Each yellow gem must have exactly 1 gem above, below, or to the left or right of it.
  • Each red gem must have exactly 1 yellow or purple gem above, below, or to the left or right of it.
  • Purple, yellow, and red gems cannot be placed by themselves.

After setting up, double check your board to make sure you followed all the placement rules.

Gameplay

Mine Deeper is pretty cute. Your goal? Collect all five Big Reds, the red gems, before your opponent collects their five. How do you do that?

On your turn, pick a spot on the wall in front of you and push it with your shovel. This should push the gem that is in that spot out from your opponent’s side, and it will fall to the middle spot between you two. Take it and place it in the corresponding location on your Memory Board, so you remember which spot you pushed. The gem you found might mean one of four things:

  • Rock (gray): No hint, nothing. Just a rock.
  • Yellow gem: There’s exactly one red gem above, below, or to the left or right of the square you just pushed.
  • Purple gem: There are exactly two red gems above, below, or to the left or right of the square you just pushed.
  • Red gem: You found a Big Red!

Once you’ve placed the gem, your turn ends and your opponent takes their turn. First player to find all 5 Big Reds wins!

Player Count Differences

None! This game can only be played with two players.

Strategy

  • Be methodical. Being haphazard means that you may end up with a bunch of open sections where gems could be, but aren’t. Naturally, you’re not going to have time to segment the entire wall into spots where gems can’t be or can be, but don’t give up on an entire block just because you pressed a couple places without gems.
  • Consider the cards you’re grabbing. I try to avoid cards with a purple gem along the edge of the wall, since that eliminates possible areas for the red gems to be. For instance, there’s a key card with a purple gem in the corner; I almost never take that one because if you get that gem, you immediately know where two of my red gems are! That said, someone’s going to read this and think that because I’ve written this strategy down I’m going to always adhere to it in the future, and I gotta tell you: I’m tricky. But that’s my general heuristic. When I have a purple gem on my board, I want it to be adjacent to two red gems and two rocks. Keep ’em guessing.
  • Also keep in mind that there are rules about how gems can be organized, and keeping track of those will help you distill where the remaining gems are. If you’ve hit the two reds for a purple gem, for instance, there won’t be additional red or yellow gems in the other adjacent spots; those will just be rocks. Use that to make sure you’re not wasting moves, if you can help it. Similarly, a yellow gem indicates exactly one red gem nearby, no more and no less. A lot of players forget about that and end up making less-than-optimal moves, as a result.
  • Make sure you remember which spaces you’ve already guessed. The Memory Board is here for that, but actually check it before you make a move? Depending on your players, some folks will potentially not let you take that one back. I … don’t understand why you’d play this at such an intense level that that would matter, but I’m not at your game nights and I don’t know your life.
  • Keep track of how many Big Reds your opponent has found. There’s not much you can do about it, but having a sense of how close you are to losing is generally useful, no matter what game you’re playing.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • It’s a very cute game. The art style is fun, the game is colorful in solid ways, and you have bright yellow shovels. They were cultivating an aesthetic when they made this game and it really shows in almost every inch of the design. That’s great.
  • The tactile aspects are super fun! I just love the little shovels, personally. They’re adorable! The plunk of the gems falling out of the rock wall is great, as well.
  • I love it thematically, as well. Games about mining are fun, especially when they’re a little goofy. I assume actual mining is less so.
  • I can see kids getting really excited about this. It’s a bit more interactive than Connect Four. I mentioned this in my review of Block Ness, but I think the tactile elements / toy factors of games are great for drawing in new players. It worked for games like Fireball Island, as well, so I don’t see why this is any different. The nice thing about this one is that the gameplay is simple enough, or you can make it even simpler and just have the winner be the first person to find all the colorful gems (without dealing with the placement rules). As long as nobody eats any of the gems, I can imagine this being a fun game for a wide variety of ages.
  • I like that you can design your own rock placements once you get experienced with the game. Letting games grow with players is good, but this also solves a nice problem you see in game design, sometimes. Players can occasionally say “oh, you beat me because I had an ‘easier board’ than you did”, like that means much. Giving players the option to create their own rock placements allows them to feel agency over that decision, even if they end up doing something that is likely very similar to an existing card. They don’t need to know that! They’re the captain of their own ship.

Mehs

  • I’m a bit worried about the base? It’s substantially less sturdy than the rest of the game. I think it’s just that it’s kinda made of that same cheap plastic you sometimes see in game inserts, which means it’s not really … built for handling by the age group that I could see playing with this game a bunch. I would have expected something of the same weight / density as the rest of the setup, but I imagine that would contribute to game weight / game price.
  • This is the first tuckbox … box I’ve seen in a while. It opens like a deck of cards would, rather than your Standard Board Game Box. I can’t say I love that. I’m a simple man; I like telescoping board game boxes.
  • The deduction elements are fun, but you can spend a significant amount of time in this game not finding anything. That’s just the nature of these kinds of games. Just like Battleship or Minesweeper, you can have situations where you keep coming up empty. That may be frustrating, depending on the age of your players, but it is what it is.

Cons

  • Initial setup can be kind of a pain. It just takes a while to place all those tiles into the actual rock wall, and you need another player holding it in place, as well. It would be nice if there was more of a “click” or something to let you know that the piece was locked in, but … there’s not. So you also have to double-check that, which isn’t awesome. We did have one piece fall out mid-game because it wasn’t in tightly enough, which was unfortunate.
  • If you’re not as much of a sucker for tactile games as I am, this one may fall a bit flat for you. There’s not an especially huge amount of content to it; it’s very Battleship-meets-Minesweeper, at its core. That’s fine and all, but I definitely would like a bit more control or strategy in my games. Even something like negative consequences if I hit certain spaces on the board would be cool.
  • I may just be … slow to remember, but it is very hard to remember the spot you just hit. Maybe call it out, first? You could also keep your finger on the spot on your Memory Board that you’re checking, on your turn, but I get super frustrated when I play and can’t remember exactly where I had moved, previously. Maybe it’s an acquired skill; who knows.

Overall: 6.25 / 10

Overall, I think Mine Deeper is decently fun. I think there’s not quite as much game as I’m looking for, to it, and while that’s okay, it also makes me a bit sad. I’m saddened mostly because I like how much work went into the game from a tactile perspective, from the big rock wall to the different gem colors to the tiny yellow shovels. Should they have been pickaxes? Maybe! I have no idea. Gameplay-wise, I think it’s simple enough. Mine Deeper is roughly Battleship-meets-Minesweeper, as you try to get the red gems while hoping your opponent gets unlucky and can’t figure out where yours are. And that’s mostly fine. There’s not really a whole lot of player agency in the game itself, however; I cannot affect the speed at which my opponent finds gems any more than they can do the same to me. This would make the game feel a bit uncomfortably solitary, were I not hurling insults over the wall at my housemate for part of the game. We were bonding. Another issue that I have is that I think that Mine Deeper accidentally manages to be a memory game in the small fraction of a moment between when I poke a section of the wall and when I add the corresponding gem to my Memory Board, because I just straight-up cannot remember which part of the wall I poked. And, I’m a bit baffled by the decision to go with a tuckbox-style box rather than a telescoping game box, especially given how large some of the components are; trying to slide them blindly into the bottom of a box is a recipe for a bad time, and it can be a bit annoying. But that doesn’t distract too much from the game itself, while you’re playing it. All this does make me feel like Mine Deeper is probably best targeted at a younger crowd, but I enjoy the tactile elements enough that it’s probably not too hard to talk me into a game, either. If you’re looking for that sort of thing, or you just like really cute tactile games or yellow shovels, you might enjoy Mine Deeper!


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