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Subject: Digging the crust of the Earth for gold is fun! rss

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Let me start by saying that I love games with theme, and thus I tend to run away from worker placement or economy games. It may seem silly, but I would rather conquer the world or become use magic spells to beat my enemies than to move guys around so as to get more VPs than anyone else.

I got a copy of the game at a really reduced price (thanks Didier for that!), but I have to admit that the game sat on my shelf for several months before I decided to sit down with my friends and play it...and man, what a nice surprise! This game is a really fun game to play with a lot of important decisions!

The best compliment I can make is that it is a worker placement game that I will propose when friends come to a gaming session. I don't think I can say that for other games of the same type.


Components

As soon as you open the box you see the passion that both the designer and the publisher have placed in the game: money is made out of cardboard (rather than paper), art fits perfectly, a lot of high quality cardboard, the drills have nicely carved numbers, and so on.

I only have two minor caveats: the game screens are too frail and are easily knocked off. It would have been better if they were some cardboard boxes (or at least had a player aid in the back).

Another issue is that the game has four resources (zinc, copper, silver and gold). It is a bit hard to distinguish between some colors, and it feels very abstract (we always called the cubes "blue resource", "brown resource", and so on). I also guess that colorblind people will struggle with the cubes (indeed, grey and blue are easily mistaken, and so are brown and yellow/orange). I guess this was a budget issue, but at least use more distinguishable colors/art.

I would have preferred different the 4 types of resources were more distinct (as of now, the only difference is in the amount of money they give when sold). For example, when you get gold you must melt it before being able to sell it (i.e., spend an action in the upgrade tableau).

In any case, these are minor nitpicks. The game scores very high in the Components section.

Quick Rules Summary

The essence of the game is very simple: you move drills around the earth so as to gather minerals. You get VPs by acomplishing achievements (gather X many resources of this type, have strong drills, reach the center of the board, etc) and by delivering goods.

On the side, it contains a mini-worker placement game. You have 2 vice-presidents (workers), but essentially only 3 slots where to place them: drill, trade resources and upgrading.


The drill slot gives allows you to move first your drills, as well as other benefits like strengthening them (by paying cash) or moving other player's pawns. You will be allowed to move your pawns even if you do not place a worker in a drill slot

Trade resources....well, you either sell or buy stuff. Essentially you will sell to get money, but sometimes you will also buy (say, to get an achievement).


The third option is the upgrade board. In here you can make your drills stronger, move faster, and so on. Also, you may deliver goods for victory points.

What makes the game so special?

It is really hard to point out what makes this game so special, but I will try:

-Even though the score is VP based, the game feels more like a race than a point salad. You are always stressed to reach this achievement before the others, or wait for your opponent to deliver some goods so you can deliver more after (and get more VPs).

-Drilling is hard, so you will to team with other players. Essentially you want to join the drilling party last (so as to get a portion of the resources, but not spend too many resources)...but of course that is what all other guys are thinking

-All these things add a TON of interaction between players.

-The mineshaft tile allows you to claim a location and get resources each turn as soon as it has been drilled. Do you want to place it quickly on the board so as to get many resources? or wait until a richer location is excavated? Finding the perfect time to drop it is key.

-You only have 2 workers and three places to go to. So you essentially have to choose which action not to do. It might sound silly, but it is painful.

-Selling resources is the least sexy action, but it is the only way to get money. Ideally you want a lot of money (so as to buy all possible upgrades), but money and upgrades are worth no VPs at the end of the game. You have to find a balance between what resources you sell (for money) and what you deliver (for VPs).

-Being able to bid turn order with resources (and not only money) is a great idea. It helps those who decided not to sell resources in the previous turn.

-There is little downtime since all actions are very quick. As a result, the game is NOT prone to AP.

-Since turn is so short, I would say that the game can expand to 5 players. However, this would probably imply that the board needs to be balanced (it would be too crowded), which would have high production costs....maybe by having only 3 drills by player?

-Upgrades are very fun to get!

-You can go in different ways to get your victory. This helps with the replayability.

-The endgame is very hard to trigger by a single player. He can certainly influence it, but in general it must be triggered by several players reaching the center of the Earth.

In all, I would summarize the game as a lot of nice ideas that work together perfectly well. You ought to yourself to try this game even if you do not like the genre!

This game game screams for an expansion: asymmetric start configurations/player powers, variable good prices (this was hinted in the KS), more varied earth tiles/excavation cards, maybe even a 5th player? I would love to see those come to life!
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gene velasco
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I have to disagree with you on the resource cube colors. As a color blind person, I have had troubles with many games over the years because designers don't remember one in twenty males is red-green color blind. But the dark blue, light gray, bright yellow, and dark brown cubes are perfectly distinguishable. However, the red and green player colors are not!
 
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Didier Delhez
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The expansion is coming!

You can already have a look at the expansion rules here:

English
http://www.sitdown-games.com/kickstarter/Rockwell_ActiveMark...

French
http://www.sitdown-games.com/kickstarter/Rockwell_ActiveMark...

On Kickstarter on 1st December.
 
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Didier Delhez
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The Kickstarter campaign for the expansion (The Fluctuating Market) has just been launched! Here is the link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sit-down/rockwell-the-f...
 
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Michael Aaron Warren
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I can't believe I missed this... SMH!
 
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Didier Delhez
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It's not to late! Write me directly and tell me what you wish and I will arrange that for you!

Didier
 
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