Dawn Under is one of the newest purchases I have made. I did so in an attempt to get more games that elementary school age kids can play. Already I feel I have struck gold with it.
It comes in a nice sized box, the same as Ticket to Ride, Memoir 44 or Pirates Cove.
Quality, quality, quality. Wow, the game board is large and well made. It is 22 inches square, and has cut outs in it for 60 graves or crypts. The artwork on it is very nice, in colors of gold, yellow, red, green and gray. It just looks nice laid out on the table.
At the beginning of the game, the 60 cut out graves on the board are covered with a colored grave lid. The grave lids are larger enough to just cover the graves, they don't fit inside them. These grave lids are all the same color on the top(gray), but the underside is one of 6 colors that correspond to the matching vampire tokens (of which there are 60 also). So there are 10 red grave lids, 10 green grave lids, 10 black, 10 white, 10 gold and 10 blue.
There are 60 vampire tokens, 10 of each of the above colors.
These fit into the graves on the board. At the start of the game, the vampire tokens are turned upside, mixed up and each player takes an equal amount. With 3 players, each person gets 20. When it is only a 2 player game, you leave out two vampire colors AND 2 matching grave lid colors, thus only 40 graves are covered and 40 vampires are played with.
Each player makes a row of their vampire tokens in front of them, face down so as not to see the colors of the vampires.
Then they turn over the first 2 vampire tokens, and the last two. The object of the game is to be the first to put all your vampires into a matching grave. Sounds easy, but wait till you try.
The player who woke up the latest starts the game by flipping over one of the grave lids and hoping the color underneath it matches one of their outermost vampires. This is where I messed up the first time, thinking you could play any of your 4 exposed vampires, but on reading the rules again, you can only play the outermost vampire, the one at the very beginning of your row, or the one at the very end.
As you find matching graves to your vampire, you continue to turn over your vampire tokens so that two are showing.
When a grave lid is turned over and doesn't match one of your two vampires, you have the choice of putting a garlic token in it. Each player gets 3 garlic tokens st the start of the game and they must remember the color of their garlics. Noone 'owns' a vampire color, but they do 'own' a garlic color throughout the game. So, if I turn over a red grave lid and don't have a red vampire to put in it, I check to see what vampire colors the other players have coming up. If someone has a red one first in their row, I would place my garlic token in the grave to prevent them from getting an easy resting place for their vampire. This happens frequently, but I can only do this three times as that is all the garlic I have.
Without fail someone will pick up a grave lid that has a vampire in it already. The penalty is to get one wooden stake. When they acquire three stakes, all the other players take one of their outermost vampires and hand it to the unfortunate player who adds them to their row. There is a lot of going back and forth on this one. You get several vampires that way, but always end up giving some away because the other players get three stakes also.
The same happens with garlic. If Tim picks a grave with my garlic in it, I get my garlic back and he gets one of my vampires. If Tim forgets where he put his own garlic token and picks the grave where it is, then he gets his garlic back AND a vampire from each player. And yes, you WILL forget where you put your garlic. You WILL also forget where the vampires are, and you WILL pick up the same grave several times because you don't remember that you tried that one already.
Now, I did leave out the part about the Rats. The game rules have the Rat section where 6 grave lids have a rat under them instead of a color. When that is picked, it causes a rat plague.... To be honest, I haven't played the game that way. The rules aren't confusing on it, but another reviewer mentioned how it doesn't add to the game, and the kids wanted to play right away....so I skipped the rat part and nobody misses it. Not using the rats doesn't cause you to be short on grave lids, because the rat lids are extra.
I would guess the game runs about 30 minutes long. The turns move quickly and it really is quite amusing at times. I frequently amaze myself by picking the same grave lids up several times in the game before it sinks in that I don't need to try that one again. Yes, your memory is tested, and yes the kids tend to do quite well in that area. The kids I have played with have really enjoyed the game and want to play it several times in a row. My almost 5 year old can play and doesn't need help, so she likes this game.
Would I recommend it for hard core gamers, no, not really.
Anyone with kids? Yes, it is easy and quick to play, no cards to hold or tokens to move around. And once again, the quality of the game pieces is outstanding.