Dale Yu: Review of Big Dig

Big Dig

  • Designer: Scott Huntington and Shaun Graham
  • Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with review copy provided by TMG

Big Dig was a game that I first saw at Essen 2018, though it was only for preview at that time.  It is another entry in the draw-and-write genre. Each player gets their own board and erasable marker.  There are two sides of the board, and players should agree to use the same side. There is a map shown on the board of dirt to dig through.  There are certain spaces that are filled with emeralds, crystals or coins. There are also water and oil deposits to be found as well as two large fossils.  Finally, there are grey rock squares that will cause you all sorts of trouble.

To start the game, the objective cards are shuffled and three are randomly chosen.  The first player to complete all three objectives will win the game. There are 5 double-sided digging (polyomino) cards – there are shuffled and placed on the table.

On a turn, the active player will choose one of the available digging cards and select it – placing it next to his board.  Make sure to leave the card on the same side (i.e. do not flip it over). The player can then use the card to either dig up beige squares in a pattern that matches the shape seen on the card (can be mirrored) OR to explode a single square – which can be beige or a grey rock space.    As you are digging/exploding, you must block out spaces which are either touching the top of the board OR orthogonally adjacent to at least one previously X’d out space.

Then, the next player chooses from the remaining cards and does the same thing. When all the cards have been chosen, they are returned to the center of the table, and all the cards are flipped over to their opposite side – thus providing five different shapes for the next set of 5 turns.

The game continues until one player can announce that they have succeeded in completing the three shown objectives.  The objectives might be to collect all of the coins, gems or crystals. It might be to completely excavate – that is dig completely around –  either of the two fossils. It might be to connect the water or oil deposit to the matching delivery truck.

The game moves along quickly, with one player often starting to choose their card as soon as the previous player has chosen.

The game components are nice.  So far the markers have worked well and erasing the boards has not been an issue.   There has not been any residue left on the boards nor staining from the markers. The box is a super tight fit, and we have joked in our group that sometimes it has taken as long to get the lid off the box as it did to play the game!  Our games are now coming in around 5-6 minutes as we don’t need any rules explanations and can dive right in.

The games are always fairly close, and that’s mostly due to the cards.  All of the polyomino shapes have either 4 or 5 squares on them, so you’re usually not too far away from the other players as far as progress goes.  As all players use an identical map and have identical goals, I think every game is going to end up like that.

Though it probably doesn’t matter in a 5-10 minute game, there is a distinct turn order advantage as it’s a simple race to the win, and players earlier in turn order could end up getting more turns than others.  There is no compensation for going last in turn order, and in fact, there is a good argument that those players also get less desirable cards in the first round thus meaning that they have a double disadvantage. That being said, for a game of such short duration, it isn’t that big of a deal.

This is a nice pocket sized game which could end up being one of the games that fits in my “restaurant collection” – that is, games small enough that I can carry them in my jeans pocket; simple enough that I can teach quickly, simple enough component wise that they can fit on the table along with all the plates and glasses, and short enough in length that the game can be completed between the ordering and the eating.  This fun little game hits all of those criteria.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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2 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Big Dig

  1. Mark says:

    You can’t finish like that!
    Details please, what other games are included in such a niche collection?

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