Do we talk enough about the board game catfish? The game that gives the impression of one type of game when it is clearly another? I’m pretty sure that we’ve all experienced that at some point, with one of the biggest famous offenders being Scythe, that promised mega mechanical combat, to instead deliver what was essential a medium weight Euro. Then we come to Excavation Earth, a game where the cover gives the impression of wild and exotic alien artefacts and the title is definitely saying that there is digging involved. Time to grab the electro-shovel..
Excavation Earth is an economic market manipulation game where you are trying to gather artefacts that you will then sell at the highest price you can while trying to make sure you are effecting the profitability of your opponents.
Quite simply put, you travel to dig sites, collect old human artefacts, assign traders to sell these items and then sell the items when you are ready to willing alien buyers. Selling items causes their price to potentially fluctuate every time there is a sale action. There’s also a black market that you can buy and sell into. Excavation Earth is a game about playing the market in order to get the best price for your collections. You’ll also be collecting samples and collecting envoys on the mothership. If I start to go into the mechanics of how the game plays then I might as well copy and paste the rules in here. If I did, there’s a real chance you might not bother checking the game out. The expansion however breaks away from the general buying and selling of the main game, introducing modules that can be added into the game in order to add additional flavour. It’s an unusual way to introduce an expansion to the game instead of a full all or nothing. You can simply add in the two new factions if you want a change from the usual ones and their various powers, while the Pop-up markets demand quicker thinking and actions, forcing you to make decisions there and then. The museum is an additional board that gives you options on where you place your workers and offer differing scoring opportunities. If I’m being honest, its worth picking up the expansion alongside the main game as it instantly adds choices over and above the base game.
After the end of the three rounds, the player who has gathered the most money and points wins the game and can send everyone else back to their planets with their tendrils between their legs.
Gorgeous, imaginative, colourful, striking, imaginative ( I said imaginative twice). Philipp Kruse has done an amazing job of bringing the theme to life that I actually would like to see other games based in the universe they have created. Excavation Earth is going to be like a flame drawing board gaming moths to it such are the range of colours and creatures on the board. You’ve got primary colours and pinks and browns and everything pops on the table with a rainbow like gusto that helps to counter the dryness of the game.
Likely to be two hours, probably likely to me much higher at bigger player counts. Even though the actions are simple there is a likelihood that analysis paralysis will kick in as the game progresses and players plans have to change drastically.
Excavation Earth is an interesting game because it takes a couple of mechanics that would normally be expected as basic actions in most other games and fleshes them out further to the point where they are the full main parts of the game. Imagine being asked to make a cup of coffee but having to explain to someone every single step that you will take in order to make that happen, and you’ll get the general idea. In its favour the actions are fairly easy to understand in that you quickly realise you have to dig in order to gather, and you’ll need traders in certain places to sell, and selling will all be about the scoring. Intermixed into that is the samples you collect and the envoys that you send up to the mothership that will effect your end total. The key to Excavation Earth is using the market manipulation to your advantage and that can sometimes involve selling items for the sake of it in order to effect the price for a future player and mess up their plans. The state of play will never turn dramatically over the series of rounds, but you’ll have to keep an eye on other player boards to see what they are aiming to sell next. That being said, even in what feels like the worst case scenario, you’ll always be given the opportunity to earn money and samples through the black market. You never really feel like you are absolutely laying waste to the best laid plans of another player as they often just need to hang back and trade in the next round or a few turns later. Excavation Earth is certainly drier than the impression it gives, but at the same time the mechanics are so lean that there is the chance that you’ll feel like you’ve got options but you wish you had more options? I think in that situation the expansions really add that additional onion salt to the mixture. It Belongs in a Museum adds several additions to the game including two more factions, a galactic museum, pop up markets and mysterious artefacts. All give you different ways to increase your overall score away from the main cut and thrust of trading. If you go into Excavation Earth expecting an alien based trading and market adventure then you might come away after a session wondering if you missed out on all of the potential fun. It’s certainly a game that gives the impression its going to be something it isn’t. For those looking for a dry market manipulation games that actually have more than just dark greys and browns in it’s colour palette, then this will give a refreshing rainbow like change.
Oh. It’s a Turczi. Well that explains EVERYTHING…
You’ll have to be everywhere in this game so it is worthwhile using your actions to spread your footprint as far across the board as you can.
You can find out more by visiting https://www.mighty-boards.com/1/33/products/Excavation-Earth
Design – Dávid Turczi and Wai Yee
Game Development – Gordon Calleja
Illustration – Philipp Kruse
This review is based on the retail version of the game provided to us by the designer and publisher. We were not paid for this review. We give a general overview of the gameplay and so not all of the mechanical aspects of the game may be mentioned.
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