Thursday, December 22, 2011

Undermining Board Game Review

"Shut up Ricky, just shut up right now! Unless the next words out of your mouth are directions back to the fish skeleton I'm gonna punch you right in the stomach!"-Peter Griffith of Family Guy. Undermining designed by Matt Tolman may not be as fun as a ride of the Great Space Coaster, but it has one of my favorite game themes: space. Space game almost always hits my wish list. Today I feel as if I was hit by a space coaster or George Bailey walking home without a coat in the  snow. Last night while watching It's A Wonderful Life I started coming down with a cold again! My second cold in a month.

Setup consists of shuffling of the contract deck, stacking of the victory points next to the open contracts, and random placement of the tiles on the board, Afterwards the game board resembles a space themed version of Bejeweled. Before continuing I have only played one five player game of Undermining; thus, I may not know every nuance the game has to offer. Due to the vast number of new game releases, my group plays a game says, "That was fun," the game is placed in the trunk of a car for months. This issue has really taught me what games I like to play. Ten years ago we used to play new games for months. Now, great games are played for weeks. This rant does not need to continue in this forum and I will leave for another day.

Players win the game by fulfill contracts to gain victory points ( trading in resources: Uranium, Titanium, Diamond, Niobium, and X-ium) or by UMV upgrades. The upgrades are vital because they increase the effectiveness of the UMV making it easier to fulfill contracts. The early available contracts have higher point values and as each one is bought the victory point value descends. The game ends in a fashion similar to Stone Age when a victory point stack is depleted the game ends after players complete one last turn.

Game Play consists of several basic actions costing (1AP):
1. Drill:  allows players to either break up impassible rock or to take aboard resources
2. Drive: move up two spaces
3. Unload: when at the refinery (above ground) unload resources to your warehouse
4. Build: spend resources to upgrade UMV
5. Contract:: when at refinery trade resources to fulfill contracts
6: Charge: gain one energy cube. Spending two energy cubes grants one additional action/pass through another player on the board.
7: Portal: move from one open one open portal to another. Move quickly on the board.

8. Alien Tech: Powerful and kick-ass game changers. Acquired by drilling through the tiles with special symbols and do not consume action points. One card benefit is to gain 8 energy cubes amounting up to four additional actions on a player's turn.

Each player starts with three available action points and the UMV upgrades buff the available actions by increasing the amount of actions available each turn, drill or drive actions, and finally adding cargo space. The additional cargo space is helpful by reducing return trips to the surface where the refinery is located. Three actions Unload, Build, and Contract may be performed on your turn, but must be done at the refinery.
To elaborate on the previously mentioned portals. A player may travel from the above ground portal to the other portals on the board when they are uncovered. A tactic is leave you UMV on a portal at the end of your turn so others players are blocked from using it.

As expected Z-Mans puts out some nice game components, however, I did have some gripes with Undermining. The short rule book did not describe the alien tech cards well. My group was able to deduce the amount of foreign symbol tiles equaled the amount of alien tech cards. The player mat has ample space on the left for your warehouse or storage space for resources. It would have be better to reduce the warehouse size and print the available actions on the mat. The game includes player aids, but the print is too small. 

Matt Tolman followed up by posted a rules supplement titled the "The Lost Pages" resolving some of the ambiguity of the rule book. The supplement addressed my groups questions about the alien tech cards and also included a variant play scenario in which players receive alien tech cards by unloading a matching symbol instead of a random alien tech card. 

Overall, Undermining is a fun game to play between longer games or while waiting for your other friends to arrive. It might not receive regular play with my gaming group, but it has a solid design.

Thumbs Up:
Space Themed; More fun than watching George Clooney in Solaris
Fast Turns
Family Game or Filler game

P.S. I forgot to add this game has one of the best tie breakers ever. Tied players are given a shovel. The first to dig a ten foot deep hole in the backyard wins!

Thumbs Down:
Lack of exciting game play
Not as fun as watching the new Star Trek movie, but mining is necessary to raise funds for an ionic tractor disruptor because Sally Struthers has trapped the CBC ship in a positronic tractor beam

Undermining English Rules Plus The Lost Pages

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