There are times that I'll sit down with friends and get ready for a 4+ hour session to play a game we all know and love, which is always a great experience as you all buckle in for a fun adventure, call each other on rules, and maybe have a few heated discussions and harsh words thrown around. The situation that many find themselves in a lot more frequently though is trying to share a new board game with friends, maybe even friends that don't play many board games, or those times when you can't dedicate an entire evening to a game. This is the time where a 50-page manual and thirteen different types of tokens wouldn't help, but a game like Big Dig is perfect to play.
Big Dig is a game for you and up to three of your friends. To play, each player receives one of the reversible laminated player boards and a dry-erase marker. The player board will show an arid landscape with an oil tanker and water tower on top, and a whole lot of things to dig for as you go down. Coming with the erasable boards is 15 cards; 10 Goal Cards, and 5 dual-side Digging Cards. These Goal Cards give players simple objectives. You might need to dig down to the water basin, or mine all the emeralds. There's nothing hidden on your Player Board so you'll always have an idea of where you need to head to progress. Getting ready to play is easy; players will all pick the same side of the Player Board, deal out three of the Goal Cards, put the 5 Digging Cards on the board, and then begin.
These Goal cards will give you a simple pictorial representation of the three criteria you'll need to meet before you can call yourself a winner. No objective is extremely complicated but keeping all three in mind can split your decisions. Aztec coins, amethyst, and emeralds will require you to simply excavate them, but if you're required to deliver oil then you need to connect the spots under the oil tanker to the oil deposit at the bottom of the player board. The cards are simple but add more variety than just filling in the blanks. The most dangerous objectives are those that require you to dig around a fossil or tablet. There may be one or two games that you lock yourself out of a win if you aren't careful or aren't paying attention.
Players will start by picking one of the tetromino shapes from the digging cards and, starting from the top, will begin their Big Dig. As you move around the table each player takes a shape and marks it onto their board. Once you're out of digging cards you flip them all over, revealing new shapes, and lay them back out on the table. You can always see which card you're going to be pulling but the strategy comes from trying to match the shape that will fit best in your Player Board and how you can use it to work towards your goal. You simply repeat this process until someone has managed to clear the objectives.
The game lends itself to being fast paced and simple. Unlike many games where there are tokens or cards that are hidden from the player everything you need is right in front of you. There's no stress in pulling a good shape or a bad one. This is also what makes it such a great game to pick up, there's no text to be read or heavy rules and situations to explain. All players enjoyed Big Dig as a lighthearted tabletop experience and while no negatives were experienced during gameplay as a casual game it might easly be replaced by your next board game.
A Note On Chrome: The rule book included explains the rules is a clear and concise manner. The only part that held us up initially is the term for digging is to cross out a square. The illustration of example turns immediately cleared that up though. Included is also a full description of what each Goal Card requires if the 3-5 word description on the card itself does not suffice.
A Note On Play Time: The game is for 2-4 players and each round will take you between 10-15 minutes to play.
The Bottom Line:
Games of Big Dig go fast, are simple, and generally enjoyable for all involved. Sure Big Dig might not keep you wrapped up and engaged for hours and hours on end but for a pickup game, a short game to play between heavier, longer games or something to share with a lot of friends, it's a great thing to keep in your back pocket. Even the packaging lends itself to the games ease of access because it fits in bags and purses which makes it a great game to be able to pull out and play anywhere.
Get this game if:
You have friends that are new to hobby board games
You crave short sessions of quick gameplay
You like thinking about fitting geometric pieces into a board in a way that allows you to accomplish specific goals
Avoid this game if:
You are looking for a single game to last an entire evening
You're looking for a deep experience
The copy of Big Dig reviewed was provided by Tasty Minstrel Games.
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