Sunday, June 21, 2015

Darkrock Ventures: A Preview

Darkrock Ventures will be coming to Kickstarter on July 14th from a partnership between Gamelyn Games and Magic Meeple Games. I was able to play it a little early with my friend Andrew Enriquez. It was pre-production, and I have no idea of all of the cool things that will be coming, but I can speak to game mechanics and general enjoyment.

Darkrock Ventures is a space-mining worker placement game for 2-4 people, where players put pieces on a map full of precious minerals hoping to get rich. Like actual mining the success of a mining operation is seldom fixed and has hazards, such as mining poorly or being robbed by local pirates. The goal of the game is to accumulate the most money. It’s important for players to realize that this money is also what is used to: purchase more miners, cargo space, or even a captain as the game progresses. The success of an operation is determined by dice. Two dice are rolled at the start of the round by the current leader, these dice cannot be doubles. Later a Neutronium die is rolled by the current leader, which could have changed. To successfully mine, players must match their own rig die with one of the three die beside the board to equal a number (2,4,6,8,10,12) which corresponds to a mining space where this player has placed a worker. 

The numbers more likely to be combined have the most minerals, but pay out the least. There are a lot of dice to roll, so seldom are players entirely crippled on a turn due to the variant nature of the dice. To mitigate the variance even more there are rig, gear, and specialty spaces, which allow for the dice to be altered, more dice to be added, or some other the benefit of that player. At any point a player could also place a worker on the Export action, which is to sell goods for money. The first export action of a game also triggers the entrance of the Therion raiders, which will randomly cause miners to be sent home. To mitigate those pesky raiders, players can gain Neutronium. They do this by either taking the 1st player token or by having a worker on a mining space but having no success that round. The end game is triggered with a final turn, when three of the mining sites are cleaned out. On the last turn, raiders do not attack.

So far I have played Darkrock Ventures once, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I confess that I enjoy the randomness of dice games and space themes, so I am a little biased. That said, there are enough spaces that allow players to modify their dice that even for someone who likes ALL THE CONTROL, should still be able to accomplish their goals. I only played with two players and my guess is that I will like it best with three. In two players, we seldom had intersecting goals which caused conflict. 3 players would make this more frequent. 4 players I could see being frustrating if someone gets behind, as the spots are so finite, but there are spots, which allow for less risk but guaranteed resources. Only the mining resources are finite, solar and Neutronium are not. Also, the raiders only attack the export actions more than once in the deck. Once you have a seen a card, they will not attack again, unless the deck is reshuffled. The game played in about an hour, which included teaching time, and I would be happy to play it again. Not typically being a Euro gamer, it allowed me to feel like I was moving towards a goal, but also allowed me to easily switch to a new tactic. This game should appeal to anyone who likes worker placement games, even fans of Euros who are looking for a quick scratch should get behind it. If you like space games and dice, this is definitely one for the library. I hope that this has piqued your interest and that you will check it out on Kickstarter.


Nathan Hough is a gaming junkie who lives to teach games. He may be partial to Plaid Hat Products but is just as happy in a game of Battlestar Galactica or 7 Wonders. You can find him on Twitter at @natesepicbeard or demoing Plaid Hat games at his Friendly Local Game Store. He is most easily identified by his epic beard.

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