Underlings of Underwing

Game Overview: Underlings of Underwing is coming to Kickstarter on August 25, 2016 where once every century, the dragons of Underwing return to their ancient brooding grounds for a Great Hatching.  In the game you control dragon handlers who will; help you gather colored crystal elements, be assigned to unhatched dragon eggs and ultimately hatching those eggs using the required colored elements for rewards and dragon (victory) points.  Caution has to be taken though as dragons can hatch on their own and into the wild, causing disruptions in the game.  Do you have what it takes to become the next Dragonlord?   

Box Contents: A prototype version was provided to us. The quality of the components that we received are outstanding.  Both the cards and oversized player boards are of the same thickness and well made.  Included with the game are six wooden meeples (dragon handlers) per player.  A draw string bag was included to holds the plastic gems should work for most people but will be a little small for people with larger hands.  The box the game comes in, easily holds all components.

Clarity of Rules: The rules are well written and cover all aspects of the game and once you thoroughly read through it, you should understand the game play.  There was one thing that we wanted to point out with the way the rules are written as it uses a term that is not commonly used and was referenced multiple times throughout the rules. The term N.B., which was used to point out rule clarifications within the game,  is a Latin term that is used to indicate that special attention needs to be taken.

Game Play:  Game play begins with each player being assigned a player board which corresponds to the color they picked out.  They are also assigned two of the six dragon handlers which also match the color that has been picked.  Depending on the number of players, the dragon egg cards are placed onto the table in a 4 x 4 grid with the egg side up.  These cards provide the dragon type, the dragon points earned at the end of the game, and the colored crystal elements required to hatch the dragon egg.  The game is played in rounds, which are determined by the number of players.  Each round has four phases. 

Phase 1:  Element Collection.  The player that is identified as the first player that round, randomly draws crystal elements from the bag equal to the number of dragon handlers that are not placed onto the Dragon Handlers Field.  The bag is passed to all players as they randomly draw their crystal elements and are placed onto their player boards.  If you have a dragon handler in the field, they are given a color matching the space they are currently on. 

Phase 2:  Moving and Assigning Dragon Handlers.  Starting with the first player, you can choose one of the following actions for a handler.  1.  Assign a dragon handler from the break room to any space on the field.  Once assigned in the field, the handlers will begin to collect crystal elements for you each round.  2.  Assign a dragon handler from the break room to any unclaimed egg card.  Only one dragon handler can be assigned to an egg.  3.  Assign a handler to the break room that had previously been assigned to the field or a dragon egg.  This phase continues until all players have performed the moves they wish to make.

Phase 3:  Add Elements to Eggs.  Starting with the first player, players assign a crystal element to a dragon egg card.  The number of assignments is based on the total number of dragon handlers that you currently have.  You hope to assign an element to a card that you have control over.  However, that may not always happen and you will have to put them onto cards that are controlled by your opponents or onto cards not controlled by anyone.  You will find the following colors on the dragon cards: Orange, Yellow, Green, Red, Blue, Purple, Black, and White.  The more valuable the dragon egg, the more elements that will be required to hatch the egg.  On your turn, if you do not have the color that you need, you do have the ability to play a combination to make a color (Yellow + Red=Orange) or you can play a color in anticipation of getting another.  Example: Play blue and hope to get a yellow to make green.  To create black, you can either use a black element from the bag or create one of two combinations (Red+Yellow+Blue or Orange+Green+Purple).  To create white, you have to either randomly draw it from the bag or place a dragon handler onto a single white space in the field.  Once all crystal elements have been assigned, you look to see if any eggs not assigned to anyone have hatched because all element requirements have been met.  If this happens, you turn over the card and follow the directions for the egg if it was hatched in the wild. It may add crystal elements to other eggs, it may hatch other eggs next to it, it may remove crystal elements from cards, or force all players to sacrifice a dragon handler.  Once a dragon is hatched into the wild, it remains in that spot and the card will not be removed. 

Phase 4:  Hatching and Claiming Completed Eggs. If any of the eggs assigned to a player have all of the required crystal elements, they are removed from the field and a new egg card is placed into that same spot.  Hatching of the egg will not occur until the next time you get to phase 4.  Once the egg hatches, the dragon handler returns to the break room and the card is flipped over to see what the dragon looks like and to also see what positive effects you earned.  It may provide additional crystal elements at that time or each round, may allow you to add extra handlers to your team, or allow you to hatch additional eggs that are not assigned to another player.

From here, the first player token is passed to the next layer and the round tracker is moved forward until you get to the final round.  Once the final round is completed you will add up the dragon points on each egg that you have hatched.  In addition, you may be able to earn bonus points.  Each dragon card falls into one of three temperature categories (warm, cool, or neutral).  Whichever player has the highest net total for warm and cold, earns 15 more points.  If someone has a perfect balance of warm and cold, will earn 20 bonus points.  The player with the most overall  points become the Dragonlord!

Replay Ability: You will find replay ability here with the randomness of the egg cards and the drawing of the crystal elements that will come into play.  In addition, if you do not have people to play the game with, there is a solo version available.  One issue that may come up is that after multiple plays, you may start to recognize which dragons will hatch from the eggs after seeing the same card multiple times.

Appropriate Audience: The game suggests 12+.  Our 11 year old easily caught onto the game and the strategy that is involved with it.  We feel that someone as young as nine or ten years old should easily be able to understand the game.

What We Liked/Didn't Like: The game play is very solid and has been well thought out.  This is obvious with the detailed directions and how smoothly the game plays.  Despite it being a prototype version that we received, the components are outstanding.  The art in the game is really good, especially the different eggs and dragons that you will find on the cards.  We really liked the player boards and the Turn/Handler tracker.  The player boards are very helpful for the people that are color theory challenged (Dad).  Instead of having to remember what colors can be combined to make other colors, a chart is provided to each player.  The Turn/Handler tracker has the round order, which is very helpful for all players.  We have all enjoyed the anticipation of which dragon is going to hatch for you.  With that being said, we quickly realized that some of the dragons for each victory point level have very similar, if not the same, rewards/penalties across all dragons of that type.  It would be nice to have more randomness.  The randomness does exist for the temperature bonuses for each dragon.  For the game play itself, the only thing that seemed a little off was randomly picking the gems from the bag and then having to dump them all out to find the specific ones that are needed for that round. 

Add-ons/Other Releases:  n/a

  * A prototype review copy was provided to us.  The contents of the game or rules may change with future releases.  Our review is based upon the game that we received and also take into consideration changes that the game designer noted to us that were not present in the review copy.