Alisha Volkman’s Underlings of Underwing won The Learning Game Challenge from The Game Crafter earlier this year, earning it the right to be considered for publication by The Pericles Group. It’s a worker placement game where you’re trying to hatch dragon eggs using colored crystals. TPG is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund publication of the game.
I’ve gotten a chance to play Underwing and, even though it’s a light worker-placement game, I was surprised how meaty it actually felt. There’s plenty of choices to make on how you want your workers spending their time. Workers can be placed in the fields to collect gems each turn, moving forward on the track if left to their own devices. Workers can be placed in the tower to get a White gem, but must return to the break room after, effectively taking them out of a round. Workers can also be placed on an egg to claim it for a player for points and a positive buff when it hatches.
That brings me to another cool part of the game. Dragons can be hatched in the wild, meaning no one has claimed them when their gem slots are filled. These dragons stay on the board blocking the space they’re in and triggering a negative action. If the board fills up with wild dragons it’s game over. Sometimes these wild dragons will cause other wild dragons to hatch, setting off nasty chain reactions with heavy consequences.
Hatching isn’t a simple as it seems on the surface. Each dragon requires gems to hatch. Gems come in 8 colors: primary colors: Red, Yellow, and Blue, secondary colors: Orange, Green, and Purple, and Black and White. Primary colors can be mixed to create gems of secondary colors. One of each primary color or secondary color can be mixed to create a Black gem. White gems can only be obtained through a random draw from the gem back, or from placing a worker in the tower. This mechanic gives players a lot of flexibility when infusing eggs, but requires careful planning with your workers to be effective.
The game ends after a set number of rounds depending on the number of players. At the end of the game dragons are scored to determine the victor.
My kids and I really enjoyed Underwing, especially my 9-year-old daughter. The game states ages 12+ on the box, but my 6-year-0ld had no trouble playing after a few rounds with a little help. I’m really looking forward to what a full, professionally printed copy will look like, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one. Until then, I’m sure we’ll wear out this prototype copy that I have.
There’s a lot of game in Underwing’s tiny box, and a $29 pledge will guarantee you once excellent game when the project funds. There’s only one mystery stretch goal right now, but I have a feeling we’ll see that revealed soon. There’s also an add-on play mat, which I don’t currently have, that looks amazing.
If you’re interested in learning more about the game, check out the Kickstarter page or watch the How-to-Play video below.
A prototype version of Underlings of Underwing was provided free by The Pericles Group for this preview.