Darkrock Ventures Review

Darkrock Ventures
Worker Placement
Gamelyn Games, Magic Meeple Games
Andrew Christopher Enriquez, Michael Eskue
Darrell Louder, Naomi Robinson
1-5

Darkrock Ventures is a neat worker placement game with lots of modular, in-box options for different play-styles, as well as some really clever, fresh mechanisms.  With great presentation and fun gameplay that works well at any player count, we're fans of this one.

In Darkrock Ventures, players take on the roles of mining crews who have arrived at the asteroid Amelia’s Jewel to gather the precious resources there and turn a tidy profit.  Over the course of the game, each player will manage their mining rig and crew, deploy workers to different satellite systems, and, of course, mine the heck out of Amelia’s Jewel itself, working to get the most valuable minerals extracted and sold before the game ends.

Each turn, players will take turns assigning their crew to the various placement spaces on the board, and then each player will resolve all of their crew, mining ore, upgrading their rig, gaining resources, and manipulating dice.

Jess:  Even though Darkrock Ventures is a worker placement game with a lot of the traditional Euro trappings, it cleverly integrates dice to add a little bit of the unknown.

At the beginning of each round, two dice will be rolled and placed in the middle of the board.  These dice, called Standard dice, represent the environmental and electrical conditions on Amelia’s Jewel this round – factors which will influence players’ ability to mine.  Each player will also roll their Rig dice, and it is by combining a rig die and a standard die that will determine whether a player can mine from a given part of the asteroid.

Andrew:  But here’s the thing – while the standard dice get rolled before worker placement, you won’t roll your rig die until after you place your workers.  So Darkrock Ventures is a bit of a push-your-luck game – you’ll start your turn with partial information on what you might be able to do, but you’ll be gambling on what moves you can actually take.

A standard die plus a rig die, plus smart placement, yields profit

Jess:  Of course, many of the placement locations around the board will let you manipulate your rig dice, so Darkrock Ventures’  core gameplay is all about these planned risks.

An upgraded rig gives you more dice and more cargo space

For example, if one of the standard dice is showing a 1, this might be a good turn to try to mine some of the incredibly profitable (but notoriously difficult) platinum.  Now, you’ll need to place a crew on the platinum mine, sure, but unless you are incredibly lucky and naturally roll a ‘1’ on your rig dice, you’ll probably want to assign some workers to spaces which let you manipulate your dice, like the Rough Imaging Station (let’s you subtract/add 3 from a die) or the Rig Rental Station, which will get you an extra Rig die to roll this turn.

Andrew:  The balance between strategy and randomness, and the mitigation of that randomness, is at the heart of what I love most about Darkrock Ventures.  It’s a relatively simple idea – that you place your workers without perfect knowledge of how the rest of the turn will go – but I find it makes turns exciting because of that!

Players normally block each other, but once hired, your Captain can break that rule.

Jess:  Yeah, it’s pretty neat that there’s a bit of a push your luck element in Darkrock Ventures.  You can never perfectly predict what your options are going to be, so your worker placements are about best guesses and luck mitigation, in addition to upgrading your rig, hiring new crew, and actually selling the ore you are mining.

Another thing we really appreciate about Darkrock Ventures is the several modular add-ons that came in-box.  The Thorium Marauders add a non-player threat in the form of attacks against random parts of the asteroid each turn.  In order to shield their workers from the Marauders, players will have to spend resources to power shields, or otherwise they will be forced to withdraw their crew from affected areas.

These jerks

Jess:  Thorium Marauders are neat, because they continue to add just a little bit of randomness to each turn.  Of course, it can be frustrating when you find yourself under attack and either have to give up resources to power your shields or have those workers come back empty-handed.

Corporate sponsor cards add variable player setups

The Corporate Sponsor module makes every player’s starting setup unique, the Research cards give players access to permanent powers, and there are even co-op and high-contention 2-player modes. Darkrock Ventures has lots of variety right out of the box, and we really appreciated that these modules and gameplay modes let us tailor the experience we wanted with each game.

This little board turns the game into a co-op

Darkrock Ventures is a great light/middle-weight game.  One might assume that its reliance on luck would take some of the strategy out of the traditionally-Euro Worker placement gameplay, but the fact is there is plenty of strategy to be considered each turn.  We enjoyed the high-quality presentation, loved the core gameplay, and found the modules to be thoughtful and interesting – all around, a strong recommendation.

(Gameosity received a review copy of this title.  We were not otherwise compensated.)

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