Theme and What It Is
You are not happy with prison life anymore. In fact, it is getting downright miserable. Time to make a plan that gets you out of here sooner than later, because later is 25 to life. That just won’t work for you and your five-year life projections. You have spent hours thinking about this and have discarded dozens of ideas, but one keeps popping back into your head. You are going to have to dig your way out of here. You have figured out how to collect the items you need to build tools that will let you work on your tunnel. The only problem is that other inmates have all come up with the same idea and are collecting the same tools. Now it is a mad dash to complete your tunnel before the other prisoners. Because only one of you will make it out before the warden figures it out and shuts it all down.
Dig Your Way Out is a worker placement game for 2-6 players.
In Dig Your Way Out, players take the role of inmates and move around the prison block trying to gain items to build tools that will let them dig their tunnel. Each turn, players can take two actions. Certain actions can only be done in certain areas of the prison. Players move around the prison by rolling a dice. For each dice face there are two area options for them to move to. Within areas, players can take general actions available in that area or area specific actions.
General Actions include:
Gaining cards – used to build digging tools, make offerings to join gangs or sell for cigarettes. There are also action cards that can be used to help yourself or hinder others.
Crafting Items – use resources to create tools.
Extorting other players – Use weapons to take tools from other players. These can be willingly given or can be taken by force.
Room Specific Actions:
Dig the tunnel
Buy and sell goods
Players move their inmates around the prison and perform all these actions until a player’s tunnel reaches the length necessary to win the game (varies based on player count). That player escapes and wins the game. The rest of the players have to figure out a new way to get out.
When first looking at the iconography on the main board and the player boards it seemed like Dig Your Way Out might be a tougher game to learn than it actually was. It turned out that it was pretty easy to both learn and teach. Once players understood the icons and what they meant, it was very simple to get involved with the game. We had our first game setup and were playing in about 15 minutes. It took about two rounds for all players to feel comfortable with it.
The theme of the game is very well done. It was well thought out in development. One example of this detail is that there is no crafting allowed in the showers. Obviously, there is not a way to get the items needed to build a shovel in there with you. Well, I guess you can but you probably don’t want to. Little things like this make the overall experience very engaging.
You will find high quality components all throughout the box, with my only complaint being the actual box. It is just a little too small to have everything fit without really working at it. I wish it was about an inch taller and wider. But besides that, which can be overcome by taking a bit more time to pack everything in, the cardboard for the boards and the tokens are all very thick and sturdy. The cards are high quality. Overall, I give it high marks on the build.
There are things I really like about the artwork and things that make me a bit hesitant to recommend it. First, I want to talk about what I like. In general, the artwork is very gloomy. It captures the hopelessness of being trapped somewhere you don’t want to be. But not in a really terrible way. It walks a very thin line with offering that feeling yet still being accessible so players can enter this world. It helps that all the characters are overly exaggerated. It takes away much of the “realness”. Without this, it might have been too gloomy to really enjoy. But I loved what the artist did for the game and feel like the theme is captured in such a way that lets players be in the moment without it being a heavy feeling.
Why I hesitate with the art, is the depiction of the characters and the gangs. We are living in a world that is becoming more sensitive to stereotyping. Dig Your Way Out relies heavily on that with the gangs that are available to join. There is a queer faction, a black faction, a white faction, a Latino faction and a Russian (I think) faction. From what I have heard (which really is not much) is that factions/gangs like these do exist in some form. But It may have been better to not follow the strict stereotypes and instead create unrealistic factions, or mix everything up so the stereotypes were not strictly followed.
I have captured pictures of these factions so you can check them out and judge for yourself.
What I really liked about Dig Your Way Out was that it is a nice quick worker placement game with a fun move mechanic. If you move by rolling the dice you are always making it a random move.
I also liked the theme. Being a big burly inmate and forcing your way around the prison and using your handmade weapons to threaten others to get what you want is just plain old fun. You see when players collect tools to dig with. That gives you the chance to stalk them and try to take their tool for yourself. But you have to be careful because they might have cards or be part of a gang that will help them. Plus, you don’t always know what weapons they have up their sleeves.
The age recommendation for Dig Your Way Out is 14+. Mechanics and weight wise that is a very fair assessment. Theme wise I would probably not play this game with too young of players. There are bound to be some adult themed prison shower jokes. You are making threats and performing violence on each other throughout the game in order to take things that you want from other people. I plan on breaking this game out at adult game nights and having it be a big hit, but I am only breaking it out at adult game nights.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dig Your Way Out. Everyone I have played with has loved it. The player boards make navigating the game very easy and new players feel comfortable quickly. The theme is very strong and very developed. It makes the experience easy to lose yourself in.
Although I worry about the stereotyping in the game, I have not had anyone get offended by it. Again, I think it needs to be a personal decision and a recognition about the people you will be playing with and their feelings.
Besides that, Dig Your Way Out is a great way to spend a game night. It allows players to enter a world and become a character in that world that they would normally never want to be in. Having the larger than life, cartoony depictions of the characters help keep the game from feeling too heavy and allows players to take the roles of inmates and run with it. It should lead to lots of laughs and some competitive games.