Dig Your Way Out

Saturday is a good day. At least here. The guards are always notoriously understaffed at the weekends. So it's more common for us to be locked in our cells from Saturday noon until Sunday afternoon. Time enough for me to continue moving slowly towards freedom. In general, time is something I have had in abundance since moving into Blackgate. 10 years - 10 fucking years in jail I got, and all because I helped my cousin.

My cousin has always been the black sheep of the family and found his way into the CREW - one of the most violent street gangs in the area - at an early age. One evening he called me to pick him up in the car - I could tell by his tone that he was in trouble again. I drove off and then everything happened very quickly, so for you the short version: police check, arrest, suspected involvement in a shootout between rival street gangs with two dead. And now the catch: one of the bullets found came from a gun that was registered to me.

And now I'm sitting here in my 8 square metre luxury room, happy that it's finally Saturday and even happier that I managed to steal a spoon in the cafeteria. As soon as the lights go out, I get to work. I simply have to get out of here and my tunnel is already quite long. Now, if you think that only happens in the movies, let me tell you: Blackgate is an old prison and I wouldn't be the first to find freedom this way. And you can help me too, so: Dig Your Way Out.

Dig Your Way Out was already a successful Kickstarter in 2019 with almost 2000 backers. In the meantime, the game is also available in German and has found its way to our gaming table. As you probably noticed in the introduction, there is only one goal in the game: to break out of the Blackgate prison. The problem is the other prisoners who are pursuing the same plan and cause a lot of trouble in between - yes, and tools for digging are rather rare in prison.

Into jail

The setup is done quickly. Each player chooses a tableau with a character and places the corresponding piece on the cell block. After all the cards have been dealt, the game can begin. The game is played in turns. Each player can take up to two actions during his turn. There are two types of actions:

  • Basic actions - are performed regardless of the location, they include:
    • Search
    • Move
    • Join a gang
    • Play an Action card
    • Extortion
    • Craft
  • Location-based actions - you must be on the corresponding location on the map, e.g.
    • Dig at the Cell Block
    • Sell at the Recreational Area
    • Buy at the Recreational Area
    • Heal at Infirmary
    • Steal a spoon in the cafeteria

The background cards, one for each player, can be played once during a turn. The player tableaus also show all possible actions. To move, you can either roll the dice and place your Prisoner on a square with the corresponding number. If you have a certain place in mind that you want to visit, you can also move "cautiously" without rolling any dice. However, this costs two actions. Almost all places can be searched. This is done by drawing the specified number of cards from the draw pile. The cards then allow the player to make tools, join a gang or play Action cards. Or you can exchange the items in the Recreational Area for cigarettes. At the end of his turn, the player may have no more than ten cards in his hand.

To win the game, a certain number of tunnel points is needed, e.g. twelve points for a game with two or three players. These points can only be obtained in the cell block by digging the tunnel with the appropriate tools. The simplest tool here is the spoon, which you can quickly grab in the cafeteria. As with production, however, the same applies to digging: only the healthy con can perform this action. If you have a beating token, you should go to the infirmary as soon as possible to get fit again.

The player who has a lot of weapons in his hand can consider to extort his teammates in order to get faster access to coveted tools for tunneling. If the extorted player does not hand over the tool voluntarily, a fight takes place. The loser must give up a card (if the attacked player is defeated, possibly the desired tool card) and may enjoy the beating token. Tools can also be "bought" in the lounge for cigarettes, or produced in certain places by the right combination of cards. Basically, produced or purchased tools bring more points in tunneling: pickaxe two points and shovel three points.

Michel and Michelle or cooperative

Honestly, it must be said that life in prison is only half as exciting without Michel and Michelle. As described in the instructions, this expansion multiplies the interaction and extortions when playing with two players. At the beginning of a game, either Michel or Michelle is placed in the showers as a player figure. The gameplay changes with this expansion as follows: if a player moves into a room where Michel(le) is located, the player is immediately extorted. The active player can decide at the end of his turn whether to move Michel(le) by a die roll. If Michel(le) is moved, he immediately extorts all the players in that location. A nice way to make life difficult for your fellow players - but it can also go wrong!

The cooperative mode is only possible with four or six players. These start in separate cell blocks and can also only dig in their cell block. Here it is enough if one player of the team gets the required number of tunnel points together. There are also some additional action options, such as swapping items among each other or fighting together.

Out together

For the game for two, the expansion Michel and Michelle should definitely be used, for the game for four the cooperative mode. The normal game without any expansion is ideal as an introductory tutorial. If you take this to heart, you will get a great game with a pleasant depth that is quickly learned and quickly played.

In many places, the PushYourLuck mechanism comes out well: should I roll the dice and risk not getting into the desired room? Do I put Michel/Michelle at the end of my turn to make prison life more difficult for a fellow player? Will I win the fight if Michel/Michelle suddenly turns up at my place? Will the player take revenge if I use the action card to throw him into solitary confinement, or simply hit him on the head? These are all very typical thoughts that run through your head during the game - and most of the time things turn out differently than expected.

The illustrations are guaranteed not to leave out any prison clich├ęs and are - as one is used to from Mihajlo Dimitrievski - very coherent. We found the age limit of 16+ very exaggerated and not appropriate for the mechanism. Of course, the theme is not necessarily suitable for children, but there are far worse things in the media world with a rating age of 12. All in all, however, a great game that has what it takes to become a cult title!

No. of Players: 2-6 | Alter: 16+ | Playing Time: 45 Minuten | Release Year: 2019
Game Design: David Simide | Illustrations: Mihajlo Dimitrievski | Publisher: Borderline Editions, Bannan Games

  • 1 reversible game board (45x45cm)
  • 6 character boards
  • 14 standees
  • 180 cards
  • 61 tokens
  • 1 dice
  • 1 rulebook
  • 1 Expansion: The Michels
  • 1 Expansion: Team mode

Dig your way Out is a board game taking place in a prison from which you must escape before the other players. You can build tools from scratch, buy them with cigarettes or extort your fellow inmates for theirs. Every dirty trick is allowed in jail!

Roll and Move Push your luck Crime Analog Games
29.01.2021 - Stefan