Going Underground – Diamant review

I was a little bit reticent about reviewing Diamant what with it not being in print any more. Of course, it has been redesigned and reissued by Funagain, Sunriver and most recently Gryphon Games under the guise of Incan Gold but for me the original is king. Originally released back in 2005, Diamant was the brainchild of two of the greats of game design in recent years; Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti. Between them they have created classics like Ticket to Ride (previously reviewed right here on Little Metal Dog) and Citadels – Faidutti is also responsible for one of my all-time favourite games, the excellent Mission: Red Planet. Surely a collaboration between two of the better game designers of recent years would be a winner, yes?

Thankfully, yes, it is. While Diamant is a very simple game, it is extremely entertaining and a lot of fun to play. Between two and eight players are given a very simple task – collect more diamonds than your opponents. The game is split into five rounds, each one representing a visit to an underground cave. The players are explorers, venturing deep underground in a bid to become wealthy – however, the mine’s previous owners have very different ideas. Turns begin with a card being drawn and placed face up in the middle of the table. Numbered cards (between 1 and 17) are good – the diamonds (which are only plastic, but still look brilliant!) are divided between the players still in the round at the time, and any remainders are left on the card. After each card has been drawn and the loot shared out, players are given a choice – do they wish to continue further into the mine, or do they want to leave? Your selection is made with your Indiana Jones-esque meeple – secrete it in your hand and you leave (sharing any diamonds on the track with other escapees). If you do leave, all diamonds you collected in that round are placed into your treasure chest and you take no further action. An empty hand means you press on in search of further riches… but as mentioned above there are some little presents left behind.

Shuffled into the card deck are a series of hazards – three cards of five different types such as poison gas traps, giant scorpions and explosions. While those staying in the cave may well get a bigger share of the diamonds, they may also run into these hazards – and if a matching pair appear on the track, the round is over. Any players who didn’t run away leave the cave with nothing, having pushed their luck just a little too far this time. Thankfully, as the game consists of five rounds there’s always plenty of opportunity to catch up with others. As the game progresses, players who are lagging behind will find themselves taking more risks in the hope they’ll turn up that elusive 17  card (and keep it all to themselves!) – however, when there’s a plenty of dangers already on the track, the chances of the round coming to an abrupt end get higher and higher. And there lies the big draw of the game – how far do you press your luck? Do you keep pressing further and chance losing everything or leave early with a guaranteed (but invariably smaller) amount of gems?

If you found diamonds that large, you'd never work again.

Diamant is one of those games that – although it plays well with a few people – is definitely a case of the more the merrier. My copy is pretty much wrecked (surely the sign of a good game!) thanks to it getting thrown around and played a few times a week with the kids at school – they jeer at the early quitters, cheer on the brave and bold classmates who choose to keep going and yell madly when a second rockfall card comes out, ruining their chances of actually beating someone who played smart and left with a mere handful of prizes.

To summarise, I love Diamant, but please don’t think that Incan Gold is a poor replacement. It is, in fact, exactly the same premise – only the theme and pieces are different. There’s still the same element of pushing-your-luck while keeping an eye out on your opponents’ totals, but… well, Diamant is just so shiny. The jewels, the little Indy-meeples… everything comes together thematically to really enhance the game. If you really want to play it (and I really do recommend you do), go for a copy of the remake; however, if you’re patient I’d say check out the boardgamegeek marketplace or even hunt around on Amazon.de and get yourself a copy of the original and best.

Diamant was originally released in 2005 by Schmidt Spiele. It was designed by Alan R. Moon and Bruno Faidutti, can handle between two and eight players and is really quite splendid. Go find a copy now, seriously. Or, if you fancy it, grab Incan Gold. I don’t mind! They’re both ace!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Going Underground – Diamant review

  1. PinkBatgirl

    How bizarre, only this weekend Chris was reading out a description of this game on board game geek and we were both thinking it sounded really good!!

    Thanks for the (very well timed) review – have you got us bugged here or something?
    Will have to keep my eye out for a copy of Diamant – if I don’t manage to find one though, I’m pretty sure we’ll be picking up Incan Gold instead 🙂

  2. Steve Jackson

    Great review again. I have a copy of Incan Gold on it’s way to me after hearing you mention it in the first podcast, My wife is going to hate you because you have woken a sleeping giant and re-ignited my interest in board gaming.

  3. that does sound like a good multiple player game and one i will try to pick up. its not stocked in many places. have you thought of setting up some affiliates with links to where we can buy these games?

  4. By the way I was talking about incan gold… I understand Diamant is superior, but much harder to come by.

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