How to Play
- Place the side of the gameboard face up that corresponds to the number of players playing the game.
- Each player chooses a color and takes all of the coffins of that color. Each player puts their crest at the beginning of the score track.
- Each player takes five player cards which includes a Single Death Certificate #7, Couples Death Certificate #6, Single Death Certificate #5, Death Certificate #3, and Death Certificate #2.
- Separate the other cards into the fate deck (purple border), and treasure deck (green border). Shuffle both decks.
- Place the fate deck on the right side of the gameboard. Deal three cards from the fate deck to each player. Each player keeps one of their cards and puts the other two fate cards on the bottom of the fate deck. Then place the top three cards from the fate deck face up.
- Place the treasure deck on the left side of the gameboard. Deal one treasure card to each player. Then place the top three treasure cards face up on the table.
- Shuffle the Gravedigger cards and place them face down on top of the board.
- Choose which player will go first.
Summary of Round
Here is a summary of what happens each round.
- The current player flips over the next Gravedigger card.
- The current player chooses which side of the graveyard (left or right side) that the coffins will be buried in for this round.
- Each player chooses three of their cards to play for the current round. When everyone has chosen their cards for the round all of players reveal their cards at the same time.
- The effects of the cards are applied from the highest valued card to the lowest valued card. Any ties are broken by the current player or the closest player to the current player in a clockwise manner.
- After all of the card effects have been applied, the coffins are buried in the graveyard starting with the first coffin on the graveyard card.
- All coffins that are not placed on the cart are placed into the river.
- Discard the current Gravedigger card and the next player becomes the current player.
Each player bids three different cards. The card’s value is equal to the number in the top left corner. The only rule regarding bidding is that each player can only bid one card of each value. If a player ends up bidding two cards of the same value, they must discard one of the cards without using its ability. All treasure or fate cards bid are removed from the game after their special abilities are used. All cards with brown borders are returned to their player’s hand.
When all of the cards are revealed , the card with the highest value will be applied first. If two or more cards have the same value, the card played by the player closest to the current player (in clockwise order) breaks the tie.
Each card has a special ability. Each cards has some symbols printed near the bottom of the card. These symbols indicate the ability that is activated when the card is played. The different special abilities are as follows:
Some of the cards also feature a black gravestone in the bottom left corner. When one of these cards are played, the player earns the number of points printed inside the gravestone. These points are applied immediately.
When a player plays their three and two card in the same round, the player gets to draw a fate card.
When a player gets to draw a fate card they can choose to either take one of the face up fate cards or they can draw the top card from the fate deck. If the player takes one of the face up cards, the top card from the fate card is placed face up. Any fate card that lets you move a coffin allows you to affect either side of the graveyard.
Each treasure card is worth four points when it is played during the game or is worth points based on the card’s ability if it remains in the players hand. When a treasure card is played, it is removed from the game. Only one of each type of gem can be scored at the end of the game. When drawing treasure cards a player can draw one of the face up treasure cards or draw the top card from the treasure deck. If one of the face up cards are drawn, the top card from the draw pile is turned face up.
Gravedigger Cards and the River
The first card that gets added to the cart is played to the first spot on the cart. Each additional coffin is played on the next spot. Once all of the spots have been filled based on the number of players, all other coffins will be placed in the river. When the cart is unloaded it is unloaded from the first spot to the second spot and so on.
For each coffin put into the river the player gets to take one fate or treasure card. If a double coffin is put into the river the player gets to take two cards (one fate and one treasure). Once a coffin is placed in the river, players want to try and get them out since if they stay in the river at the end of the game they are worth negative points (as indicated on the chart on the gameboard). To do this you need to play a fate card that allows you to remove coffins from the river. The more coffins in the river the more negative points you receive. A double coffin counts as two coffins.
When burying coffins a couple rules must be followed:
End of Game and Final Scoring
The game can end in two different ways. If all of the Gravedigger cards have been used, the game ends. The game also ends (after the round has finished) if one of the players have buried all of their coffins.
Each player scores points as follows:
- A player scores points for each gemstone card held in their hand. A player can only score points for one of each type of gemstone.
- The player who has the most points in an area with bonus points scores the corresponding points.
- Players lose points based on how many coffins they have in the river.
- Players score points for the value of each coffin that they have buried in the graveyard. If a player only has one of the two spots of a double grave filled in that share one number, the player doesn’t score the points.
- Players score the corresponding points for the treasure cards that they hold in their hand.
The player who has the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the player with the most cards in their hand wins the game.
The first thing that is going to stick out to people when they first see Bring Out Yer Dead is the theme. How could the theme of burying your loved ones in the graveyard not stick out? The instructions also kind of insinuate that you murdered your relatives for your inheritance or otherwise there was a freak accident that killed everyone in your family and your character was the only family member left alive. The whole idea behind the game is kind of morbid when you think about it. Even though the theme is kind of morbid I actually enjoyed it and I think it works well with the game’s mechanics. I can see some people not approving of the theme but I think that would be a small minority of people.
As a whole I would classify Bring Out Yer Dead as a light to moderate game. I would say it is probably more on the lighter end of the spectrum. The game has a decent amount of mechanics but for the most part they are pretty straight forward. The game probably takes around five or so minutes to explain and then probably takes a couple rounds for the players to fully understand. As players get more used to how the game is played the pace picks up significantly. I can’t see anyone having issues understanding the game after their first time playing the game.
While the game is pretty simple, the game still has a decent amount of strategy. The game has several different ways to score and lose points.
The most obvious way to score points is to bury your coffins in spots that earn you points. There are special spots that let you earn bonus points for controlling the most coffins in a designated area and there are graves that you only can score from if you fill both spots. Some graves are worth more points than others so you need to figure out how you want to play your coffins to maximize your points.
You can also score a lot of points by using treasure cards. It takes a concerted effort to get cards though so you need to commit to this type of strategy early in the game. It is a shame that you don’t get many treasure cards since the cards don’t end up impacting the game as much as they could have. Fate cards are much easier to get but few of them give you points and are mostly used to manipulate coffins already on the gameboard. In order to score a lot of points from treasure cards you need to collect a lot of them which means that you need to spend most of your time acquiring them. Unless you want to devote a lot of your time to acquiring treasure cards it probably isn’t worth it to build a strategy around them since you will likely lose to a player that is focusing on just burying their coffins for points.
Finally you need to avoid getting your coffins thrown into the river. While you get to draw cards when a coffin is put in the river, you also lose a lot of points if you don’t get them out before the end of the game. You can use fate cards to retrieve your coffins from the river but you are probably better off trying to avoid getting coffins put in the river in the first place. Coffins didn’t get thrown into the river nearly as often as I would have assumed. I think this is because most of the gravedigger cards have enough spaces to hold all of the coffins that are buried on a given turn. In the game I played few coffins got thrown in the river. I am a little disappointed by this since players could usually bury as many coffins as they wanted on a turn without that much of a risk of losing coffins to the river.
While the game has some good mechanics that are simple and still fun, I worry a little about the replay value of the game. While there are different ways to score points, I think the easiest and probably best strategy in the game is to just bury your coffins as quickly as possible into the highest valued spot remaining. While you could score more points using treasure cards, I focused solely on burying coffins as quickly as possible and I won by a pretty significant margin. This is because other than the fear of having one of your coffins thrown into the river, there is no reason not to try and bury your coffins as quick as possible. The game ends when all of the gravedigger cards have been used or one player has buried all of their coffins. Based on my experience the second option seems more likely so you want to bury as fast as you can so you have more coffins on the board to score points at the end of the game. Also if you bury all of your coffins quickly you limit how many actions your opponents can take.
Another issue I have with the mechanics is that none of them are particularly original. Bring Out Yer Dead doesn’t have any mechanics that I haven’t seen in other games. The theme tweaks them a little but the basics are similar to things done in other games. Bring Out Yer Dead does a great job blending the different mechanics but if you are looking for a truly unique experience Bring Out Yer Dead is not going to be it outside of the theme.
The final issue I have with the mechanics is that turn order seems to be really important in the game. Since the game relies a lot on tie breakers, whoever gets to be the player that starts the game seems to get a pretty big advantage in the game. In the game I played the player who started the game got first, the player who started second got second and so on. This might have just been coincidence but I believe it shows that starting first gives you a pretty big advantage. This is because the first player each turn gets the tie breaker which means they will break all ties and get an advantage over the other players. I think the game could have come up with a better tiebreaker.
While the special abilities are pretty interesting and add variety to the game, the game doesn’t always do a good enough job fully explaining all of the different special abilities. To fully understand some of the special abilities you need to just guess at what the designers intended the special abilities to do or look for clarification on the internet. While the game is pretty easy to play, the instructions could have been written better in some areas.
The components for the game are quite good for the most part. I really like the wooden coffins even though the game could have easily just used plastic or cardboard tokens for the coffins and it wouldn’t have changed the gameplay at all. I do think the coffins are a little on the small side though. The artwork for the game is well done and does a good job reinforcing the theme. I like that the gameboard is double sided with a different gameboard for 2-3 players and 4-5 players. The cards are for some reason quite a bit longer than your typical cards. What makes this strange is that the cards have a lot of free space on them and yet the game still decided to use symbols to indicate different abilities instead of just explaining the abilities on each card. The symbols for the most part do a good job indicating the ability but it will take several games for players to know exactly what all of the symbols mean without having to refer to the reference cards. I really don’t know why the game couldn’t have just printed the explanations on the cards themselves.
Overall Bring Out Yer Dead is a good game that isn’t quite a great game. The theme might be a little morbid for some people but I think the game does a good job with it. The game is quite simple to play but still has enough strategy. The game gives you different ways to score points and your decisions seem to matter in the game. The components are also quite nice. The problem with the game is that the game isn’t highly original since all of the mechanics are similar to mechanics from other games. While you have choices on how to score points it seems like the best way to win the game is to just bury your coffins as quickly as you can in the most valuable spots.
Overall I enjoyed Bring Out Yer Dead and plan on keeping the game. I just wish the game had a little more polish to make the different strategies a little more in balance. If the theme turns you off or you have similar games in your collection already, it probably doesn’t pay to pick up Bring Out Yer Dead. If you find the theme or the game mechanics interesting though I don’t think you will be disappointed with the game.
If you would like to purchase Bring Out Yer Dead you can purchase it on Amazon here.