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Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

WBG Score: 8.5

Player Count: 1-4

You’ll like this if you like: Brass: Birmingham, Power Grid, Bonfire.

Published by: Mighty Boards

Designed by: Dávid Turczi

This is a free review copy. See our review policy here.

Excavation Earth is a fantastic game. You can check out my review for it here. In 2021, the first expansion, Second Wave, was released. Although I haven't played it myself, it introduced two new playable races, new achievements to pursue, wildcards offering new powers for your race, and the Observation Barge, which provides new ways to manipulate the market demand for artefacts and score points. It sounds great to me! Then, in 2022, the second expansion, It Belongs in a Museum was released. Fortunately, for the purposes of this review, I have played it. Let's bring it to the table and see how it plays.

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

What's New?

The It Belongs in a Museum expansion introduces two new modules and two new alien races, all of which are compatible with the first expansion. Here are the details:

New Races: Seekers and Commanders - The expansion adds two new alien races for players to choose from. The Seekers race is particularly interesting as it allows you to send artefacts directly to the museum without needing to sample them first. This ability will make more sense when we discuss the museum addition below. On the other hand, the Commanders race enables you to resolve an excavate action when you take a command action, using the same card.

It's exciting to have these new races available, as they provide unique gameplay options and strategies for players to explore.

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

Mysterious Artefacts - Set Up: To incorporate the Mysterious Artefacts module expansion into the game, follow these steps:

  1. Place the five map overlay cards onto the main board, aligning them with the indicated locations in the rule book.

  2. Add the 12 Mysterious Artefacts, as shown below, into their corresponding coloured piles.

  3. If you draw a Mysterious Artefact during the set-up phase for the black market, place it on the map instead. No replacement card needs to be drawn.

Additionally, there are four new command cards that should be added to the command deck. Place these cards among the existing command cards. Also, include the 21 Reverse Engineering cards in a face-down deck next to the command centre.

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

Mysterious Artefacts - How To Play: During the excavate phase in the game, mysterious artefacts cannot be sampled. However, you must assign a crew cube to the tile as a "custodian" to protect other players from the potential dangers of the new artefacts. If you don't have an available cube to assign as a custodian, you cannot excavate the artefact. The new artefacts cannot be sold, but they can be moved from your cargo hold to the mothership when you place an envoy during the command phase. When you do this, the custodian is returned to your crew pool. Additionally, you must draw the top two reverse engineering cards, choose one, and place it face-up next to your player board as a new active power. The other card is placed at the bottom of the deck. At the end of the game, you will score points equal to the value shown on all of these reverse engineering cards.

If you offload a mysterious artefact during the smuggle phase, you will gain six credits for each analysed mysterious artefact on the mothership. The offloaded artefact is then removed from the game along with its custodian. During the survey action, mysterious artefacts must be placed on the corresponding dig site on the map, and a replacement card is drawn. Shuffling it back or purchasing it is not allowed.

Galactic Museum - Set Up: Shuffle the new command cards and reverse engineering cards featuring the museum symbol into their respective decks.

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

Add the museum board to the table next to the mothership board and randomly place exhibition tiles on each space based on the player count, as shown in the manual. Next, take a buyer pawn from the supply based on the colour indicated on the top card in the buyer deck discard pile, and place it on the top space of the board. Then, draw the next card from the buyer deck and place the corresponding buyer pawn onto the middle space. These pawns represent the curators.

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

Galactic Museum - How To Play: There is now a new action available during the main phase of the game, as depicted on the new player aids. It's called "Exhibit." To perform this action, you need to discard a card from your hand. Then, you have the option to send an artefact from your cargo hold to the museum board, regardless of whether it matches the card you discarded or not, or even both.

Additionally, flip the top card of the buyer deck and place a new curator from the supply at the back of the museum queue. Move the remaining curators one space forward as indicated on the main board. In case you draw a wild card, you can select any other coloured buyer, but you cannot add the wild buyers to these spaces.

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

For each artefact tile you move, you will place it into an empty exhibition tile that matches the icon and either matches or exceeds the value on the tile. If the artefact matches the colour of the tour guide on the corresponding row, you will gain the bonus of the column where you placed it. Additionally, whenever you move an artefact to the museum, you must assign one of your crew members as a tour guide for that artefact. If you place an artefact on the last empty tile of any column, each player with a tour guide in that column receives the benefit shown at the bottom of that column. Each tour guide present provides one benefit. At the end of the game, players will earn credits for their tour guides in the museum.

Pop-Up Market: The pop-up markets are placed on the board after every sell action and during the preparation phases of rounds two and three, where one market is added. When you place a pop-up market on the board next to the dig site shown on the card, it is considered part of that dig site. This means you can now perform actions on these sites in addition to the usual ones. These market cards allow players to either buy artefacts at a discounted price or sell artefacts to gain special rewards, such as engineering cards.

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review

Excavation Earth: It Belongs in a Museum Expansion Board Game Review: Is It Fun?

I am torn on this expansion. It is very good, and what it adds is simple and fun. However, in my opinion, the base game is already excellent. It doesn't have any real issues that need "fixing" through an expansion. Moreover, the base game can be quite complex to teach and play for the first time. Therefore, this expansion is only suitable for those who have played the base game extensively and are looking for something new. For those individuals, I would say, go ahead and get this expansion. You won't be disappointed. However, I'm not sure if Excavation Earth is the type of game that people play 25 times in a year. If you are returning to the game every couple of months or so, adding this expansion might be challenging without a rule refresher each time.

That being said, if you are familiar with the base game and want to add more, this expansion will deliver for you. I particularly love the new factions and the museum board, which offers bonuses that add an element to the game different enough to make the expansion a success. I believe most people will find it to be a rewarding addition. The reverse engineering cards are also an excellent addition, providing exciting new options.

I appreciate how the new modules encourage players to consider all the available options on their turn, more so than in the base game where players may have become accustomed to focusing on just a few turn options. This expansion encourages exploration of less commonly used options, such as the command option when playing with the Commander race.

Overall, I would say this is an excellent expansion for an already excellent game that will not disappoint. However, you need to decide if you are comfortable with the added complexity to the base game. I would personally advise against purchasing this expansion until you have played the base game at least ten times. But if you have done so, it's likely that you enjoyed it a lot, and this expansion will bring you joy.

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