I was about to give up on this game. We got totally stuck on our first (learning) play through. Piles of sand EVERYWHERE blocking paths, only a single tunnel excavated, playing Solar Shields incorrectly (thinking that these were played reactively to “Sun Beats Down” rather than in advance of storm cards), and not getting even a single part (all buried in inaccessible places).
I didn’t realise how hard the game was before buying it based on good online opinions of the game, but when I went looking online after playing another Beat Down, I discovered that difficulty really does ramp up hard at higher player counts.
One game we almost lost before the first player had a second turn due to no tunnels, Solar Shields, and a series of SBD cards.
Tonight we tried again and I’m not sure if due to luck or a combination of luck and smarter management (although I think we generally were pretty smart on earlier play throughs), we managed to win! When we excavated a second clue, the piece was quite often nearby and not buried. We found tunnels early and avoided enough SBD for water not to be too much of a problem even without a Water Carrier. We were close to a tower of sand on a tile (that we didn’t even end up excavating) that allowed a Dune Blaster to return a stack of sand back. And critically there was an unblocked tunnel adjacent to the launch pad.
Here is the proof/final position! https://imgur.com/gallery/5KTec6p
We ALMOST didn’t win. We were ONE MOVE short of winning because the unblocked launch pad suddenly got a heap of sand on it. And with the storm meter at 5-6 we almost ran out of sand for the 5-6 cards. There were some Storm Picks Up cards that scared us as the Storm meter almost hit the top, but actually this saved us from more sand being removed from the reserves.
It would have sucked so bad to lose this close to winning so we were all pretty relieved that we lived to win this with only a few sand markers remaining. Very satisfying to finally win but I’m not sure how we would have done with less luck! After the game we realised we didn’t even use a single Solar Shield - and then on counting cards we realised we sold ourselves short as we only picked up 6 equipment cards when we have excavated 9 tiles with equipment symbols 😅