How To Play: Above and Below – Setup, rule summary and strategy

In 'Above and Below', manage resources skillfully, diligently explore and choose encounters wisely, and optimize your village and villagers for efficient gameplay. These strategies, along with understanding the fundamental rules and setup, will guide you to victory in this blend of storytelling and strategic play.


Welcome to the ultimate guide on How to Play Above and Below, where I aim to equip you with not just the rules but the winning strategies. Diving into Above and Below, you’re faced with a delightful blend of town-building and storytelling, where every choice carves your path to victory. This guide outlines the essentials—from game setup to villager management—so you’ll understand the mechanics. But I won’t stop there; I’ll share top-notch strategies born from my own table-top battles, ensuring by the time you’re done, you’ll know how to triumph in this enchanting world!

What’s in the box

  • 1 Book of Encounters
  • 1 Reputation Board
  • 4 Player Boards
  • 7 Starting House Cards
  • 24 Outpost Cards
  • 18 Villager Cards
  • 19 Undertown Cards
  • 1 Round Marker
  • 4 Cave Cards
  • 6 Key Tokens
  • 25 Outpost Tokens
  • 22 Ladder Tokens
  • 40 Good Tokens
  • 32 Coin Tokens (16 Value 1, 10 Value 5, 6 Value 10)
  • 3 Exclamation Point Tokens
  • 4 Cider Tokens
  • 2 Potion Tokens
  • 10 Fish Tokens
  • 12 Mushroom Tokens
  • 4 Starting Villager Meeples
  • 14 Basic Villager Meeples
  • 10 Advanced Villager Meeples
  • 4 Monster Tokens
  • 4 Tracker Tokens
  • 9 Building Tokens
  • 1 First Player Token
  • 78 Goods Cubes (Food, Stone, Wood, Fish, Mushroom, Ruby, Lantern)

How To Play Above and Below: Rules Summary

If you’re diving into the charming world of Above and Below, understanding the rules is key to enjoying this delightful blend of storytelling, village-building, and strategic gameplay. I’ll share with you the insights I’ve gained from personal play sessions and help you make sense of the game, making it simple for those who have never embarked on its adventures. As we go through; Setup, Gameplay, Winning, and Special Rules & Conditions, you’ll get a full grasp of what makes Above and Below a gem of a game.


  1. Place the game board in the center, ensuring all players have clear access.
  2. Distribute a player board, starting villagers, and resources to each participant.
  3. Shuffle and lay out the item and villager cards for purchase.
  4. Prepare the encounter book and the cave cards for exploration.


  1. On your turn, assign villagers to tasks like working, resting, exploring.
  2. Venture into caves with explorers, rolling dice to determine outcomes and delving into the encounter book for narratives.
  3. Reinvest resources you acquire into constructing new buildings and hiring new villagers.
  4. Rotate between players until everyone has taken a turn.


  1. Gather victory points by building houses, completing encounters, and acquiring goods.
  2. Maintain a harmonious balance between expanding your village and exploring to maximize your points.
  3. The player with the highest points after seven rounds becomes the chief of the best new village!

Special Rules & Conditions

  1. Review individual buildings; they grant unique abilities and bonuses that can bend the standard rules.
  2. Ponder over moral choices from encounters, as they can offer long-term advantages or repercussions.
  3. Be cunning about when to push for exploration and when to bide your time, making improvements in your village.

Best Above And Below Strategies

The Art of Amassing Assets: Mastering Resource Management in Above and Below

One of the cornerstones of Above and Below is efficient resource management. Every choice you make has a ripple effect on your economy and your potential success in the game.

Prioritizing Resources for Growth

  1. First and foremost, assess which resources are most scarce and focus on collecting these. For instance, during one play session I noticed a dearth of iron. By prioritizing iron acquisition, I was able to trade it for valuable goods and services, giving me an economic edge.
  2. Next, always be alert to the opportunities the market provides. Sometimes, it’s smarter to sell an excess stock during a high-demand period than to hoard it. Transition smoothly between roles of seller and buyer to keep your economy flexible.

Building a Balanced Economy

  1. Balance is key. Diversify your income to avoid dependence on one resource or venture. When I distributed my efforts across a range of resources, it really paid off by making my village more resilient to shifts in the game’s economy.
  2. Watch what others are doing. I can’t stress enough how much you can learn by observing which resources your competitors are stockpiling. Anticipate market trends and adapt accordingly.

Incorporating Resources Into Long-term Strategy

  1. Finally, consider the endgame even while you’re in the thick of resource collection. Do your plans for grandiose constructions align with the resources you’re piling up? I once neglected this and was left scrambling to course correct before the final scoring.

Unlock the Secrets: Winning Through Strategic Exploration

In Above and Below, exploration is the thrilling core that can lead to victory if navigated wisely. Here’s how you make the most out of your underground expeditions!

Choosing the Right Explorers

  1. Balancing Skills – Mix villagers with different strengths to pass varied encounter checks.

  2. Heed Your Limits – Don’t overcommit villagers who are needed for other vital tasks.

Taking On Encounters

  1. Predictive Planning – If the dice are against you, pick options that require fewer successes.

  2. Reward Risk Takers – Sometimes, aim for high-reward choices that shape your narrative and resource gain.

Rationalizing Your Rewards

  1. Focus on Future Utility – Opt for rewards that benefit long-term growth like rare resources or new villagers.

  2. Diversify Your Gains – While gold is tempting, remember the value of items that offer unique advantages.

By merging caution with courage, you can strike a balance between safe progression and the lucrative lure of the unknown. Place each foot carefully on the subterranean paths, strategize with every descent, and Above and Below might just crown you as the master of its depths.

Mastering Your Village: The Key to Triumph in Above and Below

In Above and Below, optimizing your village and villagers is essential for victory. To help you hone this crucial aspect of gameplay, here are actionable strategies to become a village master. These tips are born from my own experiences and lessons learned from game nights with pals. A warning: Ignore these strategies at your own peril—they could mean the difference between a bustling hub and a ghost town!

Strategy 1: Prioritize Villager Recruitment

  1. Early in the game, recruit new villagers to expand your workforce. As you weigh down the ‘recruit’ paddle on your downtime, consider not just the number of villagers, but their abilities as well.

  2. Specialize villagers in exploration or labor tasks to maximize their effectiveness; having the right people for the job pays off dramatically in later turns.

Strategy 2: Expand With Purpose

  1. Concentrate your early buildings on expanding resource production—it’s the bedrock for later success. Harvest them effectively by positioning your people where they’ll shine.

  2. Balance the village’s layout for growth and efficiency; tight management of space gives you strategic flexibility for unexpected challenges.

Strategy 3: Invest in Key Buildings

  1. Mid-game, pivot. Isolate key buildings that perpetuate resource cycles and villager benefits. Dropping a carefully planned structure can change the game tide.

  2. Monitor other players’ villages. Don’t underrate this—the competition can be steep, and learning from others’ cityscapes can be instrumental in edging out a victory.

Strategy 4: Leverage Villager Synergies

  1. Explore synergies between villagers and buildings for powerful combos. Like a maestro, direct a symphony of production where villager and building abilities amplify each other.

  2. Keep morale high to retain your best workers. Trekking into the narrative depths requires commitment—a glimpse of earned comfort goes a long way!

Forge Your Legacy in Above and Below

Now that we’ve delved deep into the caverns of strategy for Above and Below, it’s your turn to chart your narrative. Remember, balancing your resources, optimizing your villagers, and strategically exploring the mysterious caverns are your key tools to cement your name as the most storied leader. Keep an eye on the endgame and adapt your strategies to the ever-changing conditions of each play. Your villagers look up to you—guide them well, and the legacy of your village will outshine all others in this beautifully crafted world. Grab your belongings, rally your villagers, and build a village that will thrive Above and Below!

Want to know what we think of Above and Below? Read our detailed review of Above and Below here

Jamie in his proper element: With all of his board games
Jamie Hopkins

With years of dice-rolling, card-flipping, and strategic planning under my belt, I've transformed my passion into expertise. I thrive on dissecting the mechanics and social dynamics of board games, sharing insights from countless game nights with friends. I dive deep into gameplay mechanics, while emphasizing the social joys of gaming. While I appreciate themes and visuals, it's the strategy and camaraderie that truly capture my heart.