Saturday, September 29, 2018

Board Game Review: Century: Golem Edition

I have recently grown to enjoy playing Century: Golem Edition. I've played it a few times now, and my delight with the game grows with each replay. So today, I will share my thoughts on this game with you.

If you're not familiar with this game, it is functionally identical to the game Century: Spice Road, of which Golem Edition is a reimplimentation. The only difference between the two is the artwork, and the fact that Spice Road uses wooden cubes:

Three of the four colours of cubes: yellow, red, and green. Each colour is contained in a small brown plastic bowl, about five centimeters (two inches) in diameter

...whereas Golem Edition uses plastic gems:

The plastic gems in their storage container in the game box. The containers are each diamond-shaped pentagons situated together so that they each form a quarter of an octagon in the box. The gems colours are yellow, green, blue, and pink.

The theme is different as well; in Spice Road, you are spice traders looking to make your fortune leading trading caravans across the long trade routes to bring valuable spices to your customers. In Golem Edition, you are mining and crafting soul gems, which are used by the great masters to construct golems.

Before we go any further, let's take a look at the ratings:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take. Gamer Profile Ratings measures how strongly a game will appeal to players based on their interest in one of four areas. These areas are measured as High, Medium, or Low. Strategy describes how much a game involves cognitive challenges, thinking and planning, and making sound decisions. Conflict describes how much direct hostile action there is between players, from destroying units to stealing resources. Social Manipulation describes how much bluffing, deceiving, and persuading there is between players. Fantasy describes how much a game immerses players in another world, another time.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 0
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Pretty
Average Length of Game Play: 20 minutes
Gamer Profile Ratings:
  Strategy: Medium
  Conflict: Medium
  Social Manipulation: Low
  Fantasy: Medium

An Overview of Century: Golem Edition

Players start the game with a caravan card, which simply provides spaces for ten gems, and two merchant cards. A row of six additional merchant cards and five point cards are laid out in the centre of the table. The first point card has a number of gold coins next to it, and the second point card has silver coins.

On your turn, you may take one of four actions:
  • Play a card from your hand.
  • Rest to pick up all the cards you've played and return them to your hand.
  • Acquire a new merchant card.
  • Claim a point card.

Play

To play a card, simply lay it on the table in front of you and take the action listed on the card. Cards let you do one of three things:
  • Take one or more gems from the supply and add it to your caravan card (usually the yellow gems, which are the lowest-valued gems).
  • Upgrade gems one step along the value track (yellow gems become green gems, green gems become blue gems, and blue gems become pink gems).
  • Trade gems of a specific colour for one or more gems of a different colour (for example, there is a card that lets you trade one green gem for three yellow gems, and another card that lets you  trade two yellow gems for one blue gem).

Rest

Take all the cards that you've played onto the table in front of you, and place them back into your hand.

Acquire

You may take one of the merchant cards from the row in the centre of the table. To do so, you must place a gem (any colour) on each card in front of the one you want to take. If you're taking the first card in the row, you don't have to spend any gems. If you're taking the second card in the row, you must place a gem on the first card in the row. Place one gem on the first and second cards in order to take the third card, and so forth. If there are any gems on the card you acquire, add them to your caravan card. Slide all remaining cards over and add a new card to the end of the row.

Claim

To claim a point card, spend the gems listed on that card to pick it up. For example, there is a card worth 18 points that requires two blue gems and three pink gems to claim. Another card costs three yellow gems and two green gems, and is worth 7 points.

If you take the first card in the row, next to the gold coins, you get a gold coin as well. If you take the second card, which is next to the silver coins, you also get a silver coin.

Winning Century: Golem Edition

Once a player has six point cards (five point cards if there are more than three players), finish out the round so everyone has an equal number of turns. Add up the points on all your cards, plus three points for each gold coin you have, one point for each silver coin, and one point for each non-yellow gem you have. The player with the most points is the winner.

Final Thoughts on Century: Golem Edition

The rules are very simple. Game play is easy to learn, and the game does not take long at all. Yet in that simplicity is a surprisingly deep and involving game. Century: Golem Edition (and therefore, also, Century: Spice Road) combines some of the best elements of a number of types of games. There is an aspect of a deck-builder game to it, as well as resource management and engine-building. Sure, there's some amount of luck involved, but the decisions you make (and most importantly, your willingness to take risks) can have a significant impact on the outcome of the game, mitigating the effects of randomness on your likelihood of winning.

Even if you don't win, though, it's still an enjoyable game. Especially when you're playing with people who are familiar with the game; the last time I played, it was with two others who were equally experienced in playing. This meant that turns progressed both quickly and smoothly. One person would take his turn, and the next player saw that he was finished and took his turn, with most turns lasting only a couple of seconds, so that no one had to wait very long for his turn to come back around. We barely needed to talk at all for the game to occur! Such smooth gameplay is a hallmark of a great game.

But let's look at the six characteristics of a good game:
  • It's fun to lose.
  • It has no player elimination.
  • It ends decisively.
  • It relies on player agency.
  • It's not overly complicated.
  • It doesn't really allow for upsets.
This last one (that it doesn't allow for upsets) is only because it's often hard to keep track of how many points each player has during the course of the game. There's no score track or similar item, so the only way to know how many points a player has is to look over at their cards and add up the values, and then add in the points for their gold and silver coins. Even then, the number and colour of gems that each player has changes so frequently that it's basically impossible to know who's in the lead until the game is over and everyone totals up their score.

Still, if that's the only complaint, I say it counts as a good game.

I have heard other complaints: some people say that the game suffers from 'a bunch of people playing solitaire together' syndrome. This is true to an extent, but there are ways that players must interact during the game (taking cards that another player obviously wanted for that 'screwage' effect that some players really enjoy, for example), or at the very least, keeping an eye on which cards other players are likely to try to gain for themselves. In the last game I played, for example, I was constantly checking to see what gems the other players had, so I would know whether I would have the three or four turns I would need to get the gems needed for a specific point card, or whether I should give up on that card and try for a different one.

As far as comparing Golem Edition to Spice Road, the artwork in Spice Road is a little more beautiful in the classic art style, and the theme is more serious. For some people, that's a draw. I, personally, prefer the whimsical theme and artwork of Golem Edition.

Another difference is that Plan B Games (the publisher of both versions) has released an expansion for Spice Road (my understanding is that they were originally not planning to release any expansions for Golem Edition, but fans responded negatively to that news, and so now they are going to publish an expansion for Golem Edition as well. They will not be identical expansions, so if you want the full gamut of playability, you will need to purchase both versions.

I, personally, am happy with sticking with just Golem Edition. But hopefully, you have learned enough about both games to decide which, if either (or both, maybe!) you want.

So with that, I bid you farewell once more, and I remind you as always to 

Game on!

No comments: