Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Time to Goa

That's right. It's time for everybody's favorite post topic: Boardgames!

I've gotten a chance to play quite a few new games since I talked about boardgames last but I'll only mention one in this post. First of all, I don't have time to write about all of them. And second, Limpy and everyone else with any self respect have stopped reading already. But for those of you who care or simply have nothing else to do with the next 3 minutes of your life, here you go.

The item up for review is Goa. In this game you play the role of a company in the early 16th century attempting to gain the most fame and fortune by trading spices, building ships, settling new lands, and all the other stuff you'd expect a fledgling trading company to do.

The game is played over 8 rounds with each round having an auction phase and an action phase.

During the auction phase each player gets to pick a tile from a little grid full of tiles to put up for auction. Being the winning bidder on a tile earns you things like spice plantations, ships, colonists, extra actions, etc. Whoever is the starting player gets to auction not only a tile but also a special chip that shows who will be the starting player next round. Winning that chip also gives you an extra action card which is perhaps the bigger reason to bid on it. If you win the bid for an item that someone else has up for auction you pay them. If you win an item that you have up for auction you pay the bank. So you have to really want one of your own items in order to win it because you not only pay the bank, you also miss out on the profit you would've made when someone else pays you. There were 4 of us playing so after the 5 things got auctioned off (one tile from each of us plus the starting player's bonus chip) we moved on to the action phase.

Each player has a board (called a "progress chart" or something like that) which shows how proficient he is at various tasks. Things like building ships, harvesting spices, taxing, settling new lands, and going on expeditions. Each player gets at least 3 actions with which they can do a couple things. They can choose to complete one of the tasks I just mentioned (I guess that's actually 5 different options) or they can advance themselves on the progress chart thereby improving their ability to perform those tasks in the future (and gaining valuable victory points). Advancing the progress chart is where the real points are made. At the end of the game (after the 8th action phase) you get a number of bonus points determined by how far you got your progress chart advanced in each task column. You also gain extra turns if you get ALL of your task columns advanced certain amounts. There are bonus cards to be gained by being the first player to advance a specific task to a high level as well. So there's a nice balance between wanting to move an individual task up the chart quickly (for the bonus cards) and wanting to move all of your tasks up evenly (for the extra turn). Of course there's a lot more to it than that but this is the general idea.

Goa is an absolutely excellent game. There is very little time when you're not doing much especially if I manage to take my turn in a reasonable fashion. The game feels "tight" the whole time, like you always have a chance to be in the hunt for the win. It really keeps you thinking and changing your strategy based on what the others are doing. Read the Boardgamegeek reviews and articles for more astute and detailed observations. I can't wait to play it again.

A few of the other new games I've gotten to play recently:
Zombietown (Fun and light but a rather poorly written rulebook. We did a nice job "fixing" it though.)
Shogun (All I can say is, "Wow")
The Princes of Florence (One of my new favorites)
Ricochet Robots (Sylvia is really hot on this one)
Taj Mahal (Another excellent game. I know I've said that a lot but I've gotten to play a lot of winners lately)
BattleLore (A well made 2 player battle game that I will never be good at. I'd play it again though.)

There are probably some others too.

Boy I'm a dork.


limpy99 said...

It's funny, (only to me, I'm sure), but when I saw the title "Goa" I thought, "wow, he's got a game about the 15th Portuguese shipping trade"

You're not the only dork around here.

Phollower said...

Limpy: I'll take "15th century merchant ports" for $600 please, Alex.

Making Jeopardy jokes is fun. I'm glad you told us about that.

Just out of curiosity, how much of the boardgame posts do you bother to read? Do you get through the first line and say, "Boy, I bet this guy is real blast at a party..." or do you actually read a fair bit to see if it sounds interesting to you? Not that I'll be influenced to write more or less of them. Or be more inclined to make an attempt at convincing people that Eurogames really are a good time.

sylvia said...

This is a great game. As are all of the new ones we played, and all very different. You have to give a couple of these a try - even you Limpy.

dykewife said...

i beginning to wonder if there's a game you haven't played. have you been given, or purchased, any vintage board games?

limpy99 said...

If I start to read something, I finish it. OK, maybe skim it, but I get through the whole thing.

Phollower said...

Dykewife: I'm not sure what your definition of "vintage" is but probably not. The games we mainly play are of a genre often called Eurogames and have really only come into their own in the last, oh, 10 years or so I guess. We started getting into them on a fluke about 6 years ago when we moved to our current hometown. We didn't know anyone so we started hunting on the internet for 2 player games and stumbled upon They're one of the larger on-line stores for boardgames and they usually have the best selection although not always the best prices. Anyway, through reading reviews at funagain we heard about a game called Carcassonne. It had just won an award called the Spiel des Jahres which is the German game of the year but at the time we had no idea what that was. It's actually a very big deal in board game world. The thing about a lot of the best Eurogames is the quality of the components tends to be excellent so the price tags can surprise you. I think Carcassonne was about $30 or $35. Not a small chunk of change to drop on a game when you've never played a boardgame more interesting than Monopoly or Life.

That was the best investment we've ever made.


We loved Carcassonne so much that we took it "home" with us the next time we went to visit our families. It knocked their socks off. They all bought copies, played on-line, bought a bunch of the expansions etc... It's really that good. And when you aren't used to the idea of a game actually being interesting and thought provoking and really being much more than a time killer it just blew us away.

So it turns out there are a LOT of these types of games out there. With more and more coming out all the time. Some are cute, "filler" games that don't require a lot of thought (but do require a bit of strategy and tactics) and these types of games usually take about 15-20 minutes. Some are a bit "heavier" and take a fair bit of thinking, planning, & scheming. Most mid-weight games take between an hour to 90 minutes. And then there are the "heavy" games. Games that have so much going on in them and so much to think about and consider that they can make your brain feel like mush after you're done. I mean that in a good way. You get so into them that you can't think of anything else the entire time you're playing and often for a while afterwards. Some of them (I'm looking at you, Die Macher) can take 5 hours or more.

I know, I know. Who the hell would spend all day playing a single boardgame? We had our doubts as well. Now we talk about it all the time and try to see when we can 5 people together again so we can spend another whole day playing a game about the German political system.

Who'd have thunk?

All right, enough of my rambling. Eurogames are something my wife and I both love but we are nowhere near as obsessed by them as some people in the pastime.

But we're working on it.

sylvia said...

Just reading that post made me yearn to spend a day playing Die Macher again. And I will second (if I have not already) that the games really are entertaining and interesting and challenging.

But what I love most is that they play completely different each time. You can't just do what you did last time and get the same results. And this is not due to luck, as in many more traditional board games, but instead to the strategies used by others in the game. Some of the games have some luck (to greater and lesser extents), but strategy is always much more important.

Another thing I like about them is that many of them are pretty easy to teach. The mechanics of the game (what you do on your turn, how to do it, etc.) are generally simple. But figuring out how to win the game is like cracking a puzzle.

lkmanitou said...

Damn, that long of a post and not one mention of the 1600 floren Recruiting card I bought in Princes of Venice :)

Phollower said...

LK: I was trying to keep the way I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory a secret. Thanks for blowing that wide open. That was an excellent game though. I hope you didn't think I was actually mad at you. You made the right move and I was mad at myself for underestimating you guys. I should know better by now...

Lynne said...

Hey! We just played Goa with some friends the other night! It's definitely on our to-buy list