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Game: Goa (Hans im Glück)
Submitted By: Stan Hilinski
Date: 6/6/2004 7:02:00 AM
Goa is a new game (2-4 players) designed by Ruediger Dorn and published by Rio Grande here in the U.S. Mr. Dorn is also known for Emerald and Traders of Genoa, and I would say Goa is more on the Traders end of the scale in complexity.
Goa is an "emerald fleck on India's western shore" and was a key trading center in the 16th century. Back in those days, Europe was agog over the spices they found in the East Indies, and the British, the Dutch, and whoever else had a ship and some reckless sailors jumped into the "spice race." The game's theme is about those days, but the theme and game play is thinly connected, so the game is more abstract than some players may like.
Despite this, I loved it. It is rich in decisions, and it has a building element, which I like a lot. (You build plantations and colonies, grows spices, and advance in progress.) The rules are a bit more complex than average, so I recommend you spend a little time with them before you play your first game.
The game is played in eight rounds, after which you score up. Each round consists of an auction phase followed by an action phase, much like Princes of Florence. Each player has TWO playing boards in front of him. On one you put your plantations and colonies with accompanying spices (wood bits). The other is your progress chart, which you use to track your progress in six categories. You can get a good picture of what I'm talking about here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/44789.
The auction phase is very strange. Players are buying tiles, which have been randomly placed on a 5x5 board. The tiles are a motley lot. Some are plantations, some give you resources, and some let you do special actions. The first player lays down a flag marker on a empty space with the his "1" marker on it. The next player lays his "2" marker on any tile adjacent to the flag marker. Then the next player puts his "3" marker on a tile next to the "2", and so on ending with the starting player putting one more marker on a tile. You end up with a string of marked tiles, and then each is auctioned off to the highest bidder. The auctioneer for each tile is the marker's owner, and he gets the money if someone else buys the tile. It's very unusual.
Then you go to the action phase. You go around the table three times, and each player in turn does an action. There are six different actions available to you. You can get ships or money, you can grow spices, you can draw expedition cards (which are like event cards with special abilities), you can found a colony, or you can improve a "progress" if you can pay for it. Some folks will have earned "additional actions", so there can more more rounds after the mandatory three. Having plantations and colonies, improving your progress, and even having expedition cards earn you victory points, and much of the stuff requires you pay for it, so it's grow-grow-grow. How you do it is fascinating, and I find myself considering what I will try come next game.
I am running the Goa event with Rich Shipley at the WBC, and I suspect it may be a popular one. There are lots of things going on and lots of things to think about. What's the downside? If you prefer games with the complexity of Ticket to Ride or Transamerica, this is not the game for you. It also may not be the game for slow boats because there are often lots of options, so the game could drag with the wrong players. Fortunately I think there is a lot you can ponder between your turns, so the down time should not be unbearable. The components are very nice, but I think the board could have been livelier, but that's a small quibble. Lastly, the binding of theme and game is not very strong, so some will consider it a bit abstract. However, if you like meatier games with lots of options and lots of different cards and tiles with myriad effects, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
p.s. If you want to know more about this period of history, read "Nathaniel's Nutmeg" by Giles Mil