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Board Game Review – Goa

2012 August 21
by Michael Schroeder

Review copy kindly provided by Z-Man Games.

Goa the board game is straight up Euro, but those merchants in the black hats are going to the Indian Ocean – who knows if they ever make it back to Europe. Who cares? It’s about the game play.

Goa - A New Expedition

Goa – A New Expedition

Designer: Rüdiger Dorn

Number of players: 4

Age: 12+

Time: 90 minutes

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

At the end of the 15th century, European traders and adventurers ventured the Indian Ocean with one goal: get the spices of Southeast Asia. Fabulous wealth was said to await those who would obtain these riches. Portugal conquered the province
of Goa on the west coast of India. This allowed them to gain the upper hand in the spice trade.
It is from this place of operation that the players are looking for opportunities to acquire wealth and fame for their personal business. For this, they will require ships, manufacturing plants and money while ensuring that they keep exploring the region and continue founding colonies.

Who will have the most successful business at the end?
Goa – The Next Expedition renews the experience with new tiles and a few surprises.

Basic idea in my own words…

I’m going to make this simple and as least dry as I can… In Goa, you are out to get the most victory points through different means such as having certain cards, or progressing far on your development board, etc. You are spice merchants that are finding colonies, setting sail and selling spices. The game takes place over the course of 8 rounds, which are split in half, being Part A and part B. Each round consists of a number of phases and when everyone has acted, the next round begins, until all 8 rounds have been resolved. I must be honest, I have so many euro’s and have played so many Euro’s that the themes are starting to get dry to me, and Goa is no exception…I mean look at the guy on the front cover! And listen to one of Tom Vasel’s rants concerning this about the time that Hansa Teutonica came out. But regardless, Goa is a fun game!

How do you play…

Goa Game play

Goa game play

Like I mentioned above, Goa takes place in 8 rounds which consist of 3 phases. Let’s go over these phases.

  1. Place Auction Tokens– Each player received a number of auction tokens per the number of players + 1. Say this is a 3 player game, each player will receive 4 auction tokens in his/her color to use during auctions. Starting with the first player (who will currently possess the flag), the first player will place the flag on the edge of the board that’s surrounding face up tiles, or they may place the flag on an empty space on the board, amongst the tiles. Then, the next player in turn order, places his number 2 auction token, on a tile that is adjacent to the flag and “1” chits, then the next player does the same, but places his “3” adjacent to the “2” and so on and so forth. Until at the end, the 1st player gets to place his highest auction marker out on a tile.
  2. Tile Auctions– Then once this is completed, auctions occur for each tile and the flag, in auction token order. Whomever wins the flag gets an extra action card and the flag and is then first player. When auctioning, you get to auction once, then what makes this game interesting is, the owner of the tile under the auction token doesn’t have to continue bidding, he can pay 1 less the highest bid. Also, if everyone passes, the starting and owning player, gets that token. In addition, if you are the high bidder and not the token owner, you pay the auction token owner the money. So there’s some balance here to keep people in play with money. Once you win a tile, take your token and tile and place it on your player board or playing area.

    Goa player board

    Goa player board

  3. Player Actions – Each player gets 3 actions. And if you have any extra action cards, you may take those number of respective, additional actions. At the end of the action phase, you must hold no more than 1 action card. During this phase, you are working to improve your fleet, collect taxes and just progress to get points. The actions you can take reflect the condition or progress of your progress board.
    Goa development board

    Goa development board

    You have 5 wooden pieces to denote where you are on your development board. The farther you are down on the board the better. The actions are directly effected as a result of where you are on each column on the board and the points in the game are driven heavily by this. The first and smallest column is a point indicator, telling you how many points you’ll receive at the end of the game for each column. Also telling you, the first player to reach one of their cubes on the last two rows will get an additional expedition card. Row 1 is the ships you’ll receive and that action is, build ships. The build ships action will get you ship cards. The next column is spices. Depending where you are here, you’ll receive that many spices to be able to place on any matching and open spice area or plantation. The Harvest action is what this is. The next action is Taxes. This action will get you the value of ducats depending on where you are in this column. The next action is Expedition. This action allows you to take the respective number of cards (the number on the left) and keep a hand limit of the number on the right. I’ll explain expedition cards a bit more later. The next action is Found a colony. This action gets you 1 of the 4 colonies on your personal board. These are essentially plantations that are also worth points at the end of the game. The final action is Progress on the Development Board.  This action allows you to move your cube down 1 space in a column. But  in order to do so you must pay the required cost between the two columns you are moving. For instance, a nutmeg and a ship. So, there you now see, if you want to progress, you needs spices and ships. So how do you get those? Well, you need to take the harvest and build ships actions. And how are you successful at that? By progressing and by having plantations and colonies. Plantations are a large amount of the tiles on the main board that get auctioned off. Well, how do you get those? Having ducats and a general strategy of an auction mechanic. That’s what this game consists of, an auction mechanic and action point allowance system. After each player has taken all their actions, then auctioning begins again for the remaining tiles on the board, following the same rules. To note though, if a player has no valid placement on a tile, that player may freely jump to any tile he wishes, and subsequent auction tokens are placed next to this one.

So, these phases happen 4 times, then all the remaining A tiles are taken off the board and B tiles are randomly placed in place of the A tiles and there are 4 more rounds. So, I mentioned I’d go over some cards. Here we go.

  • Expedition cards. These cards are rule breaker cards. For instance, one type may allow a player to progress without paying the required ship costs, etc. These are very helpful, as they give colonists and ships. And you need these things. Colonisits specifically for finding colonies. The expedition cards also have symbols on the back. If you have any matches, or even a single non matching card at the end of the game, you get points. The more matches, the more points. In addition, these cards are also used in finding colonies. In the finding colony action, a player wishes to take a unique colony and place it on his board. In order to do so, you must add the base number of colonists on your board, then flip over the top two expedition cards and add those colonists, then if you must, add any colonists from your hand. If you fail at this, you get 1 colonist. If you pass it, you take the previously declared colony and add it to your board and immediately place spices here.
  • Ducats – the money in the game.
  • Colonists – come in 1 and 3. These are for finding colonies
  • Ships – Come in 1 and 3. Ships are for paying development upgrade costs
  • Extra Action cards – these are to tell you if you have any other actions besides the base 3
Tiles – There are a lot of tiles in the game. Most of the tiles are plantations but others are one time use to get free cards or points. In phase B, The tiles get more interesting and complex.

Breakdown

Components: 3/5

The component quality is very good. Very colorful and good production quality. But I wish there was a fitting spot in the insert for the stinking flag! It’s also too bad the development and progress boards were’t thicker.

Theme: 2/5

The theme here has got to be one of the most bland themes I’ve ever seen. Maybe its because I have games like Hansa Teutonica and Navagador…but the spice merchant thing seems to have been done so many times or exploring the oceans and selling goods. But ultimately its not the theme, its the game play.

Luck Factor: 3/5

There’s a good amount of luck in this game, which is one of the more fun aspects I find. The finding colonies. And the luck of the draw on expedition cards.

Strategy: 3/5

There’s a decent amount of strategy in this game. I think there should be more, but when I played I just didn’t seem to get into it so much. I think a large part of the strategy is outwitting your opponents in the auction. Figuring out how much money they have and playing against that.

Overall Feelings: 3/5

Goa: A new expedition is a good game. If your a fan of Euro’s, I think you’ll enjoy it. While the theme is so dry, the game play is fun. But even though there’s an auction mechanic in it, I find the beef of the game is in the Action point phase, and that’s extremely solitaire. But again, if your into euro’s that is  gamers game, I’d check out, Goa.

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