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Subject: Red Player One Reviews Goa rss

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Curt Frantz
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The Game

In Goa, players will personify Portuguese spice merchants traveling between Portugal and India. Each player will attempt to grow his business by building ships, harvesting spices, collecting taxes, mounting expeditions, and founding new colonies. The player who does this most efficiently wins the game!



The Board and Components

The game board consists of a grid of 25 spaces. These spaces will be covered by tiles at the start of the game, and will be reset with new tiles halfway through the game. There are 29 ‘A’ tiles for the first half of the game and 29 ‘B’ tiles for the second half. The board also contains spaces to collect ducat (money) cards, colony tiles, ship cards, colonist cards, extra action cards, and expedition cards. There are also tiles near the board to track the current round and actions.



Then, of course, there are the spices: ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper, and clove. These make up the bulk of the game and will be gained and spent by players to progress their business. Note that I have a sticker sheet for the spices, but did not apply the stickers as the 30 minutes of effort seems completely pointless.



In addition to those components, each player has their own player boards. The first board contains space for the player to build colonies and plantations. There are also spaces for the player’s five auction tokens. In games of less than four players, auction tokens are removed, such that each player always has a number equal to the number of players plus one.



The other board is used to track progress on five separate tracks. The gray progress cubes begin the game at the top of each track, and the players will have the opportunity to move down each track as they gain resources.



The Gameplay

The 29 ‘A’ tiles are shuffled, and 25 are randomly placed on the game board. The other four are returned to the box. All the cards are placed on their indicated spaces of the board. The first player is chosen by flipping over expedition cards until an elephant symbol is revealed. Each player takes four ships, two colonists, 10 ducats (the first player only takes five), and places their five gray progress cubes at the top of each track on their player board.



Goa is played in eight rounds which are divided into two phases: A and B. After four rounds of phase A, all tiles remaining on the board are removed, and the board is populated with B tiles. Then four rounds of phase B are played. A round of Goa is played in this order:

1. Place auction tokens

2. Tile auctions

3. Player actions

Place auction tokens

The player with the flag (in the first round, the chosen first player) places it on any empty square or on any space on the edge of the play area. In either case, the flag must be orthogonally adjacent to a tile. The player then places his or her ‘1’ auction marker on the flag. The next player places their ‘2’ auction marker on any tile diagonally or orthogonally adjacent to the flag. The next player does the same thing, creating a chain of marked tiles on the board. This proceeds until the first player places their highest numbered marker on a tile. In a four player game, there will be five auction markers on the board: four on tiles, and one on the flag. Of these five items, two will always be marked by the first player.



Let’s take a closer look at what some of these tiles do. Many are simply plantation tiles, as seen below. When purchased, these tiles are placed on the player’s board and are immediately stocked with the indicated spice. Some of these tiles also contain a victory point.



Other tiles allow the players to take the indicated number of ships, colonists, extra action cards, and/or expedition cards. These cares are generally valuable and highly sought after.



There are also red ‘income’ tiles that provide the purchasing player with one of the indicated resource every round of the game yet to be played. These are also very valuable, especially if acquired early in the game.



There are also blue and purple tiles that allow for special abilities and end of game victory points. I’m not going to go into the details of these tiles here, but some of these are also extremely valuable.



Strategy Tip: When placing auction markers, keep a close eye on which direction you’re taking the auction ‘chain’ and what options you’re allowing the player(s) after you to place. Sometimes it’s worth steering clear of the more valuable tiles, because other players are likely to benefit much more than you from those tiles (especially if you don’t have the money to win them in an auction).

Tile auctions

Starting with the flag, each tile that was marked with an auction token will be auctioned off in order. The player starting the bid is always the player left of the auctioneer, who placed their token on the auctioned tile. The player must bid at least one or pass. On each subsequent turn, players may increase the bid by at least one or pass. On the auctioneer’s turn, one of three things will happen:

1. If nobody has bid on the tile, they take the tile for free.

2. The auctioneer passes, leaving the tile to the previous high bidder. This player pays the auctioneer equal to their bid.

3. The auctioneer buys the tile for auction by paying the bank an amount one less than the previous high bid to the bank.

The player who obtains the flag in auction also gains an extra action card, in addition to the privilege of being first player in the following round. Once the flag is auctioned, the tile marked by the ‘2’ auction marker is auctioned off. This happens until all five items are auctioned.

Strategy tip: You’ll want to place your markers on the most valuable items available, to increase the income you’ll receive in the auction round. Keep in mind that there’s a huge cost to buying your own auctioned tile. You’re not only paying for the tile, but you’re sacrificing income from another player. If possible, try to sell your tiles, and buy the best tiles that other players are auctioning.

Player actions

Each player has 3 actions, plus any additional actions they choose to spend (gained by winning the flag or certain tiles). Starting with the first player, players take one action at a time in clockwise order. After each player has taken 3 actions, players will optionally take additional actions in turn order. If more than one extra action has been collected by a player, they must spend down to one. The actions are:

1. Progress on their development board – to do this, the player moves one of their progress markers down the development board. This requires ships and spices, as indicated in the area between the ranks being moved from and to. To move to the 2nd rank, one specific spice and one ship are required. The spice required is different for each track. The next level requires to specific spices and two ships to carry the spice, etc. The required spices are taken from the player’s plantations and/or colonies. The player can only progress one space per action. Progressing on a track has two benefits. At the end of the game, the players will score points for each marker on their development tracks, indicated by the number at the far left of each row (up to 10 for each marker on the bottom row). It also increases the number of resources the player receives or can use with other actions. In short, advancing tracks makes actions better.

2. Build ships – to do this, the player takes the number of ships indicated by his progress marker in the ‘ship’ column of their development board. At the beginning of the game, this is just one.

3. Harvest – to harvest, the player takes spice sacks from the supply and places them on his/her plantations and colonies. The types of spice taken must match vacancies on the plantations and/or colonies. The player can’t take more spice than they have room for.

4. Tax – the player simply takes a number of ducats as indicated by their progress marker in the ‘taxes’ column.

5. Expedition – the player draws expedition cards from the supply. Each row of the expedition track has two numbers: the first indicates how many cards are drawn with this action, and the second indicates the player’s hand limit. If a player can draw two cards buy only have room for one, a card must be played or discarded prior to drawing (or only one card is drawn). Expedition cards allow the players one-time abilities like extra money, extra spice, extra colonists, extra ships, the ability to pay spices but not ships to move down a track (and vice versa), etc. If unspent at the end of the game, they are scored for their animal symbols (like symbols scoring additional points).

6. Found a colony – rather than taking resources, the player will choose a colony they wish to found that they have not already founded (Quilon, Cochin, Madras, Calicut), and flip two expedition cards. The number of depicted colonists are added to the player’s value on their development board. This total can be modified by any colonist cards the player has gained. If the total equals the amount depicted on the colony tile (6, 8, 10, or 12), the colony is successfully founded. The player chooses one tile corresponding to the founded colony and adds it to their board. They immediately stock the tile with the depicted resources. If a spice icon is both red and green (for example) the player chooses between nutmeg and pepper. If colonization is failed, the player takes one colonist card as consolation. In any case, the expedition cards used to colonize are discarded – not added to the player’s hand.

Strategy Tip: The Quilon and Madras tiles contain different resources, so founding these before the other players allows for the best choice of tile.

Once all players have taken their three actions and any additional actions they wish to spend, the round is over. At the end of round 4, the remaining ‘A’ tiles are removed from the board, and 25 ‘B’ tiles are randomly placed.

End of game

After eight rounds, the game is over. The players score the ranks reached by their development markers. In the below example, the player would score 31 points (10 + 6 + 6 +6 + 3).



To this, they add points for founded colonies (1=1VP, 2=3VP, 3=6VP, 4=10VP). Then any points for expedition cards are added. This is done by checking symbol on the bottom right of each expedition card. If only one of a symbol is collected, it’s worth 1VP, but if two cards with like symbols are collected, three points are gained (3=6VP, 4=10VP, 5=15VP). The player with the most ducats scores three points. And finally, any victory points on plantations and purple tiles purchased by the players are scored. The player with the highest total wins!

Final Thoughts

Strengths

Marker placement – I hinted at this above, but I think this mechanic is great. You obviously want your markers on valuable spaces to increase your own income, but sometimes you don’t want to lead the auction into more valuable spaces of the board to help other players out even more. Sometimes it’s worth placing on a sub-optimal tile, just to put other players in a tougher spot. If you don’t do well in at least some of these placement and auction phases, you won’t be doing too well in the game. Managing ducats is extremely important. Without income, you won’t be able to buy good tiles, and without good tiles, advancement will be slower.

Once-around auction – This auction mechanic works really well here. Not only does the auctioneer have the final say in whether or not they want the tile, but there’s the opportunity cost to consider. Should you buy your own auctioned tile, sacrificing the income you’d gain from another player? It’s costly. But what if it’s the only way to get colonists, and you really need to colonize this round? There are lots of things to consider

Competitiveness – This game is always close. That’s not to say good play isn’t rewarded, but every player usually feels like they have a chance up until the final score tabulation. There are only a few ways to gain points, and sometimes the game is decided by the player with the most ducats in hand! (3 points) It’s definitely a game of fine margins.

Planning ahead – The strategy in this game is all about sequencing your actions most efficiently. This means you need to move down certain tracks before advancing other tracks, and collecting the proper spices and ships upstream of those actions. I list this as a strength, but some may see it more as a weakness because it can slow the game down (see below).

Weaknesses

Pace – Goa rarely takes longer than 2 hours, but it can slow to a crawl at times while players try to put together what their most optimal moves are, and how they need to prepare each round to maximize their development. If you’re a player more prone to analysis paralysis, this game might not be one for you. It’s not as bad as something like Agricola, but there are times when every action is vital, so you’ll feel the need to think things through a bit more.

Theme – If you ask me, the theme is pretty non-existent here. Yeah there are ships and colonists, and blah blah blah… It’s all just colors and numbers and development tracks. This isn’t a killer for me, but I know some people out there care about theme.


This game is a classic. It has the efficiency of a euro game, but includes a really cool auction mechanic that dictates what each player is capable of. Usually, each round plays pretty quickly (10 or 15 minutes) and the actions that I should be taking are often clear when the action phase begins. I often find myself thinking ahead to the next round. Which tiles will I need? Do I need money in order to bid higher? Which tracks will I want to move down and what spice do I need to do so? It can be a little stressful, because there are so many priorities, and in some cases (colonist cards) not enough resources to satisfy all players. This scarcity breeds competition and higher bids. I really like this game, but it is fairly dry. If you’re a player looking for theme and higher levels of interaction, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

How easy is the game to learn?

It isn’t too difficult to understand the rules, but experienced players will have an advantage because they’ll have a better understanding of relative values of the tiles. It will take a couple games to figure out the strategy.

Will it be easy to find players?

The fact that this game is a classic will draw players in. I think every gamer should probably give Goa one chance. It’s certainly more suited for euro gamers, but my friends have occasionally surprised me with their enjoyment of this one. It is a medium-heavy weight game, so it won’t be right for all players and environments.

Is the reward worth the time spent?

Absolutely! In this game, I feel like my strategy (or lack thereof) is appropriately rewarded. For a game that takes 90 to 120 minutes, I couldn’t ask for much more. There isn’t much in this game that is left up to chance, and that’s typically the way I like my games. When I win Goa, it’s usually because I was able to outsmart my opponents in the placing/bidding, which is much better than out-rolling or out-drawing them!

How much fun is defeat?*

Even though outsmarting my opponents is fun, I have a really good time getting my butt kicked. It’s a game where my primary concern is maximizing my own points, so I might think I’m doing well but look up at the end of the game and see that I’ve lost by 6 points. It’s disappointing, because there are usually specific decisions I can point to that doomed me, but in Goa, it just makes me want to jump back in and play better the next time.

Overall score

*I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!


If you enjoyed reading this review, feel free to check out my other game reviews HERE

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Gabriel Szaszko
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Absolutely one of my favorite 'classic euro' games with just the right amount of interactivity and pushing the margins when bidding. Still feels fresh despite its age.

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Robert Lesco
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Quote:
I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!


That is a brilliant criterion by which to view games. I am off to read your other reviews now. Thank you for sharing this thought.
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Curt Frantz
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rlesco wrote:
Quote:
I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!


That is a brilliant criterion by which to view games. I am off to read your other reviews now. Thank you for sharing this thought.


Thanks for the feedback! I like to share that criterion whenever possible.
 
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Ken Bush
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rlesco wrote:
Quote:
I think one of the best ways to evaluate a game is to consider how much fun it is to lose. The goal is to have fun whether I've won or lost!


That is a brilliant criterion by which to view games. I am off to read your other reviews now. Thank you for sharing this thought.


I agree 100%.
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Alex Bove
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Great review!

Just a couple of thoughts on your strategy tips:

tribefan07 wrote:
Strategy tip: You’ll want to place your markers on the most valuable items available, to increase the income you’ll receive in the auction round. Keep in mind that there’s a huge cost to buying your own auctioned tile. You’re not only paying for the tile, but you’re sacrificing income from another player. If possible, try to sell your tiles, and buy the best tiles that other players are auctioning.


Yes, this is a very important part of understanding Goa's economy. In general, money flows clockwise around the table, so you're most likely to sell your tile to the person on your right (who has the last bid) and buy from the person to your left (when you are the last to bid).

tribefan07 wrote:
Strategy Tip: When placing auction markers, keep a close eye on which direction you’re taking the auction ‘chain’ and what options you’re allowing the player(s) after you to place. Sometimes it’s worth steering clear of the more valuable tiles, because other players are likely to benefit much more than you from those tiles (especially if you don’t have the money to win them in an auction).


This seems to contradict the other tip. Since I know I'm auctioning off a valuable tile, and thus will be flush with money for the next auction, I want to steer my LHO toward a really good tile because I'll have the most money to buy it. I should be mindful of the effect that decision might have on the other tile selections, of course, but it's often difficult to predict what will happen two or three actions down the line anyway. I want my LHO to place a tile up for auction that is valuable to me. All other concerns are secondary.

Many people think Goa is a game about the action phase, but the auction phase is the most important part. Actions are often pro forma, and usually an optimal action path exists and is fairly evident. The auctions, on the other hand, are full of surprises and fun!





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Curt Frantz
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montu wrote:


tribefan07 wrote:
Strategy Tip: When placing auction markers, keep a close eye on which direction you’re taking the auction ‘chain’ and what options you’re allowing the player(s) after you to place. Sometimes it’s worth steering clear of the more valuable tiles, because other players are likely to benefit much more than you from those tiles (especially if you don’t have the money to win them in an auction).


This seems to contradict the other tip. Since I know I'm auctioning off a valuable tile, and thus will be flush with money for the next auction, I want to steer my LHO toward a really good tile because I'll have the most money to buy it. I should be mindful of the effect that decision might have on the other tile selections, of course, but it's often difficult to predict what will happen two or three actions down the line anyway. I want my LHO to place a tile up for auction that is valuable to me. All other concerns are secondary.

Many people think Goa is a game about the action phase, but the auction phase is the most important part. Actions are often pro forma, and usually an optimal action path exists and is fairly evident. The auctions, on the other hand, are full of surprises and fun!


That a good point. Often times you do want the next player placing on something desirable, but just because you likely profited from your sale doesn't mean you necessarily have the most money at the table. I also don't think it's JUST about the next player. If your placement is going to allow all 3 other players to place on very valuable tiles, you're of course not going to win them all.

I should have phrased the tip to just be aware of want tiles you're allowing to become available and if you DO want them, make sure you have enough money at that point. If you're steering the auction into a valuable area buy you won't have much cash, that's pretty silly.

Thanks for the feedback!
 
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