Sunny, Puyo and I met to play Goldland, my new acquisition. (Special thanks to Martin Rep for carrying the games all the way from Europe to Hong Kong.) Joe has promised to come, but as usual (reportedly) he never showed up. All of us have played before.
In the first game, Puyo was working along the north edge, while Sunny and I were working in the southern part of the map. I erected some camps on several tiles, but I did that after Sunny did, so he kept the adventure markers. Soon enough, it became apparent that Puyo would be first to make it to the temple, so I ran around to the north side (there were only a few simple adventures on the way, so I could do it in just a couple of turns) while Sunny kept working along his path. Puyo and I arrived in the temple in the same turn, while Sunny got there one or turns later (or in the same turn, I couldn't remember). But because Puyo had been working alone and faced less competition for the adventure markers and treasures, he won by a comfortable margin. I couldn't score for my camps because I abandoned my takeover attempts to go for the amulet, and thus lost badly.
In the second game, Puyo and Sunny again went off in different directions, while I was working near the base camp. At one point in the mid-game, I managed to erect some camps on some key connecting tiles, which gave me great mobility and allowed me to easily acquire any equipment I needed. With that, I was able to access the amulet (again, everybody got there within one or two turns from each other), while erecting more key camps to take over and defend adventure markers, and digging up some treasures. I won that game with a large margin.
In the third game, Puyo was working on the north edge again, while Sunny and I were working on the west edge. We drew a couple of Bandits, which slowed us down. Meanwhile, with some favorable tile draws, Puyo was making healthy progress towards the temple while digging up many treasures. Puyo was slightly ahead in the race to the temple, so I tried to build a path into his area. When I was trying to explore the connecting tile, I drew a Mountains, which was bad because the closest rope-acquisition tile was a coastal tile! (There is one immediately *behind* the Mountain in Puyo's area, but that's no good for my purposes.) I laid it out of my way. When I explore again the next turn, there were 7 or 8 tiles in the mix with only 1 Mountains left. Guess what I drew - another Mountain! I literally screamed when I drew that. Having already used my exploration markers, I had to retrace my steps back to the coast. To make things worse, Puyo drew a Puma for the temple tile; having been working alone, he had the adventure markers for it, but I and Sunny didn't. Sunny skipped the mountains by making an ordeal into the temple tile, while I had to collect the items at the coast. We both arrived at the temple within 2 or 3 turns after Puyo did, and I also took the Mountains marker from Puyo, but the delay gave Puyo enough time to place another camp at a Desert, taking the marker from Sunny and also digging up a treasure. Puyo won by a good margin, which consisted of a few more gold pieces than us, only 5 points in adventure tokens (to my 13; I placed 11 camps throughout the game), but 4 treasures.
I give Goldland a rating of 10 after 7 or so games. While tile draws do affect the outcome, the game offers plenty of interesting tactical choices in many different kinds of situations, and there are also a few major strategic choices per game (whether to work alone or compete, whether and when to strategically re-locate oneself into another area, etc.) Everything falls together so well: the tile mix provides just the right difficulty and lots of variety; the multiple areas of scoring balance easy paths against difficult ones, and balance working alone against working together; options such as ordeals, strategic relocation and exploration markers give everybody a chance, /provided/ he uses his options well. The different types of equipment and their properties create many agonizing and interesting choices. For example, Pearls are available in abundance at the base camp but nowhere else. You need one to acquire things at coastal villages, but additional ones are needed only at Native adventures. It is tempting to discard Pearls to free up space in your backpack (since they are needed not too often), but if you keep only one and then pay it in a Natives adventure, you cannot further acquire Shovels and Guns at coastal villages without either going all the way back to the base camp or using your valuable exploration markers to get another Pearl. You have typically 3 to 4 uses of exploration markers in a game, and they are very valuable, but the timing for their use is often tricky.
As I have said before, while I like to win games, I especially love games in which, when I lose, I can tell why and what I should have done. In the first game, I lost badly because I fell into the timing (game length) trap of setting up for adventure marker takeovers and then hastily abandoned them to go for the amulet; my endgame play contradicted my earlier play. I should have either avoided unnecessary competition and went for uncontested adventure types, or persisted in the takeovers. In the last game, in the early game I unwisely got into costly (time-consuming) contests for adventure markers with Sunny, which harmed both of us and gave Puyo an advantage. I should have withdrawn from Sunny's area, and hung around for a little while near the base camp and then followed Puyo's path. In the late game, I made a gamble (though admittedly it was a quite favorable one) by spending my exploration markers on a Puma in order to explore the tiles (which turned out to be Mountains); if I had patiently preserved my exploration markers, I could have avoided the need to return to the coast. (In addition to the gold coins, the delay also gave Puyo enough time to conquer the Desert.) The point was that, in the area, there was no shortage of random equipment (Wood etc.) for ordeals - there was only a shortage of Ropes, and also of Guns because I ran out of Pearls! So, arguably I should not have wasted my exploration markers on a Puma, which I could have circumvented.