Recommend
119 
 Thumb up
 Hide
16 Posts

Goa» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Five Great Things About Goa rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: Review [+] WISHLIST [+] Goa [+] [View All]
Alex G

Flagstaff
Arizona
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Image courtesy of Kostas Nikolaidis

Goa is an economic/resource-management auction game for 2-4 players, designed by the great Rüdiger Dorn. In Goa, players take on the role of Portuguese merchants in the early 16th century, building a spice-trading empire.

The game is structured around a series of 8 tile auctions, where the tiles to be auctioned are chosen by the players (a game unto itself, with some minor spatial elements). After each auction session, players receive 3 actions. Players use actions to improve their companies: they may found colonies, which provide spices; they may obtain ships, used to ship spices; they may draw cards, representing exploratory expeditions; they may tax the people to get more money for auctions; they may harvest their plantations and colonies, in order to get more spices ready to ship; they may also improve their company's basic capabilities --- improving shipyards, increasing spice harvests, raising tax revenues, aiding expeditions, or making it easier to found colonies. Improving company capabilities requires spices and ships on which to load spices, in different amounts depending on the level of improvement and which capability is chosen. As you can see, players have a lot of options. Throw in the ability of expedition cards to enhance these actions, a variety of tiles that provide one-shot extra resources, permanent extra "freebie" actions (like getting an extra colonist, spice, or ship), victory points, extra actions, and more spices (and room for spices), and there is a lot going on in Goa.

The rules appear complex at first (and the rulebook is not, perhaps, optimal --- the Rio Grande edition also has a mistake in how expedition cards are handled). However, after one or two games the rules are surprisingly easy to remember, and the player aids and pieces make Goa flow more naturally than many a simpler game: it's a very well designed system, and the complexity allows a great deal of player freedom.

Goa captures the mind: after every game, you will find yourself thinking (especially if you lose, but often even if you win) about new ways to do things. Maybe I'll take bigger risks in founding colonies, and fight hard for early plantations in the auctions. Maybe I'll tax the heck out of my people, to dominate auctions. Maybe I'll save money for the better tiles in the second set of 4 auction rounds. This time I'll concentrate on getting ships, I never advance ships enough. No, this time I have to balance cards and spice harvesting potential, those are the key.

Goa was the first more "serious" Euro that my wife and I purchased (after enjoying Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride), and it hooked us on this hobby. It is our favorite of the deeper economic Euros, and our third-favorite game: it never feels dry, it never feels repetitive, and it grows more fun with each play. It's also that surprising thing, an auction game that works marvelously as a 2 player game.

As I write, Goa is ranked the 22nd best game on the geek, and it's sadly rather hard to find (there's a reprint coming in 2010). It's very much worth hunting down, especially if you want a gripping 2-player deeper Euro that isn't as exhausting and chess-like as Caylus, or as restrictive (and perhaps repetitive) as Agricola.

In the tradition of my review of Jambo, another brilliant Rüdiger Dorn game, I'll limit myself to noting five great things about Goa, one for each spice in the game: cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and pepper. Goa itself is an aromatic spice, adding flavor and delight to the gaming life.

1. cinnamon The auctions are exciting, tricky, and fun. Auctions are a great open-ended form of player interaction. In a sense, they are the essence of an economy: how much is this here thing worth? When you lose an auction, you either didn't manage to have enough resources (which is in your control) or you weren't willing to pay as much as the other player. But --- losing an auction can be winning, if the "winner" has paid too much. Goa's auctions allow a fine control over player strategy, in the amount paid, and increase this control by letting players (within limits) control which items are put up for grabs. Every round there is bidding for "the flag", which is placed next to a tile. From that placement, the other players mark items within 1 space to auction off, leaving a little trail of items up for bid. A key element is that if you put an item up for bid, the winner of the auction pays you (if you win, you pay the bank). This gives someone losing auctions a chance to compete at least a bit (unless they've really gone bankrupt), and adds even more strategy into the selection of items and prices -- for example, you might be willing to pay more to the bank than to another player who might then be able to outbid you on your critical tile. The choices can be wonderfully agonizing --- "Should I give them a chance to maybe put that up for bid? I can't afford it, and it's great! But I really need this thing here..." Auctions often fail to work well with only 2 players (Power Grid comes to mind), but in Goa the auction / money management game is perhaps at its best with two. Winning a close "fight" for a tile is also a lot of FUN --- certainly more so than taking a critical spot in a worker placement game. "I paid for this, and it's MINE."


Image courtesy of boarder
How much will you pay?

2. clove The tiles provide great variety. In my opinion, Goa's tiles provide more genuine replay-potential and variety than the cards in Agricola. How can this be? The tiles do fairly small things, in some cases --- more resources, some VPs, extra actions. However, the interactions of these abilities with the rest of the game are often more interesting (and potentially strategy-changing) than most cards in Agricola. The auction lets tiles actually matter, because you pay for them, rather than draw them. The lack of a constraining scoring system also makes it more possible to focus on one thing or another, to freely choose a strategy. The initial layout of tiles in Goa provides much of the excitement of drawing a hand of cards in a card game --- what's it going to be like this time? Strong tiles close together may make it likely (or very unlikely, depending on how things develop!) that those tiles will come into play. The tile flop may be what makes Goa feel new each game, even once the strategy space has been partially explored.


Image courtesy of Andrew Agard

3. ginger There is a genuine range of viable strategies, nicely (partially) encoded in the tracks. It's easy to partly describe a strategy here: "I went for the ships track." "I focused on expedition cards and colonists." "I tried to move them all down evenly, to get the extra actions early." (Not all of these are good strategies, of course.) It's generally impossible to move all the tracks without sacrificing anything, and moving more rapidly means delaying colony foundation or having less money to spend in auctions, in many cases. The final scoring rewards "deep" movement enough that, unlike Agricola, focused play isn't essentially jury-rigged away. It's also not clearly dominant, giving players lots of room to try something new the next time. Goa nods in the direction of Tolstoy: "Happy [farms] are all alike; every [happy] trading company is [happy] in its own way." Even when players are good enough to advance most tracks and found the colonies, the little things (VP tiles, which tracks are in the last row) will distinguish quite a bit --- and the order in which tracks are advanced will vary widely, with big consequences.


Image courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas

4. nutmeg It's interactive (there's an auction, after all!) but there are no arbitrary-feeling turn-order problems: nobody "blocks" your move. I don't want to compare too much with other games, as Goa can stand on its own, but I prefer the auction as an interaction mechanism to worker placement. Losing a tile because you didn't arrange to have enough money, or weren't willing to spend it, feels more "fair" than losing a critical break bread action or gold cube because, well, they got there first.

5. pepper There's some luck, but it doesn't dominate the game: you even choose how much to rely on luck. It's true that the expedition track may be overpowered (how much so isn't clear, and most think it's much less of a problem at the sweet spot of 2 players), and lucking into a handful of matching symbols may win you the game once in a while. But, generally, strategy matters more, without removing the potential for surprises and the "saving grace" of a bit of an excuse after a nasty loss. Those who dislike bad luck defeating their plans at least have the (probably sub-optimal) chance to mostly ignore expedition cards and to only go for colonies when success is certain.


Image courtesy of sebastien pauchon

Bonus extra great thing (if you win this tile): the pieces are really fun. Yes, the tracks look like little spreadsheets, but the board and tiles look great, and the spices are so iconic they made it into BGG's emoticons! And we love all the orangey orange-ish-ness.


Image courtesy of David Namaksy
76 
 Thumb up
2.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Blakeley
United States
Seattle
Washington
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Bad enough you got me to buy (and love) Jambo, now this?!?!



OK, I obviously need to hunt this down given how much my girlfriend and I kept talking Jambo.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex G

Flagstaff
Arizona
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ChrisBinSEA wrote:
Bad enough you got me to buy (and love) Jambo, now this?!?!

:p

OK, I obviously need to hunt this down given how much my girlfriend and I kept talking Jambo.


Hmm, doing my part to stimulate the economy?

I stand by my "hunt it down" advice, though it's true that 2010 is supposedly going to see a re-issue, with some fixes from Dorn for the minor issues (the card strength, some tracks/spices being too good) and, uh, dice to make one part of the game less random. Which, in this one case, actually sounds plausible.

For two, I think the RGG edition is pretty amazing, as it is. Make sure to play the expedition cards right, though: when you will draw over your hand limit, you have to discard down BEFORE drawing, so your final hand is within the limit. Otherwise, it's too easy to get good stuff off that track.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
The other Euro guy
United Kingdom
Macclesfield
Cheshire
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. I'm already on the hunt for a copy of this and now you've got me shredding the wallpaper in my living-room with the frustration.

Do I really have to wait until 2010?!? cry

Oh, and....

cinnamonclovegingernutmegpepper

...these are the emoticons?

You learn something everyday. (Does anybody actually use these?)
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex G

Flagstaff
Arizona
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
ReggieMcFly wrote:
You learn something everyday. (Does anybody actually use these?)


Well, in Goa session reports and reviews, yes. Anywhere else? Goa fans, I guess (we are legion).
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan
United States
San Francisco
California
flag msg tools
badge
I must think over my position and how I may improve it.
Avatar
mb
Another great review. I love the series, btw.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan Schaeffer
United States
Unspecified
Illinois
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This game just hit my group's table for the first time in many years, and those of us who had played before were reminded of how great a game it is. This one should get more play (and since it seems to be hard to find, I'm glad we have a copy).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Vicki Scheele
United States
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
My son introduced me to the "new games" after years of playing Scrabble and Risk. As a thank you I wanted to give him a game and spent a lot of time on BGG reading reviews to make an informed decision. I bought him GOA and it is a favorite or his and mine. BBG is great in so many ways but introducing GOA is the most appreciated.

Thank you for such a lovely tribute to the game!
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
C. J. Robinson
United States
Kalamazoo
Michigan
flag msg tools
I teetered on the brink of getting this game, particularly upon hearing that it is good 2-player game, but alas, when I committed to purchasing it, it was impossible to find. I will just have to wait until next year.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ben Harris
United States
Beaverton
Oregon
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Excellent review!

I have played Goa several times and was looking to buy it for sometime. (too late for now).

Since my best gaming friend owns it, I decided to pick up Diamonds Club. It is lighter, but still scratches that itch.

Thanks again for your review.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Железный комиссар
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Another great review, Alex. Keep 'em coming.

One thing you didn't mention directly that is the main attraction of Goa for me: players can directly inflate/deflate the value of money in the game. Taxing is a good short-term action, when only you have the extra cash. Once that cash diffuses into the system, everybody's buying power becomes less. Same thing with winning your own auction, but in reverse. If you choose to "bite the bullet" and pay 8 ducats out of your own pocket, those are out of the game. Everyone's buying power goes up. Also, since paying for your own auction means foregoing an infusion of cash, the list price is essentially doubled. If you bid 5, I'm not really bidding six to top you, I'm bidding 11 (the six I pay plus the five you did not pay me). The auctions are by far the most interesting aspect of Goa. They're responsible for a lot of the variance from session to session. In an inflationary economy, games of Goa can end with bids of 20+ just for the flag. In a deflationary economy, 15 ducats might win the point bonus for most money at the end of the game.

Quote:
In my opinion, Goa's tiles provide more genuine replay-potential and variety than the cards in Agricola. How can this be?


I'm not sure I agree about Goa (yet), but I definitely agree with the overall sentiment. Games like Dominion and Agricola take the long way around to achieve replayability. They can still be great games, but in general I prefer a system that seems inexhaustible without piling on extra cards. Or, something like Twilight Struggle, which seems to do both at the same time, creating ludicrous replayability.

The five tech tracks in Goa come across as a bit constrained to me. I haven't experienced the freshness you're talking about. After 8 plays, I'm finding the non-auction portion of the game slightly stale, but I'm sure I'll play some more regardless.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex G

Flagstaff
Arizona
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Our economy is always mostly deflationary -- I think it may not tend to get too inflationary 2p, perhaps?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Железный комиссар
United States
Madison
Wisconsin
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
alexd wrote:
Our economy is always mostly deflationary -- I think it may not tend to get too inflationary 2p, perhaps?


Could be. Some people swear by Goa as a two-player game, rating it significantly lower with more players. I haven't tried it with two. I think my gf might find it stressful (it's a fairly exacting system) but I'd like to try nonetheless.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alex G

Flagstaff
Arizona
msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It's (though increasingly less so) "stressful" for us, too -- but it's a fun/welcome stress, though not at a once a week rate.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Runcible Spoon
United States
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I know this post is late compared to the other replies but thanks for the review, it helped my wife and I decide to pick up this beautiful game and now it is my favorite game.

Again, thanks for a great review it was helpful.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ward Stolk
Netherlands
Amersfoort
flag msg tools
mb
Thanks for the review. I was lucky enough to find a copy still. It was insanely cheap as well (€9.95) and came from a storage sale from 999games. Now wait for a first play
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.