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Subject: Review: Gold Mine Digs Deep In Search of Family Fun rss

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Matt Morgan
United States
Old Bridge
New Jersey
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This review was originally posted to MTV Geek

Enter the gold mine, collect as many gold nuggets as you can, and make your exit. Sounds simple enough, right? Escaping the mine may be easier said than done, though. Other miners won't hesitate to gang up on each other and steal precious gold during that race to the finish line, giving Gold Mine the potential to combine both strategic play with a suspenseful ending.

Gold Mine takes the concept of "build as you go" tile placement, most recognizably seen in games such as Carcassonne and Tikal, and adds in a heavy dose of player interaction.

As a newly-minted publisher, Stratus Games has developed three early releases. Eruption was a hit on all accounts, although Launch Pad was equally as disappointing. Where does this leave Gold Mine? Read on for the full review.

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-6
Playing Time: 30-60 minutes
Age: 8 and up
Publisher: Stratus Games
MSRP: $32.95
Release: November 2010

The Gameplay:

The goal of Gold Mine is to explore a series of caverns as quickly as possible. Along the way, players will pick up gold pieces (victory points) while also encountering other miners who will attempt to steal their opponent's gold. Once a player has the required number of gold nuggets (which varies depending on the player count) they must exit the mine to win the game.

Gold Mine is a tile-placement game, where players can build out the map as they go, then following up with a move and/or action on their turn. The game starts with some initial setup, where players add an initial stock of cavern tiles to the board. Once a 20-tile mine has been built, gold nuggets are placed on all of the "gold chamber" spaces. Later in the game, gold nuggets will be added to such chambers any time they are added to the map.

A game of Gold Mine full set up and in progress.

After setup is complete, players select miner tokens, place them on the start tile, and begin taking turns. There are two phases to each turn, one that involves placing new tiles and movement, and another that involves collecting gold and challenging other players. Check out the turn structure below for a more detailed breakdown of how Gold Mine is played.

Phase 1: Miner Movement (choose only one of the following options)
- Reveal a random tile and add it to the mine. Move one space.
- Roll a D6 and move up to that number of spaces.
If starting the turn on a secret passage tile, instantly transport to any other secret passage tile. Roll 2D6 and move the lower number of spaces is doubles or a sum of seven was rolled.
- Opt out of all placement and movement.

Phase 2: Miner Actions (perform either or both actions, in any order)
- If you have ended your turn on a space containing a gold nugget, collect that nugget.
- Issue a challenge to an opponent.

The two types of challenge tokens. Players are limited to three of each per game.

Gold Mine is a relatively simple game, but challenges throw a some complexity into the mix. There are two types of challenges, and players can only ever issue three of each during a game, forcing them to choose wisely when they will spend their challenge tokens.

Each type of challenge is resolved in the same fashion. Players engage in a best 2-out-of-3 roll-off duel, looking for the higher value on a D6 (with ties going to the challenger). For a bat challenge, the winner gets to roll 1D6 and move the loser that number of spaces. For a gold challenge, the winner takes one gold nugget from the loser and places it in any unoccupied gold chamber. The winner also gets to roll a D6 and move that number of spaces, immediately collecting a gold nugget if they can reach it.

The Components:

100 Game tiles
28 Gold Nuggets
18 Gold Challenge tokens
18 Bat Challenge tokens
6 Miner Pawns
2 Dice
Stratus Games didn't skimp out on the components of Gold Mine. The miner pawns and gold nuggets (shown below) are molded plastic pieces with great attention to detail. At the same time, using an anonymous sphere for the miners' heads helps give Gold Mine that kid-friendly cartoonish feel.

The molded components of Gold Mine

For the remaining pieces (tiles and tokens) are also strong point. The cardboard is sturdy and the print quality leaves me with no complaints. Of note is also the rule book, which weighs in at a feather-light four pages and is filled with large example images. This is crucial for a game that aims to be family friendly, and Gold Mine delivers here.

Final Thoughts:

I tried breaking out Gold Mine at my normal weekly game group, and to be honest, it was a bit underwhelming. No single aspect of the game stood out as a negative, but on the whole, the game played a bit too random for this crowd of veteran gamers. Rolling D6s for movement and to resolve challenges threw a heavy element of chance into the game, and there are such a wide variety of tile types that you can't play the odds and place tiles as strategically as you would in a game such as Carcassonne.

In the intro, I also mentioned that the game can have a suspenseful ending as players gang up on the leader with gold challenges as they race towards the exit. Sometimes this is true, but the game is not guaranteed to always play out in this manner. The elements of chance mean that sometimes you can develop a runaway leader situation, even ones where they gold challenges are obviously not a strong enough catch-up mechanic to prevent the inevitable victory from playing out.

But this not all to say that Gold Mine is a bad game, far from it actually. While it may not be one of my all-time favorites, there is definitely a time and a place to break out Gold Mine and have a great time. Where Gold Mine really shined was in the casual setting. I gave the game another shot with some non-gamer couples and some younger players, both of which had a much more enjoyable time.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Gold Mine to the casual sets who are not necessarily looking for a test of strategic skill. It can even make a great learning game for the younger crowd to wean themselves off of non-games such as Candyland and Life. A game such as Gold Mine would be a fantastic choice for both of these scenarios, but heed my warning about the "hardcore" crowd. Even as a warmup game, it is not likely to light a fire there.

Disclaimer: MTV Geek received a complimentary review sample of this game
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