‘Gold’ by Michael Schacht
‘Gheos’ by Rene Wiersma
Gold by Michael Schacht
Kendall arrives at Dicken’s house and hails his neighbour as she puts out refuse bins – well, it could have been Dicken. The man himself is on his lap-top as Kendall lets himself into the house, causing Dicken to check whether his door-bell is working or not – it was switched off!. Without further ado or confusion the pair make for Rob’s car, where Kendall elects to move the passenger seat forward before squeezing into the back seat. ‘New car, eh Robb?’ enquires Dicken. ‘No, it’s just the passenger seat moved forward…’ It could be a long evening (it was dark, already! – ed).
The party complete heads off towards Epsom town centre. Rob has taken on the character of the bus driver from the opening scenes of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. His little car hurtles through non-existent gaps in traffic, bounces off kerbs and then abruptly halts outside our destination; the British Legion Social Club, home to the Epsom Board Games Club. Squeezing into the last remaining space in the car park, it’s evident that hordes of members must now be present and hence the urgency of Rob’s driving.
The door is marked ‘Pull’ but won’t. As usual in such circumstances this results in Kendall pushing said door, then pulling the other door, then pushing the other door, before pulling the first door a tad harder. Kendall is no engineer. Great entrance. A sea of faces stare in bemusement. ‘Hi guys!’ - welcome to the Club.
There are three groups of tables drawn up with three or four gamers at each group. Two locals are propped at the bar. So whose are all those cars?? A few greetings and then Rob and Dicken put together another group of tables, whilst Kendall gets the beers in. ‘Speckled Hen?’ asks Rob. ‘Sorry’. ‘Is the Abbot on?’ from Dicken. ‘No’. ‘That’ll be three Green Kings then’ says Kendall brightly. At £2.30 a pint he has reason to be cheerful. At the last visit Dicken knocked over a full pint and barely checked his change when buying a replacement. There are no other gamers waiting to play, so the threesome sit down to a card game that Rob has brought along. ‘Watch out, this table’s a bit sticky?’ Must be the one Dicken abused last time.
Gold is the name, but Donkey is what sticks in the mind. The illustration is distinctly Shrek-like; ‘Are we there yet?’ There appears no relevance to the -2 Gold card being a donkey, but there you go. All other cards are points of Gold; 3 – 8 and in six different colours. Five cards are dealt face up at the start of each round and players can take the lowest card available, swap a -2 card for any other card or swap a higher value card for a lower. Cards are collected by colour. Three cards make a set and are immediately scored. At this point a player steals one card from any other player, but that card has to be a different colour to the ones the player has remaining in front of him and different to the set just scored.
Give or take a few organisational rules, that’s about it.
The game gets underway and as Rob has intimated it is entertaining and not a little mind-exercising - without being taxing. Rob scores, then Dicken, then Kendall, then Dicken again…. Stealing cards adds a little bit of tension, but awareness of who is doing best and no-brainer options keeps a lid on any hard feelings.
Half way though (ten minutes) and the party is joined by Dev. He’s looking to play whatever is decided next and is happy to watch meanwhile.
The game completes with a last round that starts to suffer from a touch of analysis-paralysis. Kendall feels that Rob is probably winning…. And so it proves. A win for Rob (62 Gold), Kendall (60), Dicken (55). Dev magically produces the club’s record-keeping sheet and the Ragnars give a rating of 7/10 for Gold.
The evening is yet young (Club starts at 7.00, which is an hour earlier than normal Ragnar Games-nights). Other games available to play are stacked nearby. Tigris and Euphrates, London, Evo, Year of the Dragon to name but a few old favourites. The group has been joined by James (friend from Peter’s games’ evenings) and so a 5-player game is required. There aren’t many to choose from and besides it’s going to be tricky if someone doesn’t have a fair grasp of the rules already. Fortunately James has played Last Will (brought along courtesy of and thanks to Andrew) and he is press-ganged into being the rules-meister for the evening.
Dicken’s turn to buy the beer. More Green King for Kendall and Dicken, but Rob has gone temperate.
Talking of which… it’s b***** chilly in the Club; goodness knows what it was like the previous evening when it was minus 5 degrees.
Last Will is out of Queen Games and typically is replete with components. Andrew helpfully breaks off from another table to help set-up and then it’s over to James. The game aim is to spend up a sum of money (in this case £100) as quickly as possible. Buying property and letting it decline in value, selling it at a loss, buying horses or keeping ‘ladies’ or dogs, having parties – you name it. Mechanics are relatively straight-forward. Players choose one ‘set’ made up of taking a number of cards, placing one or two top hats (in exchange for cards or actions from the board) and then a number (1-4) actions. Choice of the set also determines player order. Then it’s over to acquiring various cards (preferably understanding what they do), playing them to one’s array and then activating them once per turn. Dev keeps mentioning Race to the Galaxy – so presumably this bears some similarity.
It’s all good fun. There seems to be little interaction possible or probable. Time is spent calculating one’s own options whilst other player’s play out their turn. Kendall inadvertently loses £50 at game start – it might have gone un-noticed if he hadn’t spent an age searching for it in the gloom. Plenty of banter and the cards throw up opportunity for word-play ‘Dinner for dogs – dog’s dinner’ – Boom! Boom!
Kendall gets in more beer. The Abbot is back on.
The seventh turn marks the end of the game if it hasn’t already been reached. James, Dev and Kendall are all close to zero cash (and no remaining property) and the winning line. Kendall has played the housing market using an Estate Agent and Steward card. Dev has … er been doing something using combinations of cards on the opposite side of the table. James has been …. Er doing quite well. Rob meanwhile is complaining about cards he’d not been able to draw, so we know what he’s been doing (losing badly). Dicken is calmly soaking up the rules and card varieties ready to play the game ‘properly’ next time.
James sets down the marker – minus £4, Kendall equals that. Dicken can’t sell his last property in time and comes home with £12. Rob still has £33 and by all accounts has played ‘like a drain’. Dev creeps home with minus £6. Handshakes all round and then home.
The consensus is a 7/10 for Last Will and the components are very nice. Dev utilises his smart phone and comes up with a price of £30 from Games Guru – not bad for what you get.
A good night out. We will be back!
Gamesnight 1st February ….
‘Is this the joint for a gamesnight?’ growls Kendall as Dicken opens the door. Bizarre what a walk in the neighbourhood can do to a grown man. Paul and Liz have arrived by car and are suitably relaxed; but who is the stranger in the kitchen with Carol? It’s Donald, looking in better health than he has for years – giving up the triathlon and teaming up with a ‘good woman’ (Sarah, not Carol) is obviously something we should all be doing.
Unfortunately tonight’s scheduled game is ‘Gheos’ and it’s a 2-4 player. However being 45-60 minutes playing time means there will be plenty of time for a six player later. Dicken has already set up and the rules have a familiar feel. ‘Carcassone’ and ‘Tigris Euphrates’ are just two titles that spring to mind on first impressions. In fact it’s perhaps surprising that Ragnar Brothers are not credited, as the Epoch tiles and scoring tokens have a decided feel of ‘History of the World’ and ‘Kings and Castles’ respectively.
First player is determined by the last player to start laughing. Paul threatens to re-tell his elephant joke, which is sufficient for the three other clowns to guffaw obligingly so that the game can commence. There is a reference to ‘inspiring discussions’ in the rules; Dicken gives the designer the benefit of the doubt on this one, suggesting he is simply being ‘ironic’.
‘Gheos’ is a tile laying game that uses triangular tiles. The spiel on the box bottom talks of Gods and continent making and civilisations and loyal, wealthy followers. There are pyramids and temples and plenty of victory point tokens in 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, 20’s and 50’s (very K&C). Each player starts with two tiles, presenting the novel problem of how to hold two triangles; Liz, Paul and Dicken soon have there’s face down on the table, but Kendall persists in propping his up behind his beer can.
The game begins with Paul placing a tile, starting a civilisation and taking one of the five followers of that civilisation. This simple process takes around five minutes as rules are re-read to check on how the wheat symbol (agriculture) affects play. There are two other ‘round’ symbols; cups (wealth) and weapons (war). Temples can be used to garner points depending on which symbol they carry. Pyramids are permanent bastions, grinding out points whenever Epoch tiles (of which there are eight) are drawn. Paul draws another tile and the whole thing is repeated (including re-reading the rules) by Dicken, then Kendall, then Liz.
For the second week running, Dicken has laid on copious amounts of food – he’ll soon be taking up the triathlon.
After a few rounds of play, Kendall is moaning that he’s not drawn any ‘interesting’ tiles i.e. temples or pyramids. In fact Paul is the only player to have drawn more than one such tile so far. The rest of the tiles show various subdivisions of land and combinations of round symbols. These suddenly become more interesting when Kendall makes his first ‘replacement’. This is the new mechanism that Gheos brings to the genre of tile laying games; take a tile out and put in a new one. Cue lots of attempts to make jokes about tectonic plates. Kendall removes the start tile, only to be reminded that pyramid tiles cannot be removed. An alternative play emerges and Kendall has a minor sense of triumph.
Thereon in the game is dominated by replacements. The number of tiles making up the map creeps up to just twenty or so in total causing Kendall to describe the game as ‘throbbing’ to which Paul adds the even more improbable and suggestive allusion to it ‘going in and out’. Liz’s laughter becomes even more racey than usual.
Replacing tiles generates wars and migrations, which means more re-reading of rules.
Meanwhile Paul has managed to scupper Kendall’s yellow empire only to gift Dicken 40 points in one turn. He promises to ‘scupper’ Dicken, which he does some turns later; this time to the delight of Kendall. A last check of the rules confirms that everyone has a final scoring round at game end, and this is sufficient for Kendall to romp home as a somewhat surprised winner. Kendall scores 105, Liz has 91, Dicken 84. Paul has a mind-numbing total of just 34; his comment of ‘I thought I was playing well’ raises more laughter than the elephant joke.
Paul cornered the market for choice comments throughout the evening and his enthusiastic rejoinder that ‘I think this game is OK!’ is particularly apt. It is OK. It’s neat and tidy and works without offence. But it is so much a set of mechanics and so unconvincing in its representation of a theme that it’s bound to be only an occasional choice with the Ragnars.
It also took 90 minutes to play, which means that conversation with Donald supersedes the opportunity for a second game. Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd… then on to films of the nearer past ‘Get Carter’, ’Breakback Mountain’, ‘Happy Feet’ … how cultured! So ends something of a ‘classic’ games-night; humour thrives in adversity.
Go to top of page