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At the beginning of the 16th century: beautiful beaches, wonderful climate, and one of the most important trading cities in the world. Competing companies trade with spices and send their colonists into the world and invest their money. Of most importance is how you manage your spices to grow a successful company. Should you build more effective ships? Build more effective plantations? Attract more colonists? The best strategy is the one that creates the most successful business. Goa: wealth and glory, but not without risk!
At the moment that I’m writing this, Goa appears to be out of print. But I hope it gets reprinted, because it’s a great game.
The rulebook is pretty long for a Eurogame, but gameplay is not complicated once you understand how. It’s deciding what to do each turn that is challenging.
The game is fairly non-interactive except for the auctions. Lots of resource management, balancing, and decision-making. LOTS of decision-making. This game is pretty “heavy” – it usually takes about 2 hours, and by the end you’ll feel like your brain got a pretty good workout. Goa plays well with 2 players and is not very confrontational, so it makes a good "wife game."
This game reminds me most of Industial Waste in that most of your VP will come from advancing in certain areas (6 here, instead of the 3 in Industrial Waste). It's like Puerto Rico in that you get 3 actions which are like the various professions in PR; also you have plantations and produce various products.
A most important thing seems to be obtaining additional actions (beyond the 3) because there's always more you'd like to do. The player who buys the flag in the auction gets an extra action. There are also tiles for auction which provide extra actions. Every time you get all 6 categories to a new level you get an extra action.
Goa is the sort of game where you spend a lot of time staring at your own individual board trying to decide what to do next. True, each of the eight turns begins with an auction phase that involves all the players in each nail-biting auction, but the meat of the game is in the action phase where each player takes three different actions.
This action phase has caused some detractors to accuse Goa of being mutual solitaire, but they could not be more wrong. Like Princes of Florence, the interaction here is deep and subtle. One must be aware of what actions other players have taken and react accordingly on your own turn. If a player has taxed for a couple of his actions, that player might have a nice little nest egg built up to sweep the next round of auctions unless other players decide to tax as well. Another player might be about to edge past you in ship construction and get the bonus expedition card you so richly deserve. This is a game that rewards observation and flexibility.
Make no mistake, this is a gamer's game. It is aimed at the heart and mind of the strategy gamer who wants to try different avenues of winning with each game. One player may have a fistful of colonists from an auction and decide to go for a bunch of colonies while another player is trying to force their way to the final rung of the taxation ladder, getting big income for the final auction rounds. Oddly enough for games of this nature, balance is not rewarded, since players who try to balance all their avenues of earning points will find themselves coming up short.
Unlike most games of this type, this is for only two to four players, rather than the more common 3 to 5. This makes for a more intimate game than usual, and it really does work well with as few as 2.
Build ships. Harvest spices. Tax your peoples. Speculate on expeditions. Colonize. Advance your positions in any of these. Most of all, have fun.