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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.
Goa is an outstanding game for the experienced gamer. It is definitely not for the beginner, as it is one of the most complex Eurogames, both in the rules and the strategies, that I have played. But this complexity and richness is what makes it appealing to the hard core. There are so many options, so many interactions between the various elements of the game, and so many ways to collect points that it takes several games just to feel out the possibilities. Do you develop colonies or plantations? Which spices do you produce, since different combinations are needed to advance in the different areas? What areas do you advance in? What auctions do you really want to win, and what do you not want going up for auction?
The game has been criticised as not being very interactive. In this aspect, it resembles Princes of Florence, in that the only really interactive part is the auction and each player develops on their own. So, people who don't like that type of game may want to try before they buy. Otherwise, highly recommended.
I played Goa for the first time last night and was pretty much blown away. Maybe I should play it again to be more objective, but my first impression was fantastic, and I'll try to tell you why.
This game is all about choices. There are a multitude of ways to score points, and several methods to achieve each of those. The result is that every player has a different strategy, and none of them seem like a clear-cut favorite. Maybe a 'best strategy' will emerge in time, but I hope not.
Because of all the diversity, you always feel like you're in contention. Every move you make could be the right one to get you ahead. Luckily, however, the game doesn't bog down by people over-thinking on their turn. Once you have settled on a plan, the process becomes very streamlined, yet there is always room to mix up your strategy a little.
There is a small amount of luck, but it's almost negligible. It's really more like a risk than luck, and you can mostly avoid it if you choose. The auction system is unique and really helps you plan the rest of your turn.
I know this review is kind of scattered and not very specific, but I just wanted to give my impressions and not recite the rules. Suffice to say, I was very pleased with this game and can't wait to try a new strategy next time.
Goa is a fantastic game with a lot to offer for the experienced gamer.
There are different resources to collect and spend. You can collect spice bags of different colors, ship cards, colonist cards, money cards, additional action cards, and expedition cards.
There is a central playing board with these resources on it, as well as two individual playing boards showing your progress columns on one board, and your spice storage on the second board.
The game consists of 8 total rounds. In a single round, all players start with an auction for tiles placed in the center of the playing board. They then take three actions (explained later).
The tiles for auction have several different advantages to them from taking more resources, to adding a plantation to your spice storage board. The starting player places the flag (starting marker) beside tiles on the board, adding his colored auction chip on top. The second player chooses a tile adjacent to the flag to be the next item for bid and places their auction chip on top of that tile. The third player picks a tile adjacent to the second player's choice and so on. This creates a path of auction tiles for bid, with the starting player having two tiles on the board-one on the flag and one on the end of the path.
Players have one chance to bid on the tile. If the tile has your color on it, you bid last. The winner of the flag marker gains an additional action card (these are so valuable in this game).
Now players take three actions to finish the round. There are six available actions. On your progress column playing board, there are five cubes on five columns. The cubes mark your progress in five areas: ship production, spice production, money production, expedition card production, and # of colonists (used to add a colony to your supply board). The six actions are to either move your progress cube in one column (thereby giving better production), or collect the item from any one column-ship, spice, money, expedition cards, or attempt to gain a colony. It costs spices and ships to move a progress cube. Some expedition cards reduce this cost, other cards give you additional resources or benefits.
Points are scored at the end of round 8. You get points for each progress cube (more points for higher progress), points for number of colonies acquired, points for certain tiles acquired in the auction, points for most gold, and points for collecting expedition cards with like symbols. Games I have played are always close, with 1-4 points separating 1st and 2nd place.
I really enjoy this game. Our gamer group gravitates towards games like Cities and Knights of Catan, Amun-Re, Puerto Rico, Princes of Florence, and Traders of Genoa. All of these are great games with several strategies offering the win. Goa feels a little bit like Puerto Rico in the many choices you have to manage in order to gain points. It is also similar to Princes of Florence in game mechanics (auction/action). It seems complex in rules, yet it very easy to play, and is our new game of choice.
I like the variety of auction tiles and expedition card advantages. There seems to be many different ways to win, with combinations of progress cubes, collecting victory point tiles, creating colonies, or collecting expedition cards. There is a certain frustration when the last turn rolls around, knowing you won't be able to finish every last thing on your board. But that's also part of the fun for me, seeing the results of my efforts.
Highly recommended by our gaming group, and definitely worth the price of admission.
In this game, just as another game by the same author called 'the traders of Genoa', many strategic think- and do-lines intertangle with each other. Because of that the first few games won't be easy. For inexperienced gamers this game is too tough to get started with (in that case it would be wise to start with Catan or Puerto Rico), but experienced gamers (such as myself) will love every bit of Goa. It seems that Goa is also a very nice 2-player game, which isn't very often the case with large boardgames.
So, a very promising game, I would say, VERY promising.
Design by: Rüdiger Dorn
Published by: Alea & Rio Grande Games
2 – 4 Players, 2 – 2 ½ hours
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
Goa is designed by Rüdiger Dorn, whose other efforts include Traders of Genoa, Emerald, Space Walk, Gargon, Ex & Hopp and others. More recent designs include Jambo and Arkadia. Of these, his “deepest” game is arguably Traders of Genoa. While most folks seem to delight in that negotiation-heavy title, I found it to be too much of a good thing. The constant series of negotiations wearied me, and I have long since left that one behind.
Goa, however, immediately intrigued me. Although I generally perform abysmally at auction games, the mixture of mechanisms, decisions, and seemingly numerous strategic paths to follow are fascinating. Numerous sessions have done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm … although it certainly confirms my status as a lousy auction-game player!
In Goa, players represent “Portuguese merchants involved in the spice trade”. Players acquire plantations, found and develop colonies, and attempt to extract the greatest yield from their holdings. The goal is to be the wealthiest and most advanced merchant in all of Goa.
Similar to Princes of Florence, the game has two distinct phases. In the first phase, players participate in a series of auctions, acquiring tiles which grant the players special actions and/or abilities. After the series of auctions, players each take turns performing three actions (more with the ability of “extra action” cards). These actions include upgrading one’s capabilities in five different categories – shipping, taxes, harvesting, expeditions, and attracting colonists – as well as founding new colonies. This aspect of upgrading one’s capabilities has some similarities to several games, including the Cities and Knights expansion in the Settlers of Catan series. Deciding how to use these three actions is a major aspect of the game, and there are a wide variety of paths to pursue.
The game is played in two turns, with each turn consisting of a series of four rounds. During these rounds, four tiles on the board are auctioned, in addition to the “flag” counter, which gives the winner an extra action card and the right to determine the starting location on the subsequent round. Each player will place one tile up for auction, with the exception of the holder of the flag, who will be able to conduct two auctions: one for the flag and one for a tile. However, which tile a player can elect to auction is limited by a clever system. The holder of the flag places this marker onto any tile, or next to a tile along the edge of the board. The next player may only place an adjacent tile up for bid. The following player can only place a tile up for bid that is adjacent to the second player’s marker, and so on. Thus, as the merits of the tiles are studied, the players can attempt to place their auction markers in an attempt to increase the likelihood that certain tiles they prefer come up for auction … or avoid certain tiles, if that is their preference. Very clever.
Auctions are conducted using a simple, once-around-the-table method, with the auctioneer having the final bid. He also receives the funds from the winning bidder, unless, of course, he wins the bid himself, in which case he pays the bank.
The tiles won during the auctions provide a variety of special actions and abilities. Some are plantations, which are placed directly onto the player’s board, and produce commodities (ginger, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves) that are used to advance the player’s marker in one of five categories listed above. Each category requires certain types of commodities, so a player must carefully weigh which plantations he desires to acquire and which crops he wishes to harvest. This will dictate which advancements he can procure.
Other tiles give the players immediate gratification in terms of ship, colonist and/or extra action cards, while others give the players ongoing bonuses of money, colonists, ships or spices on each turn. There are several tiles that grant end-of-game victory points, while others allow the players to alter the rules in some fashion. Choosing which tiles to put up for bid, which to bid upon, and how much to bid are all decisions that can cause considerable angst for a player. But it is a good angst.
After four rounds of auctions (16 tiles with four players), each player takes turns performing three actions, one action at a time per player. These actions include:
When a player attempts to found a colony, he first declares which of the four colonies he is attempting to found. The required number of colonists ranges from 6 – 12. He then reveals two expedition cards. Each expedition cards depicts a colonist icon with a value of 1 – 3. If the total of the two cards revealed, added to his “base” number of colonists as depicted on his development chart, equals or exceeds the number required by the chosen colony, the player is successful. If he is a few colonists short, he can make up the difference with any colonist cards he possesses. He then takes the colony, places it on his development chart and adds the appropriate number and type of spices to the colony. There is much celebrating.
If, however, the player fails in his attempt to found a colony, all is not lost. The player receives a colonist card as compensation, which will help make it easier to be successful on his next attempt.
Of course, choosing which actions to perform on a turn is one of THE major aspect of the game. You ALWAYS want to do more than the three actions allow. Having an extra action card or two can be a huge benefit. So how do you get those extra action cards? There are two main ways:
A player may only hold one extra action card at the end of his turn, so the rule is “use ‘em or lose ‘em”.
After all four rounds of auctions are held, the remaining tiles are removed from the board, and a new set of 25 tiles are placed. To paraphrase Herman’s Hermits, “Second turn, same as the first!” Repeat the same procedure again with four rounds of auctions and player actions. After the second turn, the game is over and victory points are tallied.
There are numerous ways in which to earn victory points:
The player with the most Victory points is declared the most prestigious merchant, and is elevated to a position of great power and respect.
As you can probably tell from my above comments and remarks, I really like this game. There is a LOT going on here … almost too much. It is quite difficult to assess the value of the various tiles, determine which ones to bid upon and how much ducats to spend, choose which actions to exercise, which spices to select, which colonies to found, etc. “Choosing” is the key requirement here, and those choices can be excruciating. It is these types of tough choices, tossed at me in abundance, that help make a game rich and meaty. Goa has these choices in abundance.
Now, I am not one that derives much enjoyment from dissecting a game, analyzing every possible choice and strategy in an effort to determine the most cost-effective strategy or most optimum path to pursue. That doesn’t excite me. But, for those that do find such exercises stimulating, then they should find enough material here to keep them occupied – and the game discussion boards overflowing – for quite some time. Like them, I’ll enjoy the many challenges the game offers.
I only tried this once, but wanted to give a dose of reality to all the reviews. I agree with most of what has been said already in general. To me, this resembles Princes of Florence most, and if you like that, you will like this one. I, however, enjoy the mechanics in Peurto Rico much better and would generally choose that instead. Somehow, this one comes up a bit dry for me. There are many choices to be made, but somehow it doesn't grab me the same as Peurto Pico. Maybe this would improve after a few more playings....