Gold Mine, released by Stratus Games last fall, is a tile-based game where players move around a user-generated board collecting gold nuggets. It’s a great game for children who have little to no board game experience, but it may fall a little flat for adults who are regulars in the lands of Catan and Puerto Rico.
You play the part of a miner and you’re trying to snatch up a set number of gold nuggets before the other players. First, the initial board is laid out by choosing tiles at random. Then, each player takes turns rolling a die, moving their fun little miner pawn accordingly, and if you end up on a nugget, it’s yours.
At the beginning of the game, there will only be a few nuggets available. So if you choose not to roll and move, you can instead draw a tile and place it on the board. Draw a nugget tile and you can put it close to yourself. Draw something else and put it near your opponents.
There are also “challenges,” where you can directly interfere with the other miners by either stealing a nugget or sending a colony of bats after them (which lets you move the player away from valuable nuggets). Both of these options are resolved with a best of three die roll-off.
Playing with a group of adults, we all felt that, rules as written, the game was nothing special. Aside from laying tiles, it’s about as complicated as any roll-to-move style game. Early on, we all moved to the edges of the board where we placed tiles, hoping to find our own nuggets. The challenges were fairly boring, too, given that success is entirely up to chance. There is very little strategy involved in this game.
That being said, I think children as young as five would have a great time with Gold Mine. Most kids are used to stationary boards, and the tile-laying mechanic will be fun and new to them. It beats the corn-syrup out of Candyland or Chutes and Ladders in every possible way, from the board to the components. Last time I checked, you couldn’t send a mass of nasty bats at your opponents in those games.
We did discover later that the game is something of a blank slate for variation. The Stratus Games website has 14 optional rules that expand and complicate the base game, and many of these address some of our complaints. Even as we played, we found ourselves muttering, “If only the game did this.” Turns out, if you want it to do this, you can just make up your own rules. This is something a lot of board game players do naturally, but with Gold Mine, the invitation is out in the open. House rules do make this game better and you have a whole slew of them to choose from.
Wired: Lots of fun for young gamers; plenty of variants; tile-based board means the mines are never the same twice.
Tired: Discerning gamers will balk at the luck-factor and tired mechanics; very little strategy involved in winning.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a free copy for review.