Sunday, December 26, 2010

Incan Gold review

There is an awful lot of exciting adventure contained in this small card game. Incan Gold casts the players as members of a team exploring the tunnels of an Incan ruin, searching for gold and the rumored treasures of a lost civilization. Like in Forbidden Island, I’m not sure if I am taking on the role of a grave robber and looter, or someone with more idealistic views. I’m not sure it matters, I’m comfortable with both. What I do know is that Incan Gold is a ton of fun and is probably the best “fast” game that I’ve played. Three to five players can get in on it and a whole game can easily be completed in fifteen minutes.

The game is simple. Each round players decide if they are going to return to camp and keep what they have found, or they are going to try to find more treasure by continuing in the tunnel. Players reveal their choices simultaneously, so predicting what others do is a part of the strategy. If you go to camp everything that you have found so far is safely banked (or tented, as the case may be) and you are done until the next tunnel. If you bravely light up that torch and keep going, then the next card is flipped over and everyone still exploring splits whatever loot they find. This is usually a room of a variable amount of treasure. There are also artifacts that have a value determined by when they come up in the game. Sometimes there are mummies though! And also spiders, cave ins, fire, and snakes. Once a pair of the same hazard comes out the tunnel is done and anyone still inside loses everything that they have found that round. The game is played over five rounds.

One of the aspects that makes Incan Gold so much fun is that because it is so fast it gets you in the mood to gamble, which is when the excitement really comes in. Knowing that you are going to have another shot in a moment makes even the most conservative gamer want to roll the dice. Sure, the tunnel may be collapsing and filled with snakes, but the lure of gold is very hard to resist. The fun really starts when one or two players have headed back to camp like the wimps that they are, leaving the remaining players to get a larger share of the loot. I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, discretion is the better part of valor after all. And there are some clear advantages to bailing early and leaving your friends at the mercy of giant spiders. For one, you get to keep all your treasure. That’s big. And you also get any treasure that has been left out in the tunnel. When treasure is divided it is rounded down and any of the leftovers stay in the tunnel to be picked up by whoever gets to them first. This is also how artifacts are obtained.

Since players are really just making one decision over and over (stay or go) there is not a ton strategy, but the concept of greed is as ancient as mankind and doesn’t appear to be losing steam. It’s about how far you think you can push it. As more and more hazards pile up the chances of pairing one become much greater. As a result player leave, the shares get bigger and someone always gets greedy. I love it. And you think that you know who is going to do what, but your friends will surprise you.

I like the pieces of treasure in the game. They are turquoise, obsidian, and gold and it’s fun to put them inside of your own little tent. Other than that the game is just cards. The art is mediocre, but it doesn’t bother me much in this game. They are never in your hand, turn over real fast, and it’s just the same couple of designs over and over. Except for the artifacts.

Artifacts of the Incans

About the only aspect of Incan Gold that I do not like is the quality of the artifact cards. As far as I understand this game was originally released as Diamant, the only difference between the two games is the inclusion of the artifacts in Incan Gold. Thematically I like the artifacts, it’s always fun to have a little bonus pop up along the way and see how the players fight over it. However, the art on them is really just of odd. There is not a ton of art or production that went into Incan Gold, it’s a card game that doesn’t require it. But if you are going to include the artifacts then they should be cool. As it is, I don’t even know that they are. There is the weird tetris block looking man, some sort of crummy necklace that looks like it would behead you if it was worn, something that looks like a rocket ship with eyes, and a gold cup. A cup! Come on, the Incans must gave been hoarding better treasure. I don’t know. Yes, I am picking nits but I think that Gryphon Games blew an opportunity to do something fun with them.

Incan Gold is an awesome game. It’s fun for a casual, quick night of gaming when you play games. It’s great for new players since the rules and concepts are so simple. It’s great for kids for the same reasons. And it’s relatively cheap. A worthy addition to any game library.

No comments: