Some of the best board games around are those where the players build the board themselves as part of the game, and Gold Mine from Stratus Games is among the best. Tile-laying gives a whole new level to game play, ensuring that no two games are exactly alike and spurring the players to reevaluate their strategies at every step. In Gold Mine, a simple collection-style game is brought to the forefront as players must gamble to find gold at the end of the tunnel.
The scenario of miners hunting gold lends itself well to tile-laying. Players start out with a “Development Mining” phase, in which they place twenty tiles to set up the early structure of the mine. Beginning with the Mine Entrance tile, players build outward by connecting tunnels in different quadrants on the tiles. Yellow Gold Chamber tiles receive a Gold Nugget on them, which players must collect. First player back to the Entrance with the required number of Nuggets wins the game.
Once the first twenty tiles are laid, the players place their Miner tokens on the entrance and roll to see who goes first in the “Production Mining” phase, which will last the rest of the game. At each turn, the players have the opportunity to “Excavate” (place a tile and move one space), roll a die to move one to six spaces, or traverse a secret passage marked by watery crevices to get to distant parts of the mine. Players might play conservatively, staking out a tunnel for themselves and placing tiles in front of it, gradually getting to the gold themselves. Players might also play aggressively, putting empty tiles or tiles with Mud Puddles that cause Miners to lose turns in front of their opponents.
Gold Mine also includes two types of Challenges players can act against one another: Gold and Bat Challenges. In a Gold Challenge, the challenger must be in the same tile as the defender, basically attempting to knock the gold out of the defender’s hand. The two roll against one another, and a successful challenger has an opportunity to collect the lost Nugget. A Bat Challenge can be enacted from any part of the mine and causes a losing defender to be moved at random by the winner. However, if the defender is successful, the challenger faces the bats, making it quite a gamble. Each player gets three of each kind of Challenge, making for further strategy-assessment on whether to block opponents early on or wait until they have gathered the gold and then blocking their escape back to the entrance.
Optional rules (an avenue of changing up games widely explored by Stratus) are given for an Alliance version of the game, where even-numbered players have teams competing for a larger collective number of Nuggets, giving a different dynamic and a whole new layer of potential strategy. One player could run defense against the opponents while his comrade searches out the
gold. In some ways, it might simplify each player’s actions, but the collective strategy has to be all the more complex to hit home.
Gold Mine is a game for two to six players ages eight and up and takes between thirty and sixty minutes to play. Its rules are simple enough for younger players to understand, and the potential for strategy is deep enough to thrill experienced gamers.