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Beyond Piecepack: Gold Rush

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sedjtroll
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I'd like to start a discussion of the game Oracle and I submitted to the piecepack contest, Gold Rush. I realize the rulebook could use some work, but for the time being I'd like to talk about the game itself and how to improve on it.

Here's the description and summary given by Clarke in the piecepack wrapup, minus the stuff about the rulebook and non-game related issues:

Piecepack wrapup wrote:
Gold Rush
---------
by Seth Jaffee & Jason Smulevitch

Gold Rush is an economic building, trading and resource management game set in the late 19th century, and might most conveniently be described as Settlers of the Klondike, or perhaps Yukon Goa. Three or four players set off to explore and exploit the uncharted northern wilds in an attempt to find their fortunes. The piecepack tiles are land claims that can be worked to produce food, energy, ore and gold (tracked by poker chips or other convenient tokens), while the piecepack coins are special features of each land claim that can independently produce additional, often different resources. Players start with very meager means, only a bit of food and energy. But little by little, everyone stakes more claims (using gaming stones), and uses their limited resources to both improve their existing claims and to produce more of the resources they need. Simply surviving is fairly straightforward, but getting ahead requires optimizing the land and features for resource production, savvy trading with other players, and building and enhancing structures (kept track of individually using cards) to both enhance your own land exploitation and protect your assets. And getting ahead in victory points requires not wasting time doing things that aren't worthwhile. The goal of the game is to have the most points at the end of the game, which lasts nine rounds. Each of those nine rounds is made up of several phases, in which each player gets to act in turn. If you have played any of the popular phase-driven building games that have come out of Germany in the past few years, Gold Rush will be easy to pick up, and finished inside ninety minutes.

And honestly, Gold Rush really is a decent game. Several mechanics are recognizable from other games, but their re-assembly into Gold Rush breaks some new ground that is, on the whole, at least as much as the sum of its parts. One mechanical niggle we had was that a warehouse magnate strategy appears to be the one best way to maximize victory points. To make it work, build farms, windmills and ore mines, and get one warehouse as early as possible to hedge against loss. Hoard food, energy and ore until the last round, then replace as many buildings as you can with warehouses. Why warehouses? Because they are the cheapest and most useful non-production building, and they are worth eight victory points each. This is clearly the surest way to maximize victory points. Consequently the costs for and/or the number of victory points awarded for the various buildings needs to be adjusted to make the game more interesting. Perhaps varying numbers of victory points could be awarded for production buildings as well as non-production buildings? Or maybe limit the availability of non-production buildings? If there were only one warehouse available in the game, other players might be given the option of donating the energy required to prevent spoiled food. The possibilities are great.

The authors may also want make gold more useful within the game, possibly by allowing a one-for-one purchase of any other resource using gold as a means to get past food and energy shortages. Otherwise, purchasing a gold mine after, say, turn seven, is of only marginal value. These two flaws, the unrealistic warehouse magnate strategy and the unrealistic idea that gold mines aren't very valuable if purchased late in the game, detract from the theme quite a bit. We also found that there was relatively little interaction during the free trade phase, which was somewhat disappointing. This was especially true during the early rounds of the game when resources are scarce, no one wants to trade anything.

Take a look at the rules and let me know what you think... perhaps the non-production buildings should be limited to 1 each (which was really the intent, though evidently we forgot to say so).

An attempt was made to allow for 2 or 3 different starting strategies, one where you use what you start with (therefore not trading at first), and two where you trade first (so the 2 people trading would be setting up for one strat each). I don't think this came out very well. I'd like to know what you think about ways to develop or encourage different starting strategies.

The two main strategies (analagous to Building and Shipping in Puerto Rico) are supposed to be Mining, where you build a Gold Mine quickly and start churning out gold asap, probably concentrate on building more gold mines as well, and Non-Production where you get lots of food and energy to use and trade and build all the non-production buildings, and maybe get a gold mine later on. Those are meant to be the extremes, and some combination of those strategies should be common.

How can I make that come through better? Now that the piecepack contest is over it's also ok to expand the idea to non-piecepack format.

Thanks,
Seth

CDRodeffer
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Beyond Piecepack: Gold Rush

Go for it! The game idea is excellent.

Clark

sedjtroll
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Joined: 07/21/2008
Beyond Piecepack: Gold Rush

CDRodeffer wrote:
Go for it! The game idea is excellent.

Clark
Thanks Clark,
Do you think (being the only one who's realy played the game) that the intended goals I mentioned above come through, or would come through if the non-production buildings were limited to 1 per player?

Do you see any way to cost things and adjust starting resources so that you have an option on turn 1- not always the same first play?

- Seth

CDRodeffer
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Beyond Piecepack: Gold Rush

Well, at least one other BGDF member was part of the play testing, so he's played Gold Rush as well. But I think there does need to be some limit on the non-production buildings. However, I don't think that by itself will encourage trading, which players seemed reluctant to do. On the other hand, if there were only one warehouse available in the game, allowing other players to trade the energy cost to its owner (or trade food, or ore, or gold, or whatever) as payment to prevent loss of THAT player's food and energy (warehouse space rental) would certainly increase trading.

The game seemed to be vulnerable to a bit of a slow start as well, which also made it seem to end too soon. The slow start was especially harsh if a null was rolled on the moons or suns die the first time production came around. One way to jump start things might be to start the game with a land claim on a "turn zero" and/or increase the initial holdings. To set up a variable victory paths game, you might give players the choice to start with, say, one ore plus any combination of food and energy that totals five resources.

Clark

sedjtroll
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Beyond Piecepack: Gold Rush

Thanks for the ideas, I will certainly take them into consideration. I think the changes will have to be more sweeping than that, and probably can be without the piecepack restriction.

By the way, do you remember the old computer game M.U.L.E.?

- Seth

CDRodeffer
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Beyond Piecepack: Gold Rush

sedjtroll wrote:
By the way, do you remember the old computer game M.U.L.E.?

The name rings a vague bell, but I don't play many computer games, and didn't play this one.

Clark

sedjtroll
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Beyond Piecepack: Gold Rush

CDRodeffer wrote:
sedjtroll wrote:
By the way, do you remember the old computer game M.U.L.E.?

The name rings a vague bell

It's about 20 years old. Gold Rush was a simplified version of our attempt to port that game to a board game system (it's basically a very complex board game on the Commodore 64).

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