Goa is one of those games that hasn't had a really good turn yet - the only time I played it was against the kid and he thrashed me. I had somewhat miserable memories of it after that and didn't rush to get it to the table again.
My first impression is that it's really quite complicated. I wonder if the game couldn't be simplified in these ways:
- remove the auction. I suggest something like Vinci where there's a series of tiles and you can have the first one for free, the second for 2 ducats, the third for 4, etc. The auction feels like an unnecessary complication in this game, and it seems to add to the play time significantly.
- forget about ships. The cool aspect of the game is the spices, the ships are just there to make moving the spices harder.
- simplify the scoring mechanism. On the development track you get 1 VP for each spice used to upgrade, so why not have a VP track around the outside of the board that is updated as you score? The game has a lot of public VPs that can be calculated, but why force the players to do that?
Nevertheless, it's a decent game. It kept me thinking quite a lot, but not full-time, hence my feeling that the game is too long. Tikal keeps me thinking all the time. Cosmic Encounter keeps me thinking none of the time. There's a high positive correlation between the amount of time I spend thinking and my rating of the game.
So Scrabblette started with the flag and placed it in such a way that no plantations were auctioned in the first round. I won 4 colonists and she won some extra actions. That suggested to me that I should found the cost 8 colony. Scrabblette had no source of spices and had to try to found the cost 6 colony, but failed on her first attempt. I advanced on the taxation track and Scrabblette advanced on the expedition card track, setting the foundations of our strategies.
I was in the stronger position as my colony could produce any spice, whereas Scrabblette was limited to red/black. That seemed to be a minor advantage which I needed to exploit. I advanced in all development columns just because I could. I increased taxation as well, and usually had more money than Scrabblette, allowing me to control the flag. When I did lose the flag I really missed the extra action (particularly in the round where I forgot to tax before the auction), so I got it back again whenever I could.
When it came to the final scoring I was showing 21 points in development, 10 in colonies and 1 in plantations, compared to Scrabblette's 15, 6 and 1. However Scrabblette had 3 points in expedition cards and 3 points for the most money, making the scores 32 to 28. A victory, but not the convincing victory I was expecting. I learnt to watch out for her when we played Taj, and she continues to show that she's a worthy opponent. What will she be like when she's experienced and knows the rules??
I should compare this victory to the way the kid defeated me. When I played the kid in May 2005 (so he was nearly 9 years old then), he got 22 points on the development tracks, 10 points for colonies, 1 for expeditions, 3 for most money and 3 for the mission... 39 points to my 29. That was a truly crushing victory. I think in that game we started with plantations so there were more spices in the game early, the economies were kick-started, and I refused to use the taxation track and he used his money to win all the auctions. I think I get the game now. I want a rematch.