Sunday, February 18, 2007

Goa for Two, and Two for Goa

Scrabblette is quickly becoming an experienced gamer as we explore my game collection trying to find out what sorts of games she likes. Last night I re-read the rules to Goa and we sat down and played it.

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?
OK, so with those suggestions the game would be significantly different, and appeal to a different audience. As it stands, Goa feels to me to be underdeveloped - Knizia would have taken a few more mechanisms out before he released it.

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.


Ryan Walberg said...

Sorry dude, Goa needs the auction. Different items are worth different amounts to different people at different times, and the only way to price that appropriately is with an auction. I agree with you about the scoring track, that would have been nice to see.

Friendless said...

But Goa's auction completely fails in any attempt to find the right price anyway. Say you have tax on 6 and I have tax on 10, the flag is worth at least 6 to you and at least 10 to me. You're auctioning the flag, so it's in my interests to bid 6 or 7 so that you'll sell it to me and I'll make a small profit. But I really need to win the 3 ginger plantation that's coming up next, and I only have 12 ducats, so if I buy the flag from you you'll have enough money to take the ginger plantation. I'm afraid you'll make me take the flag, so I bid only 3 for it to make it attractive for you to keep it. So you take the flag for 4 when it's really worth 6 to you and 10 to me. If money was paid to the bank, and it was easier to buy what you needed, an auction would find the right price. As it is, the auction is just a drawn-out exercise in double-think and bean-counting.

Ryan Walberg said...

That may be true, John, but it's a fun exercise in bean-counting. I like the look-ahead, where you try to figure out how to win 2 of the 3 auctioned items (in a 2-player game). I just played Goa tonight with my wife; I lost 53-46 but it was the most fun I've had in weeks playing a dry, themeless game.