Gold Mine Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 4 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • About 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Visuospatial Skills
  • Emotional Coping Skills

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Venture forth into the mine and grab the gold before your opponent does!

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

In Gold Mine, players grab their mining tools and hard hats to venture forth into a dark gold mine to explore and discover riches. But beware! There are other miners in the tunnels who want the gold, too, and are not above taking it from you if the opportunity should present itself. Dig fast, collect the gold, and get out before anyone else to be declared the winner!

Gold Mine is comprised of 100 game tiles that depict the entrance, passages, tunnels, and caverns of the gold mine, 28 Gold Nuggets, 18 Gold Challenge tokens, 18 Bat Challenge tokens, 6 Miner Pawns (one for each player in colors Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Black, and White), and 2 six-sided dice (one black, one white). Stratus Games has spared no expense with the game bits. All the components are thick, durable, and colorful. One will immediately recognize the amount of thought Stratus Games put into building the game when they see the Miner Pawns, for example. These are small plastic miners used by the players that are detailed with pickaxes, hard hats, work gloves, and heavy boots (see following image)! These were a tremendous hit with my little geeks and a joy to play with.

A good deal of time and attention was put into the game, both in game play and game bits!

Game Set Up

To set up the game, find the mine entrance tile (easy to spot – one side has a ladder going into the mine and the other side says “Mine Entrance”) and place it in the center of the playing area with the ladder side showing. Players then take turns randomly placing 20 tiles in the playing area building the mine. If a randomly selected tile cannot be placed, a new tile is selected. There are specific tiles that are immediately populated with a Gold Nugget. If placed, a Gold Nugget is added to the tile.

Once the last of the 20 tiles have been placed, the players put their Miner Pawns on the entrance tile and receive 3 Bat Challenge tokens and 3 Gold Challenge tokens.

Determine who should go first and begin play.

Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho! It’s Off to Work We Go!

On a player’s turn, they can optionally take up to two actions during two phases. The phases are Miner Movement phase and Miner Action phase. Miner Movement is always first, but optional. Miner Action is always second, and is also optional. A player could therefore do nothing on their turn and simply wait to see how the mine is built or see who takes a specific action. However, Gold Mine is a race game and you will seldom want to or see a player do nothing on their turn. You don’t get gold my sitting on your duff, you know!

A player can do any one of the following on their turn during the Miner Movement phase:

  • Excavate & Move One Space: the player randomly selects a mine tile, places it, and then moves their Miner Pawn 1 space – if the tile populates a Gold Nugget, place one on the tile immediately – if the tile cannot be placed, another random tile is selected
  • Roll & Move: the player rolls one six-sided dice and moves up to the number shown – a player can stop their movement at any time
  • Traverse a Secret Passage: the player, starting on a tile that shows water, rolls two six-sided die – if results rolled are a double or a sum of 7, the player can relocate their Miner Pawn on any other tile with water showing
  • Opt Out: a player can choose to not take any action during the Miner Movement phase

A player can then do any one of the following on their turn during the Miner Action phase:

  • Collect a Gold Nugget: a player ending their Miner Movement phase on a tile with a Gold Nugget can claim it and place it in front of them
  • Initiate Challenge: a player discards either their Bat or Gold Challenge token and initiate a challenge of that type with another player (see “I CHALLENGE!”)
  • Opt Out: a player can choose to not take any action during the Miner Action phase

After completing their turn, the next player goes, repeating the above two phases.

As the game continues, the mine will grow and so will the fun!

I CHALLENGE!

During the player’s Miner Action phase, they can spend and discard one of their six challenge tokens. The outcome of a challenge is always determined by the Challenger (the player who initiates the challenge) and the Defender (the player who is the recipient of the challenge) taking one of the two six-sided dice each and rolling three times. The player who rolls the highest value two out of the three rolls wins the challenge. Note that ties always go to the Challenger. In this way, the game rewards the players who show initiative and take a more aggressive stance in the game. However, since there is a limited supply of challenge tokens and no way of gaining more, a player will never be able to dominate the game and bully other players indefinitely.

The Gold Challenge can only be played when the Challenger’s and the Defender’s Miner Pawns are located on the same tile. The winner of the challenge takes one gold from the other player and places it on any gold tile not currently occupied by the Challenger and Defender and does not already have a Gold Nugget on it. If the Challenger wins, they can roll the six-sided die and move their Miner Pawn up to the number of tiles indicated by the die roll result. If they end their movement on the Gold Nugget (or any Gold Nugget), they can claim it. This challenge requires that both players have at least one Gold Nugget each.

The Bat Challenge token can be played on any player. The Challenger and the Defender need not be located on the same tile. The winner of the challenge rolls a six-sided die and moves the other player’s Miner Pawn that number of spaces in any direction they like.

Digging in the Dirt

A quick word on tile placement. If you are no stranger to tile placement games, you already know that tiles can only be placed in certain ways depending on the game rules. The same applies to Gold Mine. The tiles depict tunnels and caverns in the mine and can only be placed next to another tile if the tunnels visually connect. The tiles must be placed in a grid like formation, where each tile is adjacent to the next. Tiles must be placed so that all tunnels on adjacent tiles connect to each other like pipes.  Lastly, mine passages on at least one tunnel, if placed adjacent to the mine entrance tile, may not be completely blocked or create a loop.

Note that cavern tiles have no connection restrictions and allow full passage to any connecting tunnels.

The game rules provide several visual examples and the rules for tile placement are easy to learn and teach as the tile placement visually “makes sense” when completed. See the following image for a visual example.

Example of proper and improper tile placement

Miner Movement

Miner Pawn movement also deserves a special sidenote. The players do not move from tile to tile, but from passage to passage. The Miner Pawns must follow the tunnels and caverns which means that they might need to move further to simply just go to an adjacent tile. Each time a player’s Miner Pawns crosses the boundary of a tile, it counts as one movement. Again, this movement will visually makes sense to the players and should be rather intuitive.

Sorry, Miners, you can’t magically move through solid rock

The only other item of note in regards to movement is moving from one secret passage to another. Again, these tiles have water on them which indicates a flooded passage. If the player rolls correctly, they can move to any other tile that also shows water.

Victory!

The game ends as soon as one player makes their way back to the mine entrance with the required amount of gold, which is based on the number of players in the game.

Game Variants

Gold Mine is already a great game, but if you are looking to increase the challenge and add a cooperative element, there are several game variants available that should fit your needs.

  • Mud Puddles: some tiles have mud on them. These are Mud Puddles and cause any Miner who attempts to cross them to immediately stop their movement until their next turn.
  • Five Tile Strategy (2 to 4 players with Mud Puddle rules): During game set up, each player is given one Cavern tile, two random Mine Tunnels with a Secret Passage, and two random Mine Tunnels with Mud Puddles. These tiles are placed face-up in front of the owning player. During the player’s turn, they can choose to play any of these tiles instead of drawing a random tile.
  • Alliances (4 to 6 players): Players are divided into teams of two and work together to gather Gold Nuggets. Team members on the same tile can pass a Gold Nugget to each other as a new Miner Action and must both leave the Mine in order to win.

Prediction

My little geeks like puzzles and tile placement games like Carcassonne. Gold Mine has both of these elements in its game design and more. Where Carcassonne is all about luck of the draw and victory going to the player who places their pawns first to collect the most points, Gold Mine gives the players the ability to go find points for themselves and even steal them from other players. This should greatly appeal to my little geeks as they have always enjoyed games where they feel like they have more control and say in how the game is played.

I am, however, concerned about the backstabbing element in the game. My little geeks are still developing their emotional coping skills and might take it much harder than they should if they lose a challenge.  No one likes to play a game when they feel picked on or bullied. I’ll have to watch this and address any hurt feelings promptly. The best way to do this is to simply take a break and let everyone cool down. We’ve done it this way before and it has worked out very well, both when playing games and during activities where one of the little geeks starts to fly off the handle.

Other than that, I see Gold Mine being a huge success! It has everything my little geeks like and more with fast game play, visual interest, a sense of exploration, and a great deal of player freedom. So, after explaining the game, wrestling the Miner Pawns away from their little hands, and going over some examples, I prepared the game for set up. While doing so, as is my custom, I asked them what they thought of the game so far.

“Awesome! I’m going to attack you with bats!” ~ Liam (age 7)

“I’m going to get all the gold, Daddy!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

Excellent! Excitement and eagerness all around! But will it last?

Final Word

Yep, Gold Mine was a huge success! My little geeks loved it and immediately wanted to play again when the game was over. Sadly, it was bedtime and they sulked all the way to their room. Yeah!

Age wise, my 4-year old was able to build the mine and play the game without difficulty, but fell short of using the challenges correctly or even often. This is due to his personality and his limited experience as a game player. He is a rather soft-hearted fellow and seldom seeks out confrontation. He greatly enjoyed the game and I would recommend it for little geeks his age.

His older brother was an absolute terror. He used his challenge tokens like a Boss and caused his little brother and I no end of misery and hardship as he sent us running away from bats or going of in a random location with no gold in sight. Brilliant!

Neither of my little geeks did much with the secret passages and this was, ultimately, their downfall. They insisted in taking the long routes towards Gold Nuggets. To my little geeks, it made more sense to move towards the Gold Nuggets on their turn rather than risk not moving at all with a secret passage. When given a chance for guaranteed progress vs. possible progress, they moved their pawns each and every time. I took this opportunity to teach them risk vs. reward and to demonstrate how a great deal of risk can offer a great deal of reward, or nothing at all!

While they slowly made their way to the Gold Nuggets, I would jump from spot to spot using the  secret passages to move large distances instantly. This gave me a significant head start and allowed me to close the gap between Gold Nuggets faster, which ultimately allowed me to collect them before they had a chance to do so. Of course, other times, I just didn’t get the rolls and would be left far, far behind.

In the end, victory was mine, but not by much. Both of my little geeks did a wonderful job playing the game and challenged me from the very start to the very end. I applauded them for their effort and gave each one  a big hug at the end. Yes, their feelings were hurt that they didn’t win, but when I told them they made Daddy worry and work really hard, the felt much better and happy!

Both of my two oldest little geeks loved the game, but not as much as stealing gold from their Dad!

Gamer Geeks, Gold Mine is a light game and is comparable to Carcassonne in regards to complexity. Strategy and tactics are different, of course, but the level of depth is the same. You will find this to be an excellent light game that can be downright frustrating  and challenging if you are playing with gamers who are rather skilled. The luck and randomness of the game is countered very well with the decision making the players can do on their turn and the challenges that can be started. The end result is a fun and fast game that will make you smile.

Parent Geeks rejoice! Gold Mine is a fantastic family game that you and yours will want to play again and again at the family table. Player interaction and discovery go hand in hand with sneaky player moves and light competition that makes the game feel like a race that can be won by anyone. You’ll be working for your victory just as hard as your little geeks, as the game is very well-balanced. This is also a great game to introduce your non-gamers to.

Child Geeks, hurrah for you! This is a great game that will be easy to learn and is a lot of fun to play! You’ll be able to scare off the adults with flights of bats and cause them to drop their gold and run off in a direction that makes no sense whatsoever! Do expect to be frustrated at times when you also have to drop gold and run from the bats, but the game is fast and you’ll be able to get more gold and find new tunnels in the mine quickly. Plus, really cool Miner Pawns!

Gold Mine is a solid game, delivering fun competition with light rules, easy game play, and allows for meaningful strategy and tactics to entertain game elitists to budding game enthusiasts. This is going to be a big hit at your next family game night or game gathering and will continue to entertain long after the other games have been set aside. To learn more about the game, visit the official game web site where you can read the entire rules and watch a video that explains the game play in detail.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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