Recap: Goa and Spartacus First Impressions

I am master of Harvests and Expeditions!

This week my usual gaming group was absent a few people. And, that meant I could bring out some of the four player only games that have remained unplayed since Christmas. I got into both Goa and Spartacus. Very different, but both quite enjoyable.

Goa. Goa has two really interesting aspects. First, each round begins with an auction. But rather than putting up your choice, the available auctions are arranged in a grid. The first player starts the auction next to the grid, but the next player chooses which adjacent item is to be auctioned second. Then, the next player an adjacent item to that. So, by choosing your auction, you are also allowing or restricting choices for your opponents. And, if someone else wins your auction, they must pay their money directly to you.

Layered on top of this is an interesting efficiency game. There are five actions – each of which is of marginal utility at the beginning of the game – but as it progresses, you can enhance the actions so that they get better and better. For example, I started out harvesting only one item per action. By game end, I could do eight with one action.

In our game with three new players, I decided to focus on expedition cards. It had the down side of making me more plantation dependent, but the significant upside that I was able to play one almost every turn as the game went on. That means my actions were more efficient, and I was able to get greater bonuses. My opponents both went with early colonies, which meant that they didn’t need plantations like I did. After the colonies were founded, they pushed hard on upgrading their actions.

The auction portion turned out to be a significant tactical edge. Often, I would pick the tile I wanted and then just pay the price necessary to buy it. But at key intervals, I would pick a tile that someone else wanted. That way, they would have to bid up to prevent me from getting it cheaply, and I would reap the reward of that payment.

After one play, I very much enjoyed the game. It seems fairly wide open in the range of strategies that can be employed, and we just barely scratched the surface. Looking forward to the next play.

Image via BGG User Gale Force Nine

Spartacus. The rulebook warns that the game is long, and I’ve heard others agree. However, our three player game was remarkably brief. We played it on the shortest setting (which I’ve heard is still about a two hour game), but finished our game not too much over an hour. It was barely enough to whet my appetite.

The game ends when one player gets to 12 influence. In the short game, everyone starts at 7. At that level, we were generally able to play our own schemes and there was less interaction with the other players. Also, the schemes that increased influence and the winning of the games happened so fast that we only played through about four or five rounds before the game was over. Hardly enough time to build up a glorious Ludus.

Still, I’m eager to play the medium game by starting at 4 influence. That should give just the right bump to begin, but still encourage temporary alliances and repeated arena battles. In fact, the battles were the longest part of the game, but were still exciting. Even if your gladiator wasn’t present, we could bid on the games, and that kept our attention. I definitely want to try this in a fuller experience. My first play only holds the promise of better games to come.

I finished first or second most often, but lost due to bad draws. Sort of a bummer in an otherwise fun game.

Also Played. The Resistance (x3), Werewolf (x3), 7 Wonders, Dungeon Lords, Glory to Rome (with an awesome insta-win early on), Goblins, Inc., Love Letter, and Ubongo Extreme.

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