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first impressions: Incan Gold

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

S and I have been trying out some of the new games we got for Christmas these last few days: Power Grid, Incan Gold, No Thanks!, Hive, Forbidden Island, and TransEuropa. We’ve enjoyed all of them very much, but the one that has really stood out for us (so far) has been Incan Gold. We’ve played it both with S’s folks and with some friends of ours, and it’s gone over very well both times.

The basic idea is that you’re an intrepid explorer searching a ruined temple for treasure. The winner of the game, not surprisingly, is the player who makes it out with the most loot.

This is a game where the theme really adds a lot. The artwork is great, and players can feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft with just a little imagination. The theme is integrated extremely well with the mechanics of the game, so much so that it actually makes the game easier to teach (or to learn): all the rules and all the choices a player needs to make become intuitive when thought of in the context of temple exploration.

The game takes place over 5 rounds: in each round, players explore a different part of the temple. As the expedition advances, cards are turned up depicting either dangers (fire, rockslides, mummies, spiders, and snakes) or treasures (gems in varying amounts and special artifacts).

Before each card is turned up, however, players need to decide: will they continue on, or cut and run? Each player has two cards for this purpose – one showing an explorer with torch held high (representing “continue on”) and one showing an explorer with a spent torch and a tent just outside (representing “cut and run”). Players declare their intent simultaneously, and then the next card is turned up.

Players can continue to explore for as long as they want, but if two dangers of the same type are turned up, any explorers still in the temple lose everything they’ve collected that round. Once one spider is turned up, for example, then any player who continues runs the risk of another spider turning up and ruining everything.

That’s one reason a player might choose to cut and run (not wanting to lose what they’ve collected already), but there’s another reason, too: when gems are discovered, they’re divided equally among the explorers in the temple and any remaining gems are left on the path. Any player who cuts and runs can pick these gems up on their way out.

The push-your-luck element present in many games has been refined to a high art in Incan Gold: not only do the risks involved with continuing increase, the incentives for bailing out increase, too.

If that weren’t enough already, the risks in each subsequent round are incrementally decreased (by removing some of the dangers) while the potential reward is incrementally increased (by increasing the value of the artifacts). Later rounds tend to be worth more than early ones, in other words, giving even players who are substantially behind going into round five the ability to come back and win it (assuming, of course, they’re willing to take a few risks).

I’ve sleeved the cards already, figuring this one will get a lot of play. =^..^=

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