Updated: Nov 24, 2020
We live in a new world order, one where mystical constructs known as a Golems now carry out many of our day to day tasks.
These benevolent creatures only ask us for one thing in return... gem stones. While they seem content and willing to build our dwellings and tend our fields I do fear what might happen if the gem stones run out!
Century Golem edition is a rethemeing of Century Spice Road, in which you take on the role of gem traders who will mine, trade and upgrade gems in order to acquire Golems to score points.
A Quick Overview
Each player has a starting hand of two cards and a wagon with space for ten gems. On your turn you can take one of 4 actions.
Play a card
Buy a card
Pick up all your played cards
Claim a Golem
Playing cards will allow you to add gems to your wagon and convert or upgrade gems already in your wagon to different gems. Once you play a card it remains on the table until you spend an action to pick up your cards. Bought cards go straight into your hand and can be played on a future turn. The first card in the row is always free, you can take any card in the row by placing a gem on each card you pass over. Players claiming a card with gems on it in subsequent turns also gain those gems.
Each Golem requires a specific combination of gems in order for you to claim it. Once any player has a predetermined number of Golems the game is over and points are tallied. Points are scored for Golems, coins which can be obtained by claiming Golems in the first or second position in the row and from left over green, blue and pink gems in your wagon.
Did They Like It?
Century went over very well. The learning game was very much that. I won by a comprehensive gap, but the chaps knew how the game functioned after that and the second game saw higher scores all round and closer scores too. While during the first game players found themselves unable to kickstart their engine, the second game saw a more cautious start with players picking up lots of cards early on with some tight races for golems towards the end.
Overall the chaps had a great time, declaring the game to be "tricky". But they were not complaining about the complexity or their lack of options, but instead I feel they were appreciating the way the game flowed. After the second game Bob, Phil and Steve all compared their engines and talked excitedly about which of their cards were the best cards.
Century Golem (or Spice Road) takes seconds to teach, the rules are printed on two sides of an a5 sheet of card and they don’t even take up all the space. With just four simple actions the game is up and running very quickly and each player's turn takes only a moment to complete. Even players who suffer from analysis paralysis can’t slow the game down too much as the number of options open to you is reasonably narrow.
I can see the mass market appeal of Century and why the game has sold so well. It definitely fits into the game night market. It’s easy to teach but has a reasonable amount of depth and pretty much endless replayability as the engines you build will differ from game to game.
For my own personal tastes it lacks the meat I usually like from a euro style game. This is a trend I’m noticing more and more with the modern classics. I’d personally much rather play Stone Age, Carcassonne or Catan over Century, Azul or Cottage Garden for example. The simplicity and speed of play takes away the weight of the game and when it’s done I don’t really feel like I’ve played a game, it’s more like I’ve only just warmed up and I’m ready for a main course.
And although Century is a fast game, it’s definitely slower with more players. At a guess I would say it’s approximately 10 minutes per player, so a five player game is going to take between 45 minutes to an hour, where a three player game will only take half of that.
But I don’t want to come across as if I’m bashing on Century here either. I think it’s a very clever game that succeeds in providing both a simple play experience but also a deep and thinky one. And of course, Century Golem is gorgeous. The artwork across the game is stunning, the gemstones and metal coins improve the table presence over the wooden cubes included in Spice Road.
Century Spice Road or Golem Edition is really a perfect entry for this series. It works for gamers and non-gamers, has very few rules that are easy and quick to explain, has little downtime, it has a small footprint, looks gorgeous on the table, is relatively inexpensive and plays in less than an hour. For my own personal tastes, as a game that is essentially an engine builder, it’s a little light and the turns are a little too fast but as an enjoyable way to pass an evening with friends I can’t really fault it.