Sunday, November 4, 2012

Indiana Jones and the Quest for Incan Gold: A review of Incan Gold

Incan Gold
  • Designed by Bruno Faidutti and Alan Moon
  • Published by Gryphon Games (Bookshelf Game #6)
  • Plays with 3-8 players
  • Plays in around 15-25 minutes

Incan Gold is a press your luck game.  The game is played over 5 rounds in which players are adventuring in a temple.  The goal is to get more treasure out than any of your opponents.  However, if you set off a trap, you lose everything from the round.  

What you get inside the box
In a word, excellent.  The tents for each player to store their gems are a really neat thing.  The gems are a neat bit of shiny for everyone to go after, much better than just little tokens or numbers.  The art on the cards is good.  The cards for staying or going can be a little confusing, but that's the only bad thing to me.

Here's how a round works. Turn over a card which will be a trap, an artifact, or treasure.  If it's treasure, divide the gems evenly, place any that can't be divided on the card.  If it's the first copy of a trap, nothing happens.  If it's the second copy of a trap, then everyone left in the temple gets nothing for the round.  After a card is turned over, all players secretly choose whether to go further or return to camp.  If they return, they split all the left over gems with anyone else who ran away.  
A Tent, the runaway card(L) and
the go forward card (R)
The last thing is the artifact cards.  These go to the first person to run away alone in a round.  The first 3 are worth 5 points, and the 4th and 5th are worth 10 points.  One treasure gets added to the deck every round, so the odds shift to the good side of things as the game progresses.  
I really like the mechanics in Incan Gold.  They're simple, the game has a good tension, but it isn't excruciating.  

This is probably the best game I have for figuring out what other people are going to do.  The mind game of figuring out should I stay or should I go, gets far more complicated when you have to figure out if someone else is staying or going.

I'm not a huge fan of temple adventuring, mummies, snakes, spiders, etc. but I do like it in small doses.  Incan Gold hits that mark perfectly for me.  The theme is there enough to be fun, but not so much as to make you overly invested.  This keeps the game really light and moving quickly.  

Learning Curve 
Short.  The idea of push your luck isn't too complicated.  It may take a game for someone to really get a good sense of when to stay and when to run, but as far as someone learning how to play, it doesn't take long.  I think my average teaching time for this is around 3 minutes, and people may have further questions, but I can't recall anyone ever being lost.

Why I like Incan Gold
The 5 artifact cards
This is one of those games I can play with just about anyone.  The game is simple to teach, and simple to play.  There are some choices that players have to make, but decisions aren't absolutely right or wrong.  There's enough luck in the game to keep things interesting, and people coming back for more.

Why I don't like Incan Gold
Examples of traps and treasure.
2 snakes means the round is over.
Sometimes there's a bit too much luck.  You can make all the "right" decisions based on the odds, gut feelings, whatever method you choose, but it won't pay off.  It's also irritating to run and then have 2 other people go with you.  It's hard to play catch-up if you fall far behind, though at that point I try playing for 2nd, or 3rd, or just not to be last.

The 5 traps.
You wouldn't think that a game with 35 cards and one choice (go forward or run away) would be that replayable, but it is.  I've played Incan Gold 29 times, and I'll keep playing it.  It's turned into a great staple at game night since it accommodates so many players.

2 Thumbs way up.  This is a keeper of keepers for me.  Anything that plays with a lot of players and plays relatively fast is on my radar.  Incan Gold does this better than anything else I've played.  It's fast, it's tense, it's fun.  What more do you want?

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  1. Love me some Incan Gold. A solid game. Have you tried The Adventurers Pyramid of Horus? It feels like Incan Gold, but in a full board game form. I haven't explored it as much as Incan Gold, but it has that same feeling of pressing your luck.

    1. I've played Adventurers Temple of Ch'ac, the first version. That has a similar press your luck feel. I still prefer Incan Gold over it.