Century: Spice Road was a game that passed me by, but seemed to have a decent following and was popular enough for more spin off games to appear later down the line. Games such as Century: Golem Edition, which has many similarities to the also-popular Splendor but has some really cool artwork and components which do a great job of making this a unique game in its own right.
The overall aim is to gather as many points as possible by picking up Golem cards that will give you various rewards at the end of the game. To buy these cards you’ll need crystals, which can be picked up, upgraded or exchanged by playing one of the cards from your hand. Obviously the Golems with the bigger rewards require more (or higher valued) crystals to buy, so you’re always on the edge of a decision: do you get the cheap and easy cards in the hope you win through quantity alone, or play the longer game of focussing on your crystals in the hope you can pick up the big points by the time someone round the table has bought the 5 or 6 Golems needed to end the game?
Either way what you’ll get with Century: Golem is a fast paced game that doesn’t generally lend itself to people sitting around thinking for 5 minutes while they work out what to do. Games rattle along at a decent pace, and even with 3 or 4 players you won’t be waiting for long before your turn comes around; by the time you’ve figured out what you’ll do next it’s usually time to do it which is great if you’re playing it with some younger gamers, or those who struggle to stomach a long winded game over several hours. Stopping the game when someone reaches 5 or 6 Golems (depending on how many are playing) gives an extra sense of urgency, making you want to get the decent cards as quickly as possible.
If you’ve played Splendor in any of its forms you might think this sounds familiar. As mentioned earlier, there are parts of this that cross over – the way you need to get the crystals to buy cards and each card having its own set of points, but really there are enough individual rules in Century Golem to make this fit in alongside (or even instead of) Splendor. And besides anything else, the artwork and component quality in Century Golem is nothing short of fantastic. Cards look fantastic, the Golems themselves are all different and look amazing, and the crystals (that come in little trays that sit nicely together in the box when you’re done) are bright, nicely made and are a great replacement to simple cubes or counters. There are also some metal coins that accompany the Golem cards as well, which is a pretty unusual thing to find and feel great when you’re handling them. This is a very bold game in terms of how it looks and feels, and it makes it an absolutely joy to sit and play for an hour or so.
And let’s not forget that keeping an eye on what the other players are doing is just as important as what you’re doing yourself, and with everyone’s crystals on display at all times (each player has a caravan card that they’re positioned on) it’s not difficult to see if someone else is clearly trying to manipulate their own crystal collection to grab a card that you’ve had your eye on for the past 10 minutes. At such a moment your next move is a dilemma in itself – do you go all out to make sure you get it first, abandoning all other strategies in the meantime, or hold off in the hope that a bigger, more valuable card pops up when a couple of others have been picked up? There’s never a right answer to that, but you can be sure that you’ll discover just how many wrong answers there are…
So my overall thoughts in Century: Golem? I’m impressed. This is such a nicely made game, with light rules and a quick turnaround and really shouldn’t be ignored when you’re next in the market for a game that doesn’t have the weight and complexity of so many other board games on the market. It looks great, it feels great, and it’s really good fun too. What more do you need?