Michael Schacht, the designer of Gold! has published a handful of really good games including Web of Power/China and Coloretto. Both those games are firm favorites and still in my rotation of games. However, Schacht is probably best known for taking the Coloretto mechanism, adding some chrome and converting the game into Zooloretto. Zooloretto won the Spiel des Jahres in 2007 and the game remains popular. I think they must still publish promos for the game even up till this day.
Gold! is a card filler in the same league with No Thanks! or 11 Nimnt. However, it has a maximum player count of 3 and that is relatively rare. In Gold! players try to score points by melding sets of 3 cards with each set consisting of the same color. There are total of 6 suits or colors and each colored suits consists of three -2 point card also called donkey cards and 7 gold cards (3, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8). At the start of the game, each player has an individual tableau with 6 donkey cards, one from each color. In the center of the table are 5 gold cards of various denominations. During your turn, you are allowed to either take the lowest value card in the center row or swap cards from your tableau. If you swap with a donkey card, you are allowed to take any gold card but not a donkey card. Later in the game when your tableau also consists of gold cards, you can swap your gold card with another card in the center row of any value that is lower than the card you are swapping, which also includes donkey cards. Once the center row is depleted, a fresh set of 5 cards are drawn from the deck and the game ends when the draw deck is exhausted.
Melding occurs mid-game whenever a player’s tableau has a set of 3 cards of a similar color. These cards are flipped over and the values will be scored end of the game. Before melding, the active player also gets to steal a card from an opponent so long as the card color is not represented in their tableau. There is some strategy here as you can swap out cards before melding so that you no longer have the color you might want to steal from an opponent. This is also a defensive move which blocks other players from melding.
At the end of the game, players also score majority colors by comparing gold cards among players and the person having the highest combined value of a specifc color, getting to put the highest value card in the score pile. This scoring is rather curious since I feel it is unnecessary and slightly out of sync with the rest of the scoring.
Gold! is a bit baffling to me. It is hard to wrap my head around it and play well. Your actions are very tactical and influenced by what others are doing. There is clearly some modicum of strategy but I think hard to implement because of how transient the cards are in the center row. With 2 players, you can probably be more strategic, but the cadence of each round feels the same: Take the high value cards first, meld if you can, then take the remaining donkeys in the center row.
Gold! is an average filler and unfortunately, won’t get to see much table time mainly because of the player count.
Initial impressions: Average