In 2017 Emerson Matsuuchi created a game called Century: Spice Road. A resource swapping game that not only had a fun and easy to learn mechanic of trading resources for goods but also highlighted the historical importance of the Silk Road as merchants could make their way across Europe and Asia similarly trading goods. That game then got a re-theme as Century: Golem Edition placing it in the fantasy world of Caravanie where players now seek to build their own troupe of Golems.
Each player takes on the role of a new caravan leader. Each set out along the Crystal Trade road to build up their fortunes, create Golems, and take a well-earned rest every now and then. The game is set up by giving each player their own Caravan Cards, these show the limit of the crystals that they carry, and a stash of their own crystals to begin. Between all of the players the Market is set up, these cards are involved in the deckbuilding aspect of Century: Golem Edition, and the Point Cards, which indicate what types of golems are up for sale.
On each of the player's turns, they have a list of actions they can complete, but they can only do one per turn. They can play a card from their hand, take a Market card, rest to recover their expended cards or purchase a Golem allowing them to take a point card. Even the simplest objective will take 3-4 turns, and if what you're after is a card on the board you'll need to act fast because another player might also have eyes on it. While it can be frustrating that it takes a number of turns to get something done, those turns go by blazingly fast. Once everyone at the table gets a sense of how to play the game the rotation will continue to speed up keeping everyone actively engaged.
The core gameplay of Century: Golem Edition is around Deckbuilding
Playing a Market card from your hand can give a number of effects. The cards can allow players to draw (mine) new crystals, or give players options on how they can trade their current crystals in for different ones. If a player starts their turn with five yellow crystals and one green crystal in their caravan a card might allow them to trade two yellow and green for a blue crystal. A card might also just allow you to draw a new crystal, how many crystals and what color they'll be are up to the card. The trading and earning of crystals is one of the more complicated aspects of the games, not because it's difficult to understand -- you return some gems to the bank and obtain others -- but because their value can be all over the place. The general idea is that the gems go up in rarity from yellow, to green, to blue, and finally pink. In actuality, this rarity idea is all over the place. Some cards would allow you to trade three yellow for a single pink, but another card might be one pink for three yellow and a blue. It's best not to place too much importance on having ways to generate gems in a single direction, but to be able to change your gems and access all colors easily.
It's the importance of having a healthy mix of gems that the core strategy of the game comes out not when purchasing golems or in deciding what cards you should use to move towards purchasing a golem, instead the strategy is in the deck building and making sure you pick up good cards from the market. The market works as a pile of face-down cards with a queue of cards to its left. Players can pick the left-most card up for free, or they can put down crystals on cards to skip over them and pick up the next cards in the queue. This ability to skip the line, and the cost it incurs, puts pressure on the players constantly weighing up just how important they feel a card is to obtain. With only one action you also need to factor in the likeliness of another player seeing just as much if not more value in what you're after too.
Once you've had the chance to collect Market cards, obtain, and trade crystals the next objective you'll be setting your eyes on is the endgame. Golem cards will be laid out in a similar fashion to the Market Cards, a pile on the far right and 5 cards to its left. Each of the Golem cards will have a point value and required crystals to purchase listed at the bottom of the card. Once you have enough crystals and can meet the Golem's price you can pick up the card, if it's in the first two columns there are also bonus coins that are an extra incentive to get Golem's early. This is the only aspect of the game where the tier of the crystal used actually translates to the value of the golem. A Golem that can be purchased for three yellow and two blues might only be worth 5 points, but for two pinks, two blues, and two greens you can net yourself 19 points. After a player has earned their fifth Golem that round concludes and the players can count up their points.
The artwork for Century: Golem Edition is absolutely gorgeous. Each Merchant Card comes with it a beautiful depiction of the different characters of the game trading crystals with one another or finding themselves in deep caves or hanging precariously off a cliff to recover more crystals. My favorite aspect of the game's design is the look and themes of the Golems. Each Golem looks like it's been specifically designed for a different purpose. There's a golem for herding sheep, playing music, and even one that's into topiary. Before you even get into playing a game of Century: Golem Edition be sure to take a peruse through all of the different Golem types.
What are our final thoughts on Century: Golem Edition?
Century: Golem Edition is an easy-to-pick-up game for 2-5 players. While the majority of the time the players will be playing against the game, seeing what cards they want to pick up and scoping out Golems to purchase, the potential for interfering with one another is way too high. Fast-paced turns will keep you actively engaged the whole game. Before you even have enough time to look at another player's crystals and start guessing what they're up to it will already be back to your turn. The strategy and forethought for which Market Cards to pick up or prioritize might be somewhat confusing for the first few games but as you learn the crystal values swing wildly you can start building towards cards to recycle through your gems.
Should I buy Century: Golem Edition?
If you're already an owner of Century: Spice Road there likely isn't much here for you aside from the adorable art. If you're in the market for a low-weight board game that has you balancing plans of gems, deck building, and earning points while also having to try to keep track of your opponents and their potential plans then Century: Golem Edition should provide just that. The small footprint and speed of rounds make it a fantastic addition to board game nights. If you enjoy games that players are limited in their antagonism and deckbuilding this should be a fun purchase.
The copy of Century: Golem Edition used in this review was provided by the publisher.