Full disclosure: A review copy of Century: Golem Edition was provided by Plan B Games.
I’ve got a bunch of mini reviews coming down the pipe, which I’m excited about. The one nice thing about being behind the power curve, I suppose, is that there are just … so many games coming out that you can even get a game from 2017 and be able to write about it. Just wait until I do Machi Koro. But I digress. We’ve got a lot to look forward to with Century: Golem Edition, so let’s dive in and see what this game is all about!
In Century: Golem Edition, you are traders dealing in soul crystals, and the great masters can use these crystals to create golems for all sorts of purposes. Gardening, disaster rescue, or just … lookin’ cool. As you do. You’re committing to the lifestyle of helping them acquire crystals to make cool golems, which, kind of rules. What a life. But you’d like to be the greatest trader of all, so you have to deal with your opponents first. Will you be able to get the grandest crystals? Or will you fall a bit short of your dreams?
Player Count Differences
I mean, this is kind of the Major Difference in player counts for a (deck/hand)builder with a randomized market, and that’s that other players can get the card you want before you can get it. This isn’t a game with a huge amount of player interaction, otherwise, and that’s kind of how I like it. I’d rather not deal with players dumping my cards or cursing me with random effects; I’m happy when I can have my stuff and other players can have theirs. The fix for this is that you’re going to have to get a bit more spendy if you want to keep something out of your opponents’ hands, and you’re going to need to watch more carefully to see if there are cards you can’t let your opponents have. At lower player counts it’s really just you and your opponent; not much more to it than that. I think I like the higher and lower player counts about equally, mechanically, though I will say I do enjoy that at lower player counts there’s a bit less downtime on my turn, as there’s not much to do when it’s not your turn, otherwise. But that’s the genre, for you. Beyond that, no real preference on player counts.
- You need to upgrade your gem acquisition pipeline as soon as you can. There’s only so much you can do if you can earn, at best, two yellow gems every few turns. You need to figure something else out, even if it’s some slightly unproductive trades. There’s a card that will give you four yellows, I think, but that card is a hot ticket item at the beginning of the game, so you may have to spend quite a bit for it.
- Keep an eye on which golems will earn you copper coins; it may be worth going after them for a variety of reasons. They may be worth fewer points than other golems, but the copper coin may settle the difference (especially since less valuable golems are easier to purchase, generally speaking). It also makes your points a bit harder to track, not that anyone can really do anything about it beyond trying to snake you on Golems.
- I generally approximate yellow gems as worth 1, green is 2, blue is 3, and pink is 4, with some bonus for having to get six gems or so for a card. I use that to determine how valuable certain moves are, to me. It’s good to have some measure of a heuristic, though whether or not that’s a direct translation of card value is debatable. This also helps me evaluate certain trade cards; are they net positive for me? Or do they just give me a higher-value gem for a somewhat-decent price? Worth considering before you take one.
- A rush strategy isn’t your worst idea, if you can actually pull it off. I’d be surprised if you could pull it off, but if you can successfully buy cheap golems quickly, you may be able to outsmart your opponents and leave them without many points. This is doubly true if you can make off with a bunch of coins.
- Being able to make multiple trades with the same card can really help you build an engine if you have enough gems for it. Since you can only play the card once, try to batch your trades so that you can really get the most out of a single play; it may be a game-changer for you if you can land it.
- Don’t overspecialize into one too-focused pipeline. This messes me up occasionally; I would sometimes make it so I had 10 cards in hand and just needed to play 2, 3, 5, 6, 1 in that order to get the gems I needed. That’s all well and good, but it’s not flexible, and that leads to bad outcomes if your engine isn’t fast enough. If your opponents can get their own engines together, they can sneak up on you and eventually overtake you. So make sure your engine is flexible if it needs to be. If it doesn’t need to be, then no big deal.
- Don’t be afraid of using gems to get newer cards. As I mentioned, sometimes you gotta do this if you want the card before an opponent can snag it. Are you giving your opponents free gems? Sure. Is it better if you have the good card? Yes. Just remember that if you’re not careful you will lose the opportunity to get the card at all, so, strike while you are able to do so.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Obviously, the art. It’s very good! And very wholesome, I’d say. It’s bright, colorful, and inviting. There are always questions like “what board game world would you want to live in?” and Century: Golem Edition does a great job of making me consider it. It just all seems so pleasant.
- To second that, I really appreciate that all of the golem art is unique? It’s a flex, to be sure, but a solid one. It means that even if you play the game a few times, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have seen every golem. It’s nice! Though it’s also expensive, I assume.
- It’s one double-sided page of rules. NMBR 9 has fewer rules, I suppose, but this is a fairly low-rules-overhead game. We still missed one for a bit, but, you know, that’s rules, for you.
- The components are also really nice. Metal coins; really nice, chunky gems; containers for the gems; it’s excellent. I really appreciate that it looks good on the table and has great components.
- I like the idea of hand-building as a precursor to deckbuilding, since you can avoid dealing with explaining how shuffling has to work. It’s pretty easy to play this and then make the move to deckbuilding, since it’s essentially just this but you discard the card and only have a few cards in hand each turn. I think I would be fine using this to introduce it, but I do like Abandon All Artichokes as an introductory deckbuilder a bit more.
- Plays pretty quickly. Deckbuilders (and adjacent genres) aren’t much known for their swiftness, but this isn’t too bad, even if there’s not much to do on your turn.
- I really like that the gems come with their own little storage trays. Don’t get me wrong, I already have storage trays and I like them quite a bit, but this is just nice and classy. And it stores really well in the box! All around positive.
- Like most randomized market games, I wish there were a way to discard cards from the market if nobody is taking them. I complain about randomized markets in deck and handbuilders pretty constantly, and my refrain is always I wish it were easier to refresh the cards, especially as other players lock down their engines. If you’re looking for a piece and you can’t find it, you either need to essentially dig for it (expensive) or give up and make do with what you have available. Neither … feels great.
- Honestly, the whole “two different themed versions of the same product” is … a strange choice, especially because the existence of a Golem line, I imagine, somewhat alienates the people who bought the non-Golem ones. I don’t often comment on the marketing aspects of a game, and I know what happened here, but whew. So they made a special version of Century: Spice Road (this one) as a limited edition sort of thing, and then everyone wanted this version, but Spice Road is part of a trilogy, so then there were requests for the other games to be adapted … it’s a lot. I can see how the mere existence of this game is frustrating for Spice Road owners (I prefer the art style in this title, and the theme), but, yeah. It’s unfortunate.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think Century: Golem Edition is pretty fun! It sits quite nicely in that “classics” section of my game collection, which is games that I think have a pretty solid and far-reaching appeal for a variety of players, even if they’re not always my go-to. And I think it’ll probably stay there for a while! It’s got a lot going for it, even outside of gameplay. It’s a truly beautiful title, for instance, and I think the component quality really does help elevate it considerably in terms of table presence. And for a game that’s trying to position itself in the “just getting into board games” space, I think that’s a very wise move, to emphasize table presence. A lot of folks will see this game for the first time at a friend’s or at a game night or at a convention, and making it as visually striking and appealing as they have is going to increase curiosity. That’s all well and good, but the game also has to deliver on gameplay, and I think it does a nice job. The cycle of a player turn isn’t too long, there’s a good amount of variety, and there are many different paths to success. All bodes well for a title that a lot of folks will enjoy. I, for one, am I huge fan of the art and the variety there (as I’ve said several times and will continue to say), so having both sides of the game be strong is also a good recipe for success. Either way, I’ve certainly enjoyed Century: Golem Edition, and if you’re looking for a solid perennial title or you just like handbuilding, this might be a game that you would enjoy as well!