I have a new favourite game. It's colourful, delightful, strategic and fun, and lets me live out my wildest fantasies: collecting beautiful beautiful gems, and marshalling golems to do my bidding.
Century: Golem Edition, designed by Emerson Masuuchi and published by Plan B Games, is a simple, elegant and subtle deck-building, engine-building game that operates at half-speed - but plays extremely fast. It's the perfect child of Dominion and Splendor, made even more delightful by the gorgeous components and the playful and colourful art by Justin Chan and Chris Quilliams.
In Century: Golem Edition, you are a humble caravaneer, explorer, trader, and would-be friend to golems everywhere.
The aim of the game is to gain victory points by befriending/buying/capturing/seducing golems with your pretty, pretty gems. They range from a humble 6-point farmer golem to the luxe 20-point golem who wants five pink gems. The artwork on the golems takes the game to another entire level, and paint a world full of wonder and imagination: one golem delivers the mail, another smelts steel within his chest, another stands guard over the sheep, yet another rescues children from burning buildings.
In the fiction of the game, you live in the world of Caravania, a world straight out of anime, where golems are real and soul crystals abound.
“Papa, where do crystal golems come from?”
“The great masters craft them using soul crystals.”
“Oh… but where do soul crystals come from?”
“From all over the world. They are very rare. Legend says, they are the souls of people who died long before the first humans came to Carvania.”
“Well, when I grow up, I’m going to be a crystal trader! I’ll travel the whole world and I’ll find the very best crystals and the masters will make great big powerful golems from them, like the Gatekeeper!”
- Century: Golem Edition rules
To begin with, you can go exploring for more gems (drawing two gems) or upgrading two gems (yellow gems become green, green become blue, and blue become pink). Or, you can use your gems to open up trade routes (or a marketplace) that will allow you to convert some of your gems to another colour.
These newer cards are naturally more efficient than your starting cards, and the fun of the game is in getting the right combination of cards that will chain together neatly, so you can most efficiently produce gems, and win the race to the best golems.
You can only do one thing each turn: either play a card (to do one of the above), pick up a market card and put it in your hand, buy a golem (victory points), or pick up all the cards you've hitherto played. Do exactly one thing, then move on. Counter-intuitively, the game plays surprisingly quickly.
The game paces itself very well - the early game where you try to construct a gem-production engine, the mid-game where you tinker with your engine and start to out-pace or out-wit each other for golems, and the end where you try to get to five golems before anyone else.
Games take 30-45 minutes: long enough to feel satisfying, short enough to fit several games into the same night. The game rules are simple enough to fit onto one double-sided piece of cardboard, simple enough for my 7-year-old to understand and my 9-year-old to master. But the games is subtle and interesting enough to have taken over my board-game group, and a whole stack of us (including me!) decided we just had to own the game.
I'm not one to be won over purely by style over substance, but Century: Golem Edition is a beautiful, beautiful game. The components are top class, from the beautiful gems to the practical packaging. The white trays containing gems you see in the pictures above all come with the game, and come together to form a very geometrically pleasing octagon.
The cards fit perfectly, with room to fit card sleeves if so desired. Little notches on the side hold the bonus victory points, but there's also space under the cards if you prefer to put your coins into little plastic bags.
Century: Golem Edition actually started life as a conference exclusive - a colourful re-theme of Century: Spice Road, which won the 2017 Golden Geek Award for Best Card Game. Due to popular demand, the Golem Edition came out into mass production, even though the rules are identical.
And it's a marked example of how much different components can make. The original used standard wooden cubes to representing your spices: cinnamon, cardamon, saffron, and tumeric. However this uses wonderfully-shaped plastic gems.
A usability note: the colour choices on Golem Edition makes it far more user friendly for colour-blind gamers, who have panned Century: Spice Road for being "the worst offender."
The original used circular bowls, which seemed useful, but made me feel clumsy as I constantly fumbled the cubes. The neat, white, geometric bowls in Century: Golem Edition are both aesthetically pleasing, but also very usable. It's a lot easier to reach into a bowl and grab a handful of jewels.
Century: Golem Edition has catapulted itself into my top ten games of all time. It hits a perfect sweet-spot in terms of playability, simplicity, and strategy. The components, the design, the artwork, the rules are all excellent. It's perfect for your game-group and it's perfect for you family. There is absolutely nothing bad I can say about this game.
You should play this game. You should own it.
In fact, you should buy two copies, one to give to a friend. It is that good.