Thursday, March 27, 2014

Game Profile: Coal Baron

Essen, on the verge of the 20th century!

Classification Strategy Game
Mechanics Worker Placement, Pick Up & Deliver, Set Collection
Publication R&R Games, 2013
Ages 10+
Time 60 - 75
Players 2-4

Underground mining has never been this much fun.  Coal Baron is a worker placement game with straight forward mechanics and depth of play to match the depth of the mines.  Each player manages their own mine by playing workers on the main board.  At first it looks like you have plenty of workers.  By mid round you realize you don’t have enough.  Workers are used to claim tunnel tiles to expand the mine and add more coal, get money, obtain new contracts, deliver goods, or move coal from the mine to the surface.

Coal Baron is all about balancing the many variables in the game.  Your mine is 4 levels deep with each level down costing more money, but delivering more points.  Both the money track and the movement /action track have multiple spaces for workers.  Money ranges from $6 dollars down to $3.  Actions range from 10 down to 4 in increments of 2.  Here the design is brilliant.  The 1st player can get $6 with 1 worker.  The next player has a choice to play 1 worker on the next space for $5 or 2 workers to play on the $6 space.  By the 2nd half of the round players may have to decide between playing 3 workers for $6, 2 workers for $5, or 1 worker for $3.  All the worker spaces of the board work have the same principle; be 1st with 1 worker, 2nd with 2 workers, or 3rd with 3 workers, etc.  Workers can be used up quickly and money always seems to be in short supply.

Contract cards and tunnel tiles come on to the board randomly.  There can be as many as 4 contract cards and 8 tunnel tiles available to choose from if you have enough workers and money.  Additionally, there are 4 different delivery vehicles which are specified by the contract cards.

The player with the most points wins after 3 scoring rounds and some final scoring.  Each round adds another dimension to scoring.  Round 1 scoring is based on how much coal of each type is delivered. Round 2 repeats scoring as in Round 1 and adds scoring based on number of deliveries by vehicle.  Round 3 scoring repeats scoring as in Rounds 1 & 2 and adds points for number of empty areas in the mine by coal type.  Final scoring yields points for money & excess coal not delivered.  It also deducts points for unfulfilled contracts and for an unbalanced mine.  A balanced mine will have an equal number of tiles on its lit side as on its unlit side.

Coal Baron is a game you immediately want to play again.  There are many ways to chase maximum points and you will mess with your opponent’s plans.  It must be a rule in worker placement games that the player to your right always takes the spot you need exactly when you need it.

We have an open copy of Coal Baron  available in our Store Demo Library for you come in and try out.

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Come and visit us at 30 NW 2nd Street in Historic Downtown Gresham. We have a full range of family games, strategy games, Euro-style games, war games, card games, dice games and more. Also for the puzzle enthusiasts we carry quality puzzles from Ravensburger, White Mountain, and Cobble Hill.

We proudly serve Gresham and the greater Portland and Vancouver area.

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