Saturday, June 07, 2008

Emerald - Review

Emerald is a light game, a gateway game. The theme is based on knights leaving the castle to raid the dragons lair for its gold.

The board is simple and colourful, actually a joy to play with. It depicts the castle, a short path that leads into the cave of the dragon and eventually into the lair of the dragon.

The players will be using loverly wooden pawns ( knights ) in the usual array of colours.

There are also number of cards that get laid onto the board. These are Gem and Gold cards.

There is also a large wooden piece for the dragon and a wooden dowel. The dowel is used to mark the patrol area of the dragon within the cave spaces, and will move during the game.

All of the pawns (knights) start out in the castle. On your turn you may move either one or two of your pawns. The way pawns move is quite clever and forms part of the stratergy of the game. A pawn moves forwards a number of spaces equal to the number of pawns in its starting space. So a pawn in a space on its own only moves one space. With two pawns in the start space the pawn moves two spaces.

The first six spaces on the board are safe and your only concern here is keeping ahead of the competition. The next nine spaces are where the fun begins, these are the caves and are patroled by the dragon.

When you land in a cave space you check the card spaces to either side. If there is a gold card or a gem card you have to take one. When you take that card that ends your turn. The Gold cards are valued from 1 to 5 the gem cards are only worth 1, so the choice seems obvious. Except that at the end of the game there are points to be won for sets of gems that can make a seeming loser into the winner.

When a player ends a turn in the cave he has to move the dragon. You roll the die ( marked 1-3 twice ) and the dragon moves backwards and forwards along its patrol area ( the stick! ). If the dragon ends its move on a space with a pawn ( knight ) the player owning that pawn has a choice. Either pay a gold card to the dragon ( discard ) or lose the knight to feed the baby dragon!

Each space in the cave has a limited number number of gold and gem cards so as the game progresses the cards nearer the entrance to the cave get used up and this forces you further into the cave. The dragons patrol area moves during the game towards the back of the cave thus your never really safe.

Any knights that pass the dragon can move up to the dragons horde where some bonus cards appear and each knight that gets that far earns an additional five gold.

The game usually ends when one player is left with only one knight in play.

You then distribute the bonus cards and count up points to see who has won.

I think this is a great gateway game. I really enjoy the decisions you have to make every turn as to how to move. As well as making optimal moves for yourself your also able to manipulate your opponents pieces by clever play. For instance you can stack your pieces to make an opponent jump in front of the dragon. You can take a card to deliberately stop an opponent from gaining a bonus. Or you can choose to feed your own piece to the dragon in order to end the game quickly.

Good game!

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