Gadianton Board Game Review
WBG Score: 6/10
Player Count 2-4
You’ll like this if you like: Jamaica, Talisman, Terror Below.
Published by: Exclusive Games
Designed by: Pierre Crouet
Have you heard of the Gadianton robbers? No, me neither! Well, a quick google search has taken me to the most reliable source on all things on the internet, Wikipedia. I am now reliably informed that they were a secret criminal organisation from Central America referenced in the Book of Mormon. Check it out here.
OK, history lesson over, let's talk about the game.
Gadianton is from first time designer Pierre Crouet. The idea of the game is that you play as one of the Gadianton thieves. You are trying to sneak into the city, steal some crowns, and get back to the safety of the jungle before the guards stop you.
Once the board is laid out, place the four guards onto their spots around the center of the city. Deal each player two actions cards and the chosen amount of crown objective cards. You can take more or less depending on how long a game you want. This is entirely up to you but there is a suggestion on the outside of the box, not the rules strangely, to guide you based on player count and desired game length. The crown objective cards will show you a coloured crown that you need to steel from the city and bring back to the forest.
Each player will then place their chosen colour of robber onto an outside red space and the game can begin.
How to play
On your turn, you will roll two dice. The regular six sided movement dice and also a second dice that determines who moves. The movement dice will show an image of a robber, or a robber and a guard with or without a line between them, telling you if you are moving just yourself, yourself and the guards, or yourself or the guards.
Your aim is to move into the central spaces, pick up a coloured key, followed by a crown of the same colour, and then return the crown back to any outside red space in the forest. You will do this for each crown objective card you have. Key first, then crown. Then run away! On your turn, you can play any two action cards you may have to boost your move, before drawing one more action card and the play then passes to the next player.
The components for this game are very nice. Out of the box, you need to add stickers to the guard and thief pawns. But it's fairly simple, although the stickers are not quite sticky enough in truth and do need a good hard press down.
Each thief comes with its own set of three "crowns." These are used to represent specific actions such as hiding or putting a guard to sleep, and they fit nicely onto the top of the pieces. But when done, they do look neat! Look, I even lined the stickers up!
Playing the game is very simple. Like many roll-and-move games, there is limited strategy to be deployed, and a lot of luck based on the die roll. The variety in this game comes from the other movement die which dictates who you can move. In our first few games, we only ever moved ourselves, largely ignoring the guards. Rushing to get the crowns we needed and then out of town! This does not lead to a fun game. Its just a race, with dice rolls determining who wins.
In later games, we realised you did need to mix your movement up, and control the guards too. It is interesting how the guards only move when you as the player wants to move them. And if one player starts to move one or two guards around, in an attempt to scupper your plans, you really need to start thinking about doing the same in retaliation. But in truth, if all players avoid this, you can create a quicker and simpler, but also quite dull game. However, if all players embrace the guards, then there is a LOT more game here.
There are 12 ways in and out of the city, and the game gives players four doors you can use to block these. The doors can only be moved or opened with the door card as one of your actions on your turn. You will usually only ever have a couple of cards in your hand and there are only a few door cards, so as much as this is a nice addition, it just doesn't happen enough in the game. Being able to use the doors to block another player is very hard. Even if you do get a card and are able to place one, your opponent can either use a card themselves to move it, or simply move towards another exit which will not be that far away. It will rarely slow down your opponents, if at all. I think you either need more doors, more door cards, or less ways in and out of the city.
I like the idea of messing with the other players though. I just wish this was easier to do in the game, and more encouraged. There are two ways you can fight other players to take their crowns, if they have one, or make a guard do this for you. If you are ever next to another player you can embark in hand to hand combat. Although this is sadly just a dice roll off. Or more interestingly, you can shoot an arrow at another player using a very cool distance measuring system based on your attack die roll.
The issue here is you need to get to one of the orange guard towers and have an arrow action card to do this. The guard towers are located in-between the entrances and exits to the city and so are a little out of the way. With only a D6 to control your movement, every movement space counts. And then of course, if you do sacrifice your movement to move yourself or a guard to a guard tower space, your opponent can anticipate this and simply move out of range, knowing you can only shoot a certain distance. But even if there is no time for that, you still as the attacker need to roll high enough to reach them. The risk/reward just doesn't quite work for me, and so I started to avoid even trying to do this which is a massive shame.
Other action cards available allow you to slow other players down by forcing them to miss a turn, which is a good way to try and shoot someone. Stopping them from running away You can also gain a master key meaning you can claim any colour crown without first picking up the right key from the board. But there is also another card that really makes heading to the guard towers such an avoidable tactic. You can play a card that breaks an opponent's bow before they even shoot but after they commit to trying to fire at you. I understand the designer wanted to give some control to the defending player, but there is so little incentive for the attacking player to even try, this seemed like the wrong choice. We need more cards to help the attacking player, not the defending one.
I love the art though, and the clear, text free cards do look great. It does mean you will use the reference guide in the rule book for the first game to remind you what they all mean. But there are only 12