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Find Your Cache in Geode from District 31


Find Your Cache in Geode

Designer:  Stuart Garside & Theo Clarke
Artists: Bellafquih Mohammed
Publisher: District 31
Year Published: Kickstarter May 2020
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 5+
Playing Time: 15-30 minutes

Find more information on BoardGameGeek.com 

Review:
Geode is a competitive tile matching game in which players create complete geodes of matching colors to earn scoring opportunities at the end of the game. 

The world of Geode is set in 1922 with players as members of the fictitious World Geology Society sent on a mission to explore a new land called Europa, full of minerals and gemstones. Your job is to place tiles to create matching geodes in order to gain contracts on completed geodes which in turn score victory points. The winner is the one with the most matching contracts earning victory points at the end of the game. 

Setup:
Geode comes with a number of tiles as well as 5 colors of 8 player markers and a first player token. Set up begins by shuffling the 80 exploration tiles and forming two face-down stacks. The 34 contract tiles are arranged 5 stacks based on their value on the back. Scores range from 4-6 in one stack to the largest numbers of 18-20 in another stack. Take one tile from each of the five stacks and place it face-up below that stack. 

Each player chooses a player color and places them in front of them on the table. The number of markers varies based on the player count of 2 to 5. 

Players then take turns drawing Exploration tiles until each player has tiles equal to the number of players, which are kept hidden from the rest of the players. Lastly, the first player draws the first tile and places it onto the table, face up, to start the 8x8 grid of Exploration tiles. 

Players are now ready to begin the game. 

Gameplay:
Beginning with the first player, each player takes one turn in an attempt to match one of their two tiles to one of the face-up Exploration tiles within the 8x8 grid. Each tile must be placed adjacent to another face-up Exploration tile within the grid. Tiles cannot be placed diagonally. 

Geodes are complete once four Exploration tiles have been placed and the corners of all four Exploration tiles have matching colors. When a player completes a Geode, that player places one of their player markers in the center of that Geode, claming it as their own. Next, the player chooses to draw any face-down contract tile available. This Contract tile is then kept secret from the other players and is used for scoring at the end of the game. The more Contract tiles drawn, the more opportunities for scoring each player gets. Players may forego placing tiles and discard both of their current tiles to draw new ones. 

Instead of placing an Exploration tile, each player has three Bonus tiles which can be used to gain edges in gameplay. Some Bonus tiles allow you to play two Exploration tiles and Draw two Exploration tiles, while others can "block" game play on the 8x8 grid, preventing your opponents from getting that big score and putting a void in three corners of the Exploration tile. 

Lastly, each player will draw another Exploration tile to their hand at the end of their turn, giving them as many options as number of players at the start of each round. 


In rare cases, Exploration tiles may not be legally matched or placed. If so, players draw Exploration tiles until they find one they can play immediately. The new drawn tiles are also kept hidden and must be played immediately upon subsequent turns. If so, players will have the opportunity to place multiple tiles on those following turns. 

The end of the game, and scoring, occurs when a player has placed their last player marker or the Exploration stack is empty. Each player will get an equal number of turn. 

Scoring is based upon the Contract tiles, which has the following bits of information- Size, Gold, and Silver. Each Exploration tile has a number on each corner, and each completed Geode is sized based on the sum of the four numbers. If one of your Geodes Sum (Size) matches the Contract tile with the same Size, then you gain the points shown in Gold. If the sum of a Geode doesn't match a Contract tile, then the Contract is worth it's value in silver. Players can choose to take the face-up Contract tile or draw the top face-down contract tile.

The winner is the player with the most Gold and Silver Guineas (Victor Points) after totaling all of your Contract tiles. 

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme of geologists exploring a mineral rich land comes through in Geode. Although Geode is an abstract game of pattern and matching of tiles, you do feel as if you are getting your hands dirty digging through rocky ground finding valuable Geodes. This comes as players draw from the Exploration tile and also deciding which tile to play to the 8x8 grid. 
As geologists, you've been given specific contracts to fill, and as you gain more contracts, you do feel like you are exploring and making decisions in order to fill those contracts. Filled contracts (the sum of the Geode matches the Sum of the Contract tile) earn you more points so you are constantly looking to place tiles that match those previously acquired contracts. 

Geode is an abstract game and does it's best to create a world and theme in which players create verisimilitude as they play. The tension builds as the 8x8 grid gets more and more full as you compete against other players to get the best positioning- Higher summed Geodes score higher points on Contract tiles. As my family and I played, we began creating this world of Geode, imagining it as clockwork- Victorian era of discovery and imagination. Even though Geode is set in the 1920s, we built our own world around the gameplay, drawing upon our imaginations and excitement. A few take-that moments occurred as one player placed an Exploration tile where another player anticipated a future placement. 

Artwork and Components: 
The game is mostly tiles with 8 player tokens in five differing colors. Each Exploration tile has colorful Geodes on each corner allowing the tiles to form completed Geodes once four corners are touching. The Geodes do look like Geodes as can be found in real life. The numbers used to size up each Geode are easy to read and don't take away from the visual beauty of the Geodes. 

Each contract tile has three clearly detailed pieces of information with a different shape and / or color depicting those pieces of information- Geode Size and Guineas in silver and gold. 

The 8x8 grid, once laid out, is visually interesting, but, you can get lost as the grid gets bigger and bigger if you are someone who loses track of things on a board. The back of the Contract tiles show the ranges of Sizes and the Exploration tiles have a wax seal on the back. 

Artwork helps exude theme in this game and the game could have been created with a more abstract feel to it. The publisher has done a good job creating that atmosphere and tension as players draw, place, and collect tiles throughout the game.

The Good:
Geode is a tight game with clear, simple rules allowing families to play together, but, with a little take-that, older more competitive groups should have a good time playing as well. 

With clear rules, few components, and some additional options in gameplay, a wide variety of gamers should feel at home exploring the world of Geode and building their own imaginary world as geologists exploring a new land.

Geode can work as quick game before diving into a heavier game, when you have a little bit of time and want to get in a quick game, or as an opportunity to play the best out of three.  District 31 and the designers have done a great job pulling this tile placing and pattern matching game to fruition. 
The Other:
As the game has elements of luck in regard to drawing Exploration tiles as well as drawing Contract tiles, the designer has done a good of giving players options- Players will always have two tiles in hand in which to place, and, as the grid gets bigger, there are more possible locations to place those tiles. In addition, as players complete Geodes, they gain more Contract tiles enticing players to complete Geodes with specific values.  However, the Bonus tiles do help alleviate this issue as well, and I think the game will develop to mitigate this as it gets closer to actual production. These player choices don't eliminate the luck within the game, but, it does help mitigate the luck factor. For families of gamers, this should be an issue as it allows all levels of gamers- from novice to expert, to jump in and play. Replayability may be an issue after several games, but, the variety of Exploration tiles and Contract tiles should make each game a different challenge. 
Final Thoughts:
Geode is an interesting little game with great value. I highly recommend that the geologist in all of us take a hard look at Geode and pick it up for some quick light fun or for some deeper strategy at game night.

Players Who Like: 
Players who like abstract pattern-matching games should take well to Geode. There is a very small amount of take that that is mostly mitigated by the random draw of tiles. Some more well-known games that have similarities include Azul, Kingdomino, and Carcassonne. 


Check out Geode and District 31 on:

        


Bob Nolan- EBG Review Manager
Bob Nolan is an avid board gamer, miniature gamer, and miniature hobbyist. He has hundreds, if not
thousands of unpainted miniatures mocking him. Married with two children, he spends his days
working as a school counselor, while his evenings are spent on gaming, freelance writing, editing, and
sometimes as a Kickstarter consultant.

He joined Everything Board Games in February 2020 as the review manager. One of his goals is to
publish a game through an established board game company. He can be reached at
ranolan(at)everythingboardgames(dot)com.

See Bob's articles and reviews and interviews HERE.

Find Your Cache in Geode from District 31 Find Your Cache in Geode from District 31 Reviewed by ranolan on May 13, 2020 Rating: 5

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