Beaver fever, Catscratch fever, Parrot fever, Rabbit fever. Believe it or not, these are names of actual diseases. Gold fever, however is not. The term, which apparently came about during the California Gold Rush, is the name of a new press-your-luck game by designer Daniel Skjold Pedersen. The 2 to 5 player real-time party game from Stronghold Games comes in a wonderfully designed faux-cigar box. Inside you will find five canvas bags and an assortment of plastic gems.
The goal of Gold Fever is to draw all 5 of the gold nuggets from your bag before anyone else does.Sounds easy right? Well, as with real gold mining not every attempt at panning for gold leads to success.
Along with the 5 gold nuggets your bag contains four each of three different types of gravel (white, grey and black), along with an emerald and a ruby. On your turn you pull out one gem at a time and can choose stop whenever you want. But what fun is that? Let the fever take hold and grab just one more gem. Just a piece of gravel this time?No worries, you can keep going.
As you reach inside your bag feeling around, hoping for gold, the rest of the table waits in anticipation of what you will find…will it be gold, will it be more gravel or will be the ruby. And then all of a sudden that shiny red gem arrives on the table and everyone frantically reaches inside their bags trying to find gold.Before you can even get your first gem out you hear, “GOLD!”, and you know that not only have your failed to find gold for yourself but that your turn is over and one of your opponents is one step closer to victory. Oh well, there’s no time to rest, maybe someone else will grab a ruby, so get your hand back inthat bag.
Your turn can end in a few ways. If you pull two of the same colour gravel your turn ends and any gold you had found, along with the gravel, is returned to your bag. However, if you pull two pieces of black gravel, well that’s really bad, as every other player gets to pull one gem out of their bag, if they pull a piece of gravel (any colour)they give it to you and it goes in your bag. Your turn ends whenever you pull a ruby. Once the race for gold is done, whatever you had previously taken out of your bag goes back in. Or at any point during your turn you can choose stop, set aside any gold you collected and pass any gravel (or emeralds) to an opponent who must add it to their bag,
If you pull an emerald though, you are not allowed to end your turn. Instead you are forced to pull two more gems. If you somehow survive those two pulls you can then freely making a decision to stop or keep digging for gold.
When it gets near the end of the game and your opponents are sitting on four gold you will find yourself going against your natural instincts and basic probability and pull one more gem in hope of finding your fifth gold.
Gold Fever is not a very complicated game, but with the right group it can be an exciting and fun filler-game that you can quickly teach your seven-year-old nephew or your 77-year-old grandma. While luck is definitely a dominant factor in the game, there is some strategy of when to stop and when to keep going, along with who to give your gravel to, which sometimes is based more on revenge than rational thought. The fun gets ramped up when someone at the table pull of a highly unlikely victory by pulling gold after gold. I’ve heard the unbelievable tale from friends about how one player pulled five gold on his first turn.
The component quality is solid. I love the box and the gems feel good in your hands. Some copies of the game I’ve seen have had bags where the threads had come off the edges, but not to any degree to make the game unplayable or where the bags appear torn.
While the game is intended for 2-5 players, I have played this several times with larger groups when multiple copies of the game were used. Extending the game to 10 players might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but it worked well the times I saw it done. 10players racing to grab gold after a ruby is drawn adds to the chaotic fun of the game.
I like the mechanic of passing your gravel (and your emerald) to another player when you safely end your turn. It allows for a bit of a catch-up mechanic, because if someone has pulled 4 gold nuggets and everyone else is at 1 or 2, the rest of the table will pile on the leader by tossing them their gravel. And as previously mentioned you can get some immediate payback to someone who just passed you their gravel.
Turns go pretty quickly and the ruby mechanic, along with pulling two black pieces of gravel, means every player is engaged on every other player’s turn, so the 10 to 15minute play time goes by fairly quickly.
If you are anything like me after one play of this game you will come down with a case of Gold Fever and want to immediate play it again.