Klondike Rush is all about gold. That glorious gorgeous yellow stuff from out of the ground. Nuggets as big as your hand I tell ya. OK I am getting carried away, sorry. Klondike Rush is set in the snow covered peaks of Mount Titan during the great gold rush. Four mining companies are rushing to grab as much cash as possible. But wait reports are coming in of some sort of snow monster.
An abominable snow-beast rampaging through the wilds. As a major investor your fortune is at stake here. Will you hunt down the snow-beast and claim the fat reward? Will you invest in the right companies at the right prices to make the biggest profits? Or will you face bankruptcy and ruin as a pauper.
When you first get your box you will immediately notice the beautiful cover art. It immediately tells you this is a Ryan Laukat and Red Raven Game before you even see the name or logo. The characters have that unmistakable style and everything has that soft almost ethereal quality we have come to expect from games like Above & Below or Near & Far.
Open up and your first surprise is unlike the aforementioned games, this box is not creaking at the seams. In fact you get the following,
- 52 Order cards.
- Five Last Bid cards.
- 60 Money cards (in 1,5,10,20,50 denominations).
- One Snow-beast card.
- Five Profit cards.
- 36 Mining company cards.
- One Town token.
- 35 Hunt tokens.
- 48 Mine miniatures (12 each in four colours).
- One Snow-beast figure (player turn marker).
Panning for gold
Unusually in Klondike Rush, you are not an individual colour like you would expect in most games. Players are in fact investing in all four of the companies throughout the game. Trying to maximise your returns.
At the start of a game, one of each colour mine is placed on the investment track and also on the town token, which has already been placed on a random spot on the board. Hunt tokens are spread randomly onto the remaining spaces. Each player is allocated some cash, a couple of hunt order cards and a profit card (last bid cards are also used in 4-5 player games). Mining cards, remaining order cards, money cards are placed nearby ready for use. Whoever is allocated to be first player is given the Snow-beast (this figure will move around each turn and it is a good idea to help keep track of whose turn it was).
The first player reveals the top mining company card and decides how much he is willing to pay for it. The next player is then allowed to increase the value by a minimum of $1, then the next and so on. Players may pass if they feel the price is too high, BUT (this is the important bit) you are only allowed to bid once! (last bid cards allow extra one use bid in higher player number games).
Thus if A bids 3, B bids 4, C passes and D bids 5. Then player D would get the card and pay the bank 5. So careful consideration of how much you think a card is worth is important. Once a player has bought the card then place any relevant coloured mines onto the card. Play then reverts back to the first player.
Checking the pan
After the initial auction phase a player then has the option to place any mine currently on cards that they have already bought. Mines in Klondike Rush can be placed anywhere on the board that there is a space. At a cost, you choose the spot you want to build on. Then you locate the nearest built mine of the same colour (in the town at the start).
In-between each pair of spaces on the board is an amount. You just total the cost up between the two mines and that is how much it will cost. However if on the spaces in-between the two mines there are other coloured mines adjacent, then the cost between the two adjacent mines is reduced to one allowing for some big savings to be made.
Once you build a mine you immediately take the hunt token from that space and move the relevant coloured mine up one on the investment track. When the last mining company card is purchased, the final round begins all players have one more turn to try to maximise their money.
Hunting the hunter
During a game of Klondike Rush you will start to collect hunt tokens and you will be able to complete orders. When completing your order you can immediately cash in (even out of turn). Alternatively if you feel the need you can cash in three mismatched hunt tokens for $5. At the end of the game the player with the most snow-beast tokens collects the reward ($25).
At the end of a player's turn if they feel the need they can cash in their profit card. This is a one time only deal so needs to be weighed up carefully. When cashing it in remove it from the game. Then total up the value of all red, blue, green and yellow min cards that the player holds and this is their profit. You will all do this again at the end of the game as well a little like mid and end year dividends from stocks and shares.
OK I am going to come right out with it and say I really enjoy Red Raven’s games. Not in a fan-boyish way, more in appreciation of the play style and story being told throughout the game. Klondike Rush is a huge step away from the normal thing fans of Ryan and Red Raven have come to expect. If you go into a game of Klondike Rush expecting more of the same you will be disappointed.
My Thoughts on Klondike Rush
What we have is a hard game hiding underneath gentle art. There is no catch-up mechanism here. Make bad decisions or overpay for mine cards and tough. There is strategy here in surprising amounts. Do you skip a space to get the hunt token you want to complete an order for money, or do you build a camp on the previous space to allow you to claim an extra token and then next turn get the token you want but spend $1-$2 more for an extra token?
In each game the answer may be different. You have to bring your “A” game at all times or you could get crushed by your opponents or the game. Some players might find the game length feels a little long, I think it is very well judged. Unless you manage to bankrupt yourself. Do that and you will be a bystander for the rest of the game.
There is no method of getting more money if you run out and you have used your profit card. It will be your fault not an opponents. This is an easy game to lose but a hard one to win. Do not get me wrong I do think this is fun to play. It is definitely not a game for novice gamers despite the very short and easy to explain rules. If you and your fellow players go into a game of Klondike Rush with the right mindset you will really enjoy the hard thinking. Is that mine card worth $3 or $4? When should I cash in my profit card?
I do see a lot of people being disappointed that this is not like Near & Far. This is different and deserves to be looked at differently. Is it a game that will have a long term home on my shelves? Honestly I am not sure. It is however a perfect choice to take along to games night meet-ups. Now let’s get the board set up, I wont go broke this time!
Tough and Unforgiving game with great art. Easy to learn and teach. Hard to master. Good for occasional play.
Red Raven Games kindly provided me with a copy of Klondike Rush for review purposes. This in no way affects my review or my final thoughts on the game.