Ok, so I’m a sucker for dice games. If you read Gameosity, you probably know this. However, that’s not to say that I like all dice games. For every Las Vegas, where the dice add exciting randomness and are smartly used to support meaningful choices, there are a dozen games that just have you plunk down a d6 or two without ever making things more fun for it.
Thankfully, Order of the Gilded Compass falls firmly in the former category. An area-influence/dice placement game at heart, in Order of the Gilded Compass, each player is a treasure hunter, looking for an invitation to join the titular Order. They will do this by securing artifacts, exploring dig sites, and form alliances with individuals of incredible power and influence…
Jess: All done, of course, by rolling and assigning dice.
Each turn, players will toss their handful of six-siders and then assign dice to one of the various building tiles, each of which has different placement rules and rewards. The round continues until one player exhausts their supply of dice. Then each other player has one more roll, after which buildings are each assessed for majority control and rewards are given to the players who have managed to secure them.
Andrew: Based on player count, you will use more and different buildings. All buildings give players some way to claim points, though the scoring mechanisms are different for each type of collected object (and there are too many to reasonably cover here). The following are the core, present in every game.
- The Archives: Here, players compete over Ancient Map tiles. Dice are placed here in sets, and set size is all that matters. When this building resolves, players draw Ancient Maps in order of the size of their sets, largest going first.
- The University: Dice sent to the University must be either a single 5 or two dice which add up to 5. They are placed in numerical order, with lower numbers bumping higher numbers further and further down the track. Any dice that get knocked off completely land in the Library, and on resolution players will go in dice color order, claiming specialist tiles. Specialists get attached to Ancient Maps for big point gains.
- The Library: Where dice go when they can’t go anywhere else, all dice in the Library award players a Knowledge token at the end of the round. These tokens can be spent on future turns to reroll unassigned dice.
Jess: So, Order of the Gilded Compass is actually a really well-polished reimplementation of another game, Alea Iacta Est, which I believe is Latin for ‘Boringly Presented Game’.
Andrew: Yeah, I played the original and despite the fact that I love rolling and placing my precious dice, I did find it decidedly dry. But Order of the Gilded Compass is more than just a shiny reprint – there have been additions made that really help the game along.
Most significantly, Order of the Gilded Compass provides several alternate buildings that can be swapped in and out of the game to add variety. Just as with the core buildings, each of these has unique dice placement mechanics and scoring/resolution options. A few of them are:
- The Auction House: Add dice in sequence to claim artifact tiles, which translate to points based on your secret end-game objective card
- The Treasure Hunters’ Guild: Use dice to gain special mission cards
- The Hidden Temple: Collect magic tools to boost the scores of your specialists
- The Illuminati: Call on these mysterious individuals to gain powerful 1-time use abilities for future turns
Jess: The variety is great! We didn’t even talk about the treasure tower or the sunken galleon. The fact that each one works a little differently and has unique scoring mechanics means there is a lot more replay value here than in the original.
Order of the Gilded Compass plays for a fixed number of turns (5 or 6, based on player count), after which everyone adds up their myriad scoring opportunities and the next admission to the Order of the Gilded Compass is found.
Jess: Yeah, I get it. While you’re always at the mercy of the dice, you generally have several different ways of using what you roll, including expanding previously placed sets or sneakily bumping another player’s dice into the Library. Which itself isn’t even really bad – you get research tokens for that.
Jess: In all fairness, lots of great thinking gets done there.
Order of the Gilded Compass is a beautifully presented, light game. While it is true that the plethora of scoring options can sometimes feel a little too broad, the way your dice will limit your turn-to-turn options actually creates a really effective balancing factor. And while a dice-driven game will inevitably fall victim to the occasional bouts of bad luck ruining a good experience, Order of the Gilded Compass has the goods to stay fresh and entertaining even though its core mechanism is always in the hands of fate.
(Gameosity received a review copy of this title. We were not otherwise compensated.)