Incan Gold – Review

Design by:  Alan Moon and Bruno Faidutti
Published by:  Gryphon Games
3 – 8 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

I’ve always been a big fan of Sid Sackson’s Can’t Stop.  The push-your-luck aspect of the game creates a tense and exciting experience, as a player hopes to get lucky with the right roll to keep going.  It is a terrific, light game that appeals to just about everyone.  So what does Can’t Stop have to do with Incan Gold?  The push-your-luck aspect, which is why I find the game so fun to play.

Incan Gold is the reincarnation of Diamant, which was originally released by Schmidt Spiele in Europe.  This new version published by Gryphon Games has been revamped and turned into a pure card game.  Gone are the meeples, board and nifty mining carts.  All of these components were certainly superfluous, but they still added atmosphere and helped the game feel like more than just a card game.  This new version adds artifacts to the proceedings, which does make the decision to run or stay more difficult.

Designed by Alan Moon and Bruno Faidutti, Incan Gold entices players to enter mysterious and dangerous Incan ruins in search of precious gems and artifacts.  The dangers are numerous, but fabulous treasure awaits the bold.  Stay too long, however, and all treasures will be lost.  Perhaps if you keep going just a bit longer, you can uncover a mother lode of precious gems.  However, there are significant dangers, so remaining too long could result in disaster.  When do you decide to run from the tunnels, taking your treasure – and those left behind – with you?  These decisions help make Incan Gold tense and fun.

Players will enter and explore the tunnels and passages of five ruins.  The procedure for exploring each ruin is the same.  The ruin card is revealed, displaying the artifact that might be discovered hidden in the tunnels. It is then shuffled into the deck.  One-by-one, cards are revealed and placed face-up, forming a path.  A card will either be treasure, an artifact or a hazard.  If it is treasure, the amount listed is divided evenly amongst the players, with any remainder being placed on the card.  The treasure can be a small amount – one or two gems – or a mother lode consisting of over a dozen gems.  If it is an artifact, it is placed on the path.  If it is a hazard … well, more on that in a bit.

After each card is revealed and placed … and any treasures divided … all players must decide whether they are going to remain in the ruin or dash for the exit, returning to their camp.  They do this by simultaneously revealing either a torch (stay) or camp (run) card.  Players who run take the gems they have gained, splitting any gems that were left on the cards along the path.  If only one player runs, he gets it all, including any artifact card(s) on the path.  Treasures are stored in the players’ tents.  Those who opt to remain in the tunnel continue on the journey.
What about those hazards?  There are five types of perils – spiders, snakes, mummies, etc. – each with three cards in the deck.  When the first hazard of a particular type is revealed, nothing happens, and the hazard card is added to the path.  However, when the second hazard of a particular type is revealed, disaster strikes.  All players remaining in the ruin lose all treasures they have collected from that location and the round ends.  Only those who had previously run from the ruin get to keep the treasures they collected.  This second hazard card is removed from the game, reducing the odds of that particular hazard appearing again.

Play continues in the fashion for each of the five ruins.  After all ruins have been explored, players tally the value of all gems and artifacts in their camps.  The first three artifacts collected are worth five points apiece, while the remaining two are worth ten points apiece.  Their appearance certainly makes dashing from a ruin quite attractive.  The player with the greatest value of treasure is victorious.

There is not much strategy to the game, but it is not designed to be a strategy game.  It is designed to be a light, fun filler, and it is exactly that.  There is considerable tension when players decide to run or stay.  The turn of each card causes anxiousness, which morphs into outbursts of relief or despair when the card is finally revealed.  It is push-your-luck fun played in 20 – 30 minutes.

Incan Gold is easy to learn and plays quickly, everything a fun filler should be.  What’s more, the game has proven popular with just about everyone with whom I’ve played, both gamers and non-gamers.  My only real complaint is the removal of the board, meeples and mine carts.  Of course, there really weren’t any mine carts used to explore Incan ruins!  Still, while those components aren’t really necessary, they gave the original version of the game a more professional feel.  Regardless, I am happy to see the game gain wider distribution, even in its more streamlined state.  So what say you?  Are you bold enough to brave the horrors of the ruins in hopes of becoming fabulously wealthy?  Are you ready to grab your share of Incan Gold?

Comments from other Opinionated Gamers:

Dale Yu: My kids and I love this version.  We have played it a number of times in the past month, and it has become one of our “go-to” games.  In fact, the entire line of Gryphon small box games – Incan Gold, For Sale, Botswana, High Society, Gem Dealer, etc. – have become a compact traveling game kit for the boys and I.

The boys simply love the push-your-luck aspect of the game. One big reason is because they never “feel out the game” since it only takes one lucky expedition to take a ginormous bunch of gems back to base camp.

From my perspective, I think that the component quality is great, and I don’t mind the lack of board and carts.  In fact, for us, it’s probably better that they are not included in the game as it helps keep the size of the game small which is a boon for its portability.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue: I really like this game that fits very well for group of kids. I’m used to play it during games laboratory at school with kids from 7 to 10 and it is always a great success. Great game.

Ted Cheatham:  I have only played Diamant but, am a huge fan as a filler for lots of folks.

Mark Jackson: I’ve played Diamant/Incan Gold with kids as young as six, gamers jaded by the Cult of the New & non-gamers into their sixties… and all of them had a wonderful time. It’s fast & packed full of “cheer/groan” moments. It’s also a little like potato chips – it’s seldom that we play just one game of Incan Gold.

I do miss the trappings (mine carts, meeples, board) in the new version – but it does make the game more affordable & more portable… two good things.

Matt Carlson:  I have only played the Gryphon Games version (so I don’t miss any “trappings” of previous versions), but it has been a huge hit everywhere I’ve brought it for the past few years.  I love to show it to non-gamers or newer gamers as they can quickly pick up how to play and enjoy it.  It becomes a bit of a crap shoot in terms of strategy as the game changes significantly depending on the number of players and their playing style.  (You always need to go out just before everyone else if they like to stay in too long, or be risky and stay in way long if they like to go out early.)  Thus, with less experienced (and thus less predictable) gamers the game can be awfully “swingy” where one person stays in far longer than they “should” and ends up with an insurmountable lead early in the game – good thing the game plays fast.

One comment I want to share is that I entirely ignore the cards that declare whether a player continues or wimps out.  I simply narrate the game, count “one, two, three, SHOW” and have people slam their hand on the table either flat (to show they’re out) or with their fist with thumb up (to show they’re continuing).  This keeps the focus of the players up, the game moving quickly, and the tensions higher.  Otherwise (especially with AP or new players) the game can get a bit slow.  With this pace, I can get through one or more games quite quickly (I can get through two games in a half hour), even with new players.  Incan Gold is high on my list of go-to games, and probably number 1 for a larger group (6 or more) of non-gamers.

Erik Arneson: This is one of my all-time favorite games. The bluffing element and the press-your-luck element are perfectly tuned to generate wild cheers of victory and agonizing groans of despair. Incan Gold is exactly what a game should be: a boatload of fun every time you play it.

Fraser McHarg: A great game, I must say I prefer the Diamant version with the carts (no board in ours though) and doing the stay or go with the meeple, but it doesn’t affect the overall game.

Melissa Rogerson: This is one of my “perfect 5 games” that I think should be in every primary school. Maybe when I win the lottery. There’s the wonderful maths element of dividing (sharing) – and handling remainders, and more sophisticated players can start to assess risk rather than just playing blind (of course, this doesn’t always work). With children under about 10, I find it works best with an adult “managing” the game – playing the cards, supervising treasure distribution (although the children should still say what they think they are owed!). Don’t think that it’s “just” a game for kids or families, though: even the most cut-throat gamer will enjoy a quick temple run or three. And of course – the most important element of all – it’s just plain fun, especially once there’s cheering (whether for the gems or the hazards of course depends on whether you are in or out). We never manage to stop at just one game.


4 (Love it): Andrea “Liga” Ligabue, Dale Yu, Ted Cheatham, Mark Jackson, Matt Carlson, Erik Arneson, Melissa Rogerson
3 (Like it): Greg Schloesser
2 (Neutral):
1 (Not for me):

About gschloesser

Greg Schloesser is the founder of the Westbank Gamers and co-founder of the East Tennessee Gamers. He is also a prolific reviewer of games and a regular contributor to numerous gaming publications and websites, including Counter, Knucklebones, Boardgame News, Boardgame Geek, Gamers Alliance and many others. Greg has been a gaming enthusiast his entire life, growing up in our hobby mainly on the war game side. His foray onto the internet exposed him to the wonderful world of German and European games and now nearly all of his gaming time is devoted to this area of our hobby. He travels to several gaming conventions each year and is the co-founder of Gulf Games, a regional gaming get-together held in the Southern USA. Greg was born in 1961 and lived his entire life in New Orleans before moving to East Tennessee in 2005. He is married and has one daughter (now married.)
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12 Responses to Incan Gold – Review

  1. huzonfirst says:

    I somehow missed it when Greg posted this article for us to review, so let me add my opinion in the Comments section.

    I’m afraid I’ll have to play the role of curmudgeon and rate this as “Neutral”. It’s a pleasant enough game, but it pales in comparison to the true king of Push Your Luck games, which, of course, is Can’t Stop. The difference is that in the Sackson classic, it isn’t easy to figure out whether it makes sense to risk continuing or take your winnings and end your turn. There’s a lot of things to consider, including your opponents’ positions, which columns you’re in, and so on. Plus, there’s the wonderful opportunity to trash talk and egg on the other players while they’re rolling. In fact, Can’t Stop is almost as much fun to kibitz as it is to play.

    In contrast, in Incan Gold it’s very easy to figure out the odds of success or failure on the next turn in your head. Thus, the tension comes down to estimating how many people will decide to bail and that just isn’t as enjoyable a process to me. The game often comes down to someone getting lucky with a 50/50 decision, which is also a negative. As I said, it’s a reasonable game, but I can’t imagine suggesting it while Can’t Stop is available to play.

    • Fraser says:

      Although Can’t Stop and Incan Gold are both at their heart Push you Luck games I see them as quite different aspects of Push your Luck and to me they play quite differently.

      In Can’t Stop you are aiming to be the first to win and you are playing more against yourself and the dice as opposed to the other players. By “playing against yourself” it is choosing when to stop rolling, which is where the whole name of the game comes in to play :-)

      In Diamant/Incan Gold (more specifically DIamant I suppose, since that is what I play), you are playing against the caverns and the cards, but it is much more of a competition against other players than Can’t Stop is, both in who will stay and who will go and if you make it to that enviable spot of being the only person left in the cavern, how long you will stay!

      One other difference, I don’t think I would want to play Can’t Stop with more than three or four players, but will happily play Diamant/Incan Gold with twice that number.

  2. Doug says:

    Larry, the problem with Can’t Stop is it doesn’t know when to stop. Each time I play it, I have fun for 20 minutes, then start thinking “okay, it can end now” for the next 20 minutes. I’d much, much rather play Diamant (never thought I’d say that about a Faidutti game!). Exxtra, Heckmeck, and several others have forced both of these out of my collection.

  3. huzonfirst says:

    Doug, your games of Can’t Stop last 40 minutes? That seems kind of long.

  4. Doug says:

    I agree!

  5. Ryan B. says:

    I wish I had bought Diamant three years ago in Switzerland. It’s a good game. But what I like here is that you took time to review it, at least. I realize a bit better now that Opinionated Gamers is going to report on Euro Games without too much in the way of diversification. And pretty much that’s that. But it is still nice to see games like this get reviewed… although people who like party games anymore probably are forced to and the like to find significant exposure for review purposes… and I’m finding that about the only way to gain a sense of what those games are about and how good they are.

    • Greg Schloesser says:

      Not so, Ryan. I have reviewed numerous party games and have a few more that will be appearing here soon. My review of Ticked Off should appear in the next week or so, as will my review of Crappy Birthday. Stay tuned!

  6. Ryan B. says:

    Hi Greg,

    Sorry, I just meant the website in general. But given the probable reading audience, I will admit it is understandable.

    Anyway… yes, I know you do good percentage of your reviews around party games. Which is awesome. Of course, I wish you would write more articles and reviews… but I certainly understand the demands on time. : ) By all means, keep your reviews coming because I am happy to be wrong in my premise. Besides, when you write, its a win/win for everyone. I’ll look for the “Ticked Off” review.

    A question for you– Buffalo Games seems to do a lot of fun stuff with party games nowadays. I am one of the event organizers for a really fun group here in Seattle that is pretty big into the whole “party” game genre. Their games seem to be popular our group. I would love to get your thoughts on Likewise, Gotcha and Truth be Told? And I can’t remember who makes Sounds like a Plan. Gamewright, perhaps? But that would be another interesting one to review too. : )

    Just throwing out ideas. Cheers!

    • Greg Schloesser says:

      Hey, Ryan! I have played several Buffalo Games titles. Of the three you mention, though, I have only played Truth be Told. I wrote a review of the game awhile back. Sadly, I found the game to be a rehash of other, better party games.

      I’ll have to post that review again here.

  7. Ryan B. says:

    By the way, by “probable reading audience” I just mean strategy gamers and people who are into heavier weight games.

  8. jeffinberlin says:

    Larry has a point that Can’t Stop has a bit more to think about, but it’s also true that it can drag–especially if all the players push their luck too much and make little progress. In Diamant/Incan Gold, the game is guaranteed to end quickly–and it is a tiny bit more accessible to non-gamers, making it a great fit for just about any crowd.

    I have Diamant and like the theme and overproduction–but I also have the Franjos version of Can’t Stop with the leather mountain board and large mountain climber pieces, as that theme appeals to me the most (much better than a stop sign!).

    Both games are on a “must have” list I’m putting together for a friend, but if he had to choose, I’d recommend Diamant for its accessibility.

  9. Ryan B. says:

    That’s right Greg…. you DID do a review of Truth Be Told. I read it… guess I’ll have to re-read it!

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