Dale Yu: Essen Preview of Order of the Gilded Compass


Order of the Gilded Compass

  • Designers: Jeffrey D. Allers & Bernd Eisenstein
  • Publisher: Grey Fox Games
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3 with new version provided by Grey Fox, 10+ of old version

[As a disclaimer, one of the designers (Jeff Allers) is a member of the Opinionated Gamers, and he did not see this review until it was published.]



Order of the Gilded Compass is a new 2016 re-release of the seven year old Alea Iacta Est.  I really wish that I had written a review of that game back then because then I could have cut-and-pasted most of that review into this one and saved myself plenty of time this week.  In this new version of this beloved dice allocation game, players take on the role of a Treasure Hunter trying to be successful enough to join the super secretive society, the Order of the Gilded Compass.

In the setup, players always set up the three A buildings – the University, Archives and Library.  Then, one out of two B buildings is chosen, and then one out of the four C buildings is placed on the table.  All of the accompanying bits for the chosen buildings are also retrieved from the box.    It’s probably a good idea to go over the rules for the B and C buildings in play at this time.  Each player gets their own colored set of eight dice as well as a single Re-roll token.

Gameplay is quite simple – played over five identical rounds.  When your turn comes around, you take all your available dice and roll them.  Then, you place one or more of them onto one of the five buildings in play.  Once a die is on a building, it is there for the rest of the round.  Each of the buildings has specific rules that dictate what combinations of dice are legal to be played there – the rules are summarized at the bottom of each building tile.  Once a single combination of dice is placed on a building, your turn is over and the next player rolls his remaining dice and does the same.  This pattern continues until any player has placed all of his dice on buildings.  The current round is completed (so that all players have the same numbers of turns in this round) and then the buildings are evaluated.

The A buildings

The A buildings

The buildings are always evaluated in the same order – the B building, the Archives, the C building, the University and the Library.  (Again, the three A buildings will be available in every game).

An example setup might be

Auction House (B) –

PLACEMENT:  dice are placed here in runs (i.e. 1-2-3-4).  You can even place a single die as a run of 1.  If you have previously placed dice, you can add more dice to the sequence to extend it – but again you cannot make an identical run to another already placed on the tile.   You may only ever have one run on this tile.

RESOLUTION: The longest run is the best one here. Ties go to the one with the higher number.  The best run draws 3 Artifact tiles from the supply and keeps 2 of them.  Second best takes 2 tiles and chooses 1 to keep.  All dice from non-winning players are moved to the Library

SCORING:  At the start of the game, each player was dealt a tile that tells you which artifact type is most preferred (Worth 4VPs) and which is next preferred (2 VP).  All other artifacts are worth 1 VP.  At the end of the game, you score your collected artifacts based on this scoring rubric.


Archives (A) –

PLACEMENT: dice are placed here in sets (singles, pairs, trips, etc).  On a later turn, you can add onto a previously placed group to enlarge it.  You can also place a second set here.  In all cases, you may never place a set that is identical to another set on the tile.

RESOLUTION: At the start of each round, four Ancient Map tiles are flipped up and placed next to the Archives.  The group with the most dice at the end of the round will get to choose any of the available Ancient Map tiles.  Ties go to the group with a higher die face showing.  Continuing down in order, the next best set takes an Ancient Map tile.  This continues until all Map tiles are gone or there are no sets of player dice left.  Any dice placed here which did not collect an Ancient Map tile are then moved to the Library.

SCORING: At the end of the game, each Ancient Map tile is scored – Each one has two scoring values on it.  You will score the higher value if there is at least one Specialist assigned to this map tile.  You will get these Specialists from the University – more on this later.  If you do not have a Specialist assigned to the tile, you will instead score the lower value.


Sunken Galleon (C) –

PLACEMENT: The first player to place here can place any single die.  When he does, he takes one facedown Sunken Chest tile.  The next player to place here must place one more die than the previous group (i.e. two), and the sum of the pips must be more than that of the previous group.  He will then take a number of facedown tiles equal to the number of dice placed.  There is no limit to the number of groups that can be placed here.  The same player can place multiple, and even consecutive, groups here.

RESOLUTION: At the end of the round, the player with the most dice on the Sunken Galleon can keep any two of his Sunken Chest tiles.  All other players with at least one die in the Sunken Galleon can keep any ONE Sunken Chest tile.

SCORING: At the end of the game, each collected Chest tile is worth the number of VPs depicted on the tile – they vary from one to three VPs.


University (A) –

PLACEMENT:  At the start of the game, the number of spaces in the University is determined by the player count – in a 4p game, there are 6 spaces.  Then, in the game, players can either place any single die here OR any pair of dice so long as their sum equals 5 (i.e. 1-4 or 2-3).  Dice are placed in ascending order from left to right.  New dice are always placed to the leftmost legal spot, pushing all other dice to the right.  Dice that move off of the right of the University are then placed in the Library.  

RESOLUTION: At the beginning of the round, a number of specialist tiles are revealed, equal to the number of spaces in the University.  There are two types, Cartographers and Excavators.  The owner of the leftmost die chooses any available specialist, and then can choose to assign it to an Ancient Map tile of matching type.  Each Ancient Map tile can accommodate one Cartographer and one Excavator.  This continues going rightward through the University until all dice placed collect a tile.  If there are any Specialist tiles left over, they are discarded face-up on the table.

SCORING: Each specialist tile is worth between 1 and 3 VP, but they only score points if they are assigned to a matching Ancient Map tile.


Library (A)

PLACEMENT: Any single die can be placed here.  If you are unable to place dice legally in any of the other buildings, then you must place a die here on your turn – though you could voluntarily choose to place here.  Additionally, dice placed on other tiles which do not score during resolution will be moved here as well.

RESOLUTION:  Everybody “wins” here.  Each die placed here will provide its owner with a Re-roll token.  This token can be spent at any time on your turn to allow you re-roll any or all of your dice.  There is no limit to the number of times that you can re-roll on a given turn so long as you have enough of the re-roll tokens to spend.

SCORING: If you have any re-roll tokens left over at the end of the game, you score 1VP for every 2 Re-Roll tokens that you have left.


Again, the game ends at the end of five rounds.  Each of the tokens and chits collected in the game score based on the rules of the different buildings.  There is no tiebreaker rule.

My thoughts on the game

I always liked Alea Iacta Est – it was a great dice placement game which gave you plenty of choices in a short amount of time.  The new version is a nice improvement on the original.  You can pretty much play the original version, but you definitely have much more opportunity for variety in the Order of the Gilded Compass because you have different B and C buildings to choose from.  We’ve now played with almost all of the buildings, and I can definitely say that some of the different buildings will change the way that you play the game. At the start of each game, it’s probably best to make sure that people understand the rules for the buildings in the game.

You have to be fairly flexible with your plans – you are forced to place at least one die each turn, and it’s quite likely that you can’t control the outcome of the dice. (If you can, maybe you should give up boardgames and head to Vegas to play craps!)  There are a lot of points to be scored from the Ancient Maps and the specialists, but you have to be able to match them up in order to maximize your score.  There are plenty of these available each turn, so it’s likely that you’ll have some of each by the end of the game.  The scoring rules of the other buildings may help determine how much attention you put on these as opposed to your other options.

I like the catchup mechanism in the Library.  Dice which are placed but do not otherwise score will grant those players re-roll tiles.  Having these tiles can give you more opportunities to get the combination that you desire to improve your chances of scoring in future rounds.  You could alternatively save the re-roll tokens to score at the end of the game, but you will generally do better by using them to improve your placements in other places.

There is a lot of stuff in the box…  There were 10 full punchboard sheets filled with counters because many of the different buildings need their own set of chits/counters/etc.  The artwork is quite nice – done by a team of four artists that I have not heard of before.  Iconography is well done, and generally all players are able to follow the idea of each building from the icons.


Order of the Gilded Compass is an improvement over the original version.  Though I no longer own Alea Iacta Est, if I did, this new version would easily replace it.  The thematic art is more my style, and frankly, it was hard to get non-gamers to play a game based around poop.  I know that the Germans (and the Japanese) love their poop games, but it’s a hard sell over here… But, trying to get people to play a dice game about exploring?  Sure, that’s an easy sell.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Chris Wray:  I played this once at Gen Con, and I’ve played Alea Iacta Est quite a few times.  I agree with Dale’s comments.  I’m not much of a fan of dice allocation, but this game works exceptionally well.  This is an improvement over the game’s predecessor, so much so that I recently traded away my copy of Alea Iacta Est with the intent of buying Order of the Gilded Compass.  The new artwork is especially striking.  The only thing I really miss about Alea Iacta Est is the name… I consider it one of the most cleverly-named board games of all time…


Larry:  I’ve yet to play Gilded Compass, but I’ve played Alea Iacta Est quite a few times, so my comments will be based on the original game.  It’s a good design with some clever rules, but it suffers from a common ailment of dice games:  downtime.  There’s nothing you can do during other players’ turns and the rules for the different buildings are sufficiently varied that it takes a little bit of time to figure out your optimal play.  Even if you roll ahead of time, your choice usually depends on the other players’ actions, so the game can drag a bit.  Not enough to keep me from playing, but it’s sufficient to keep it from being a favorite.  Even though it’s a solid game, there are other titles from Jeff and Bernd that I prefer.  That said, if someone wanted to play it, I’d happily join in.  And I’m almost certain I’ll have the same reaction to Gilded Compass when I get the chance to try it.


Mark Jackson: Like Larry, I haven’t had the chance to play Gilded Compass yet, but I’ve enjoyed Alea iacta est over the years and am excited that (a) it will be back in print and (b) that the improvements Dale has noted will make it even better!


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Chris W.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…


About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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