A preview copy of Geode was provided by District 31 in return for an honest preview of the game. We do not accept payment for any of our content.
It’s a strange time in reviewer land. Just before lockdown I received a bunch of games from various companies to work through, and I had just started getting to them. Top of that list was Geode from District 13, which I had almost wrapped up playing as the bolts went down. The designer, Stuart Garside, is going ahead with the Kickstarter launch so I owe it to him, and to you, to put pen to paper and give you my two cents.
A Diamond in the Rough?
Geode is the second game out of District 13, the first being Ember that I reviewed way back at the start of my “journalism career”. Putting you in the shoes of members of the World Geology Society, you hike into lands undiscovered in search of precious gems. All this is preamble for a fairly straightforward tile laying game for 2-5 players, where players are looking to dig up the largest and most valuable gems they can.
On an imaginary 8×8 grid you will lay down square tiles, each one of which has 4 gem parts in the corners, forming glistening geodes as you put the grid together. When you manage to complete one you grab a contract from the piles at the side based on the value of the geode. These contracts have a range of values on their back, but this is not what we are truly interested in. On the front they have a definite value, that if you can manage to score will give you a bunch of points at the end.
Contracts give you points values to aim for, shaping the course of the grid and your game as you try and wrangle your tiles into precious point pinatas. Since only one person can complete each geode there is an element of a race here as you try and outdo your fellow spelunkers, maneuvering to block their attempts as you try and carve out your own. Over the course of the games I played I discovered that mainpulating the board in such a way as to make sure you can complete gems on your turn, seemed to be the main route to victory.
One of the issues I did find on my playthroughs was that although you picked up objectives via the contracts, it was quite hard to try and fulfill them, coming more down to luck than skill. I could see the shape of a strategy but with only 2 tiles in hands it was hard to plan ahead. Now that said, the designer has put out a rules update, which has made its way into the final game, where you would have a number of tiles equal to the number of players. I could definitely see this improving your ability to plan ahead, but unfortunately it came just as lockdown hit, so I haven’t been able to verify if this would ameliorate my concerns.
Shine like a Diamond
Geode may not be the deepest game ever, but it’s a perfectly fine tile layer that is quick to teach, easy to learn, and plays quickly. I can absolutely see it making into collections as a quick filler game and being a good one to play with kids if you want to get some arithmetic into your games. The game is live on Kickstarter soon.