Seas of Gold

The Italian Maritime Republics in the Era of the Crusades, 1100-1350


The Italian Maritime Republics in the Era before the Renaissance

Summary: Seas of Gold is a game for two to five players. The game consists of four rounds, and lasts 30-45 minutes per player depending on  their experience. The first game played will, of course, take longer.

The game broadly represents the situation in the Mediterranean from 1100 to 1350 AD. Each player controls an Italian maritime republic at a time when those states were expanding their trade and military holdings in the entire Mediterranean Sea. They were also laying the groundwork and then entering the Renaissance, which begins during the last part of the game.

In general, the game includes the following characteristics of “Euro” style games:

         Players have relatively few reasonable choices in each turn

         The only element of chance is in the draw of Event Cards

         Uncertainty of information

         No player elimination

         Intervals between playing ("down time") are short

         There are not many pieces--cards, counters, etc.--for a player to manipulate in a given turn

         Great visual interest

Brief description of play: Players are trying to accumulate money, control islands, and promote culture. They plan ahead to allocate Action Cards that govern what they can do in a turn. They can use Event Cards, armies, fleets, trade, taxes, and support of culture, to gain their objectives. There can be negotiations, but only at the table in public. The expectation is that at times there will be cooperation between players, at other times conflict. The most successful player (the one who has the most points) at the end of five rounds wins the game. Warfare often is not the path to victory, but it is difficult to avoid conflict. . .

The strategic component of the game is the Action Cards. A player must choose five cards and place them face down before each Round starts. He plays them in order as a Round progresses. Each card offers different possible actions.

Components: 55 Event Cards. 50 Action cards. Five 8" by 11" "player layout" sheets. One board approximately 17 by 22 (can be made smaller). Approximately 200 plastic/wooden pieces including coins, trade markers, culture markers, control markers, armies, and fleets. One die (d6) is included to determine order of play, and to indicate trade chip value.

Competition: Some games use a "committed intent" system of action cards, but are generally more complex and longer than Seas of Gold. Few games offer a variety of viable strategies, both peaceful and bellicose. I have learned of no game that can be said to be "much like Seas of Gold". As it could be characterized as a cross between a Euro game and a light wargame, there is not a lot of competition in that category.

Expansion/series possibilities: There are optional rules, but I don't see possibilities for separate expansion packs modifying the game. However, the system lends itself to a series of games. I am presently working on Viking Gold: Raiders, Traders, and Settlers, 800-1100; Stars of Gold: Exploration, Expansion, and Exploitation of the Galaxy; and Lands of Gold: European Colonization in the Age of Discovery, 1500-1700. Each is significantly different from Seas, but clearly related to it.