Players: 3-7 Game Length: Approx. 45 minutes – 1 hour. Age recommendation: 8+.
I love Sundays because there’s honestly nothing better than getting together with my parents, having dinner and then sitting down for a family games night. Our board game collection has therefore expanded exponentially in the last few years and we’ve developed some ‘fam’ favourites and some pretty spectacular no-goes over the years. Many eons (it feels like) ago I wrote a blog post reviewing another board game called Fleeced which is certainly one of the former and not the latter despite how long it seems to take me to re-learn the game on almost every play through; thank goodness for Ben’s magnificent memory!
Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs: A Gemstone Mining Challenge caught my attention because I am always looking to expand our board game collection with anything even remotely associated to Disney and it served as a back handed Christmas present for Ben last year (I think)! At first I had my doubts as the premise is actually fairly simple: The object of the game is to ‘mine’ gems. Each gem stone has a value associated with it and you get bonus points for collecting three of a kind, four of a kind or whatever Snow White requests on any given day.
The game lasts for five rounds, and these are called days. Each day you pick coloured ‘gems’ out of a bag in a lucky dip style fashion, hoping that you don’t pick up any obsidian (black gems) along the way. If you’re unlucky enough to have two obsidian in your mine cart you’re forced to have an accident and thus you end your round without collecting any points. The trick really is knowing when to leave the mine, leaving the mine later rewards you with extra points and extra cards that you can use to make playing the game less of a gamble. This is where the game gets interesting, for the most part it’s really just luck of the draw but if you happen to have the right cards you can force others to give up their gems, force your obsidian onto others or protect your gems from unfortunate circumstances as well as your opponents.
What I like about the game is that at its heart Gemstones is very easy to understand and it’s a lot of fun. Game length really does vary as you could find yourself out of the round very quickly while others can stretch on for a while if you happen to get lucky. There are far more obsidian gems than any other kind though so the longer the round, the more likely you are to find some little rocks of doom. There’s no knack to avoiding gems as it’s all down to luck but I think there’s enough strategy in playing your cards to make the game that much more interesting.
If I had to find a complaint about this one it’s that the pie points seem wholly unnecessary and through playing we’ve found that a pen and paper (or even a smartphone) are much more effective for keeping track of your points, unless of course you’d like to make it more difficult for players to work out who’s actually winning. I’d certainly consider this a family game because as long as you can count you can really play. You’re not going to find yourself challenged here, unless like my dad you are colour-blind and can’t really tell your blues from your purples and your rubies from your topaz!
If you get the chance to play this game it’s definitely worth a shot because despite its simplicity, it’s competitive, well-paced and involving, set-up is fairly easy and it caters for a wide number of players at almost any age.