17 March 2021
Not much to trumpet about
Ganesh, the Indian god of wisdom and prosperity is known for a few things – big ears, a big schnoz, and a great love for abstract resource games. Ganesha, the board game, is all about obtaining his favour by scoring the most points on a beautiful mandala-patterned board.
Components wise, this game is very lovely. Nicely cut plastic gems, various differently patterned boards for different player counts (and day and night), as well as decent jigsaw-like interlocking victory point track that forms a snug ring around the mandala board, make for a reasonably good feeling experience. Also the elephant, cow, monkey and tiger meeples are a pleasing addition.
While it looks great, the game itself a little basic feeling mechanically. Each round players fill the hexagonally tiled altar board with gems, and take turns taking them. Once you have gems in your hand you can place them in your treasury to later score points with, to place them into your destiny slots on your player board. Having a gem in one of these slots allows you to pick up two gems next time, starting with one of the matching colour, and then picking an adjacent gem of any colour. This gives you the picking puzzle of what’s going to remain on the board after your opponents’ turns. Once you have a decent enough haul in your treasury, you can pay a gem of a matching colour, or a yellow gem (a kind of base currency) to place your gems on the mandala board, gaining points equal to the slot you’ve placed it on. The numbers on the board fluctuate, usually from higher to lower, so scoring early can help you race toward points-based victory. Do this for free rounds in a turn, refresh the board and pass the first player marker to your left, and continue until you hit the round limit set by the player count, and then see who has won.
It’s not a bad game by any means, but personally an abstract game has to come with a certain amount of conflict between players. Abstraction is a good way to produce gameplay that really is between the players, and not, instead, about the characters on the board or the cards. A game can become a duel or a sport in this way. Ganesha is lacking in this feeling.
Here there is a dry Eurogame level of interaction, i.e. ‘oi, I wanted that’. This makes for a very relaxing game, but not one that demands a lot of spice across the table. Winning and losing doesn’t feel particularly like victory or defeat, even though there are points where one player can roar ahead to a nearly unbeatable lead.
The fun all happens in making sure you plan ahead to free up your divinity spaces later in the game, so high-scoring gem colours can be cashed in. In that, there’s a pleasant puzzle, but not much more.
Christopher John Eggett
PLAY IT? MAYBE
A pretty enough abstract resource drafting game that is a little let down by its lightness. If an abstract suits your group, it could be a relaxed Sunday evening kind of game.
TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Mandala
If you liked the head to head push and pull of Mandala but want some lighter for a larger group, you might find it in Ganesha.
Designer: Maxim Istomin
Publisher: CrowD Games
Time: 20 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 4 Destiny tiles
- 3 Mandala boards
- 1 Ganesha’s Alter board
- 1 Scoring track
- 4 Player pawns
- 60 Plastic gems
- 1 gem bag
- 1 First player token
- 8 Spice tokens
This feature originally appeared in Issue 53 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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