Coal Baron is a game designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, published by R & R Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players each own a coal mine. They will be digging up a variety of different types of coal as they try to fulfill contracts. They will also be buying carts and expanding their tunnels. Every time thy complete an order they will gain victory points. After 3 shifts, the player with the most victory points will be declared the winner.
To begin, the main game board is placed in the center of the table. Depending on the number of players, you will cover up a certain amount of spaces as indicated by the rules with Lock tiles. The different types of Coal cubes and Bank notes are separated into different piles. The Tunnel tiles are shuffled and then placed face down beside the board. Tiles are drawn and placed face up on each of the unlocked Tunnel tile spaces on the board. The Shift hand is placed on the leftmost hand outline on the shift clock at the bottom of the board. It will be pointing to the space marked “I”. The Scoring marker is then placed on the leftmost circle of the Shift clock. Players choose a color and are given the Pit board of their chosen color along with a shaft inlay, pit cage and 1 of each of the 4 different types of coal. The inlay is placed in the middle of the Pit board while the Coal cubes are placed on the respective colored minecart on their Pit board. Once again, depending on the number of players, each player will be given a certain number of workers in their chosen color along with a colored victory point marker. This is placed on the “0/100” space on the score track. Players will be given a number of German Marks or Dollars from the Bank, depending on the number of players. The starting player is given the Starting Player marker. Finally all the Order cards are shuffled and placed near the board face down. Depending on the number of players, a certain amount of these cards will be drawn and placed face up below the board. Each player will choose an Order card to take, placing it to the right of their Pit in their Outstanding Orders area. This continues in turn order until each player has 3 cards. The card that wasn’t chosen is placed on one of the order spaces and the remaining 3 spaces are filled by drawing cards from the stack. Play can now begin.
The game consists of 3 shifts. The shift ends when the workers of all players have been placed on the board. On a player’s turn, they may choose a worker space on the board. If it is empty they may place a worker there and perform the action indicated. If there is already a worker there, they must first remove the worker and place it on the Canteen. They must then place as many workers as they removed plus one more additional worker and then perform the action. If a player can’t find a worker space that they can use due to a lack of workers or if they simply choose not to choose a space, they can place a worker on the Bank and receive 1 Mark from the Bank. When a player runs out of workers their turn is skipped for the rest of the Shift until all players have placed all their workers.
Players have several different options when it comes to worker spaces to choose from. The choices are Minecarts Factory, Mining, Delivery, Money and New Order. The first option is the Minecarts Factory. These allow you to buy a tunnel tile and add it to your pit. The amount for each tile is dependent on the color and amount of minecarts on the tile. Once it’s been paid for, the tile is place on the proper side, either lighted or dark. A Coal cube of the proper color is placed on the minecart. A new tile is then drawn to replace the empty spot. There is also an additional spot that allows the player to draw the top 5 tiles and choose one from them. They may then return the other tiles to the stack in any order they choose on either the top of the stack or the bottom.
The next set of spaces is the Mining actions. These allow you to get coal from your pit and prepare your orders for delivery. The space that is chosen indicates the maximum number of work steps that can be performed. For 1 step a player can move their Pit cage down stopping at any level or up stopping at any level. While the Pit cage is at a tunnel, the player can move a coal cube to one of the free spots on the cage for 1 step. Once the Pit cage is one the surface, 1 Coal cube can be moved from the cage to an Order card for 1 step. A Coal cube can also be moved to the Private storage area if there isn’t an appropriate Order card available. A player can also move a Coal cube from storage to an Order card for 1 step. Once the cubes have been placed on an Order, they can’t be moved to a different Order.
The next set of spaces is the Delivery actions. These spaces allow the player to deliver completed orders. When the player uses one of these spaces, they must deliver any and all Orders that are completed and that show the same transport vehicle that is on the worker space. The player then gains the amount of Victory Points that is shown on the top of the Order card. The card is then removed from the player’s Outstanding Orders area and placed face down in front of the player.
The next set of spaces is the Money actions. These allow the player to gain money. Once a player chooses a spot, they are given the amount of money that is on the space. This allows them to buy Tunnel tiles.
The final spaces are the New Order actions. These spaces allow the player to take the Order card that is below that space and then refill it by drawing one from the stack. There is an additional space that allows the player to draw the top 5 Order cards and choose 1 from them. They they place the rest in any order on either the top or bottom of the deck. This is just like the Tunnel tiles space.
Players keep placing their workers until all players have ran out of workers to place. This signals the end of the shift. Shift scoring then takes place. At the end of the first shift only the first 4 elements of the Shift clock are scored. After the second shift the first 8 elements are scored and after the third shift, all 12 elements are scored. Players gain points for having majorities in each area. The first 4 elements are the 4 different types of coal. The second 4 elements are the way that the coal was delivered. The final 4 elements are empty minecarts of the 4 different types of coal. Once the third and final shift has been scored, players convert their money and coal cubes to victory points, check for any outstanding orders, check for pit tunnel balance and then reward or subtract the proper amount of victory points. All the victory points are totaled up for each player. The player with the most Victory Points is the winner.
This game has so many nice pieces to it. The Pit cages, Tunnel tiles, Lock tiles, Starting Player marker, Shift hand, Player Pit and Shaft Inlays are all thick cardboard and each one of them looks fantastic. The artwork is very nice and has the feel of an old German mine. I really love the Pit boards and the attention to detail with adding miners working at the mine. The game board is pretty amazing too. It’s reminiscent of a 19th century mining town. Again, the artwork is fantastic. The Coal cubes, workers, Victory point markers and scoring marker are all brightly colored and made of wood. They are very sturdy and look nice. I would have liked it a little better if the workers were actual meeples instead of cylinders, but it doesn’t really detract that much from the game. The Bank notes are reminiscent of games like Power Grid and Monopoly, being made of thin paper. I’m not really fond of paper money in games but it works. The Order cards are really nice and are easy to understand. They are really sturdy and will hold up to lots of shuffling. All in all the components for this game are absolutely top notch and I’m thrilled at how cool the game looks.
9 out of 10
The rulebook is absolutely beautiful. It’s really nicely made. It has lots of pictures throughout. The game setup is ran through step by step with lots of great pictures. All the different worker spaces are explained thoroughly. There are lots of examples of how to play the game intertwined throughout the pages of the book. I really love the excellent job that was done in putting this rulebook together. There is nothing in here that is difficult to understand or read. I really love all the different game play examples and the pictures are really nice. There was definitely a lot of attention paid to the rulebook when making this game and it tells in just how good it looks.
10 out of 10
This game is tons of fun. It’s a great way for players to ease into the worker placement mechanic. I love how easy it is to understand and play. I love how the scoring mechanism increases what gets scored at the end of every shift, so just because you had the majority of brown coal cubes at the end of the first shift, doesn’t mean that you’ll have it at the end of the second or even the third. You have to keep your mind on that aspect of the game and keep an eye on what everyone else is doing to get the extra bonus points. It’s a very strategic game but it isn’t intimidating like a lot of strategy games are. My son and I really love worker placement so this game is a definite hit at my house.
10 out of 10
Coal Baron is a light to medium weight game of worker placement in a 19th century German mine. The artwork in every aspect of this game is absolutely amazing. The designs and pieces are great. I really would have preferred meeples to cylinders and something besides paper money, but it’s still an excellently produced game. The quality definitely shows up in this game. The game plays in a little over an hour, but if you’re familiar with worker placement or don’t have players that suffer from analysis paralysis, it can probably be played in an hour. The game is really simple to learn and is a great starting point for getting into the worker placement genre of games. I think that strategy gamers as well as fans of worker placement will love this game. It’s a game that gets a lot of love at my house. I highly recommend it.
10 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out R & R Games at their site.