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Coal Baron (Glück Auf)

March 30th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Coal Baron” (“Glück Auf” in German) is primarily a worker placement game that tasks players with mining coal out of the ground and completing orders.  While each player has their own elevator shaft, they’ll be competing over the other spaces and delivery cards via worker pieces.  The more a space is used, the more workers you’ll need.  That, of course, is an over-simplified version of the gameplay mechanics, so let’s jump right in and start digging!


Coal Baron: 2-4 Players, Ages 8+, Average Play Time = 60-75 Minutes

Coal Baron: 2-4 Players, Ages 8+, Average Play Time = 60-75 Minutes



The game includes one game board, 4 pits, 4 cages, 4 shaft inlays, 48 tunnel tiles, 44 coal cards, 64 coal cubes, 72 worker pieces, 4 victory point markers, 40 bank notes (1’s, 2’s, and 5’s), 7 lock tiles, 1 scoring marker, 1 first player token, 1 shift hand, and a rulebook.

Setup & Gameplay

To keep the review moving I’ll simply opt to cover the highlights.  In general, the first thing you’ll want to do is lock out certain spaces on the board with lock tiles, depending on how many players you have.  Tunnel tiles are shuffled to form a face-down stack, then some are dealt face-up onto their board spaces.  The shift hand will point to the “1/I” on the clock and the score marker onto the left most circle space on the clock.  Players receive workers of their color, a pit, a shaft inlay, a pit cage, 4 coal cubes (one of each color, placing them in the lorry/tunnel space of their color), and some money.  Order cards are drawn and going counterclockwise starting with the person to the right of the start player, they are drafted until each player has three outstanding orders.  Then fill the order card spaces one more time so players can grab more during the game.

The game itself is played over three rounds / shifts.  This being a worker placement game, players will be taking turns adding workers to various spots on the board carrying out the appropriate action.  If a worker or workers already inhabit the spot, then you’ll need to place a number of workers equal to how many are present +1.  The other player’s workers are then moved to the canteen until the next round.

1. Lorry Factory – The player places a worker on a worker space, taking the tunnel next to it and paying the cost to the bank.  The tunnel is then placed onto its matching level (by coal color) either on the lit or unlit side of their pit with 1/2 cubes of that color being placed on the tile (depending on if there is/are 1/2 lorries).  The only way to get more ore is to buy more tunnels…existing tunnels cannot be refilled.

2. Mining – Based on the number the player placed their worker next to, they can take that many actions moving ore onto their pit cage (max 5) and moving the pit up and down.  The main idea is to collect coal from the tunnels then carry them to the surface.  Once there and using an action, they can place a cube onto an order card or into storage.

3. Delivery – The player will place a worker onto one of the delivery spaces, each one a different mode of delivery (cart, truck, train, etc.).  The player will then complete any full order cards of the matching delivery type, earning VP and adjusting their marker along the tracker.  They’ll keep the order cards though for determining shareholder bonuses at the round’s end.

4. Money – The player receives money based on the number the worker is placed beside.

5. New Order – The player takes the outstanding order card next to the spot in which they placed the worker.

Once players run out of workers, the shift ends.  Each shift has elements like “most yellow order spots on completed orders” which awards players for having majority / minorities across various categories.  Players score VPS appropriately.  Future shifts include all elements from the shifts before it.  The first player marker moves to whoever has the most workers on the lorry factory and then players get all of their workers back.

The game ends after three rounds.  Players gain VP for any money or leftover cubes they have, while losing VP for things like tunnel balance (lit vs unlit tiles) and outstanding orders not completed.  The player with the most VP, wins the game!

Editor’s Note: The above doesn’t cover all of the rules found in the manual, but should give you an idea as to how the game is played.

The Review

My first experience with “Coal Baron (Glück Auf)” was actually when I received a press copy of the video game adaptation.  I later did a first impressions video on my YouTube channel and for the most part, enjoyed the game.  There were some bugs and interface issues that broke the game, but the asking price of $3.99 (as of 3/22/16) is much more attractive than the $30-45 board game.  I picked the latter up because well, I wanted a game that always worked and also be able to play it on my dining room table.  Glück Auf, for those of you curious, is a German greeting miners used to give one another before a shift started.  It translates into something like “good luck/good mining”.

The tabletop version experience went pretty seamlessly.  Vinnie Jr. did an excellent job in gaining majorities, giving him the victory points he needed to sail way over my final score.  I thought I was being clever in acquiring orders with the same transportation type across the board…sure it saved me some workers as I was able to fulfill three orders in one go, but his lone train order gave him a ton of victory points as I had none.  As worker placement games go, this one turned out to be pretty fun.  It’s also fairly strategic in that you’ll have to constantly decide whether to outbid your opponent (or yourself) for a spot by placing more workers there or by settling for a space with a not so high yield (but at minimal worker cost).

This is a great game overall and one worth playing if you like worker placement games.

Final Verdict: 8/10

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