I was a backer of the Kickstarter for Victory Point Games‘ recent release of Gem Rush Second Edition. I had never played (or even heard of) the first edition, but I love the “premier” stuff VPG has been putting out recently not to mention that most (all?) of their games are playable solo. Oh, and the designer is Jeremy Lennert, who I fell in love with via a previous VPG title, Darkest Night Second Edition.
My copy of Gem Rush arrived before the holidays and has sat, untouched, since. Not the game’s fault, just my crappy time management. Anyway, I had forgotten (until prompted in the forums) that the Kickstarter had mentioned a digital version. With little to no fanfare, the digital version of Gem Rush was released way back when and has completely slid under our radar. Time to fix that. Gem Rush is a polished, tight app of a pretty great board game that no one is aware of. Let’s change that.
Gem Rush puts you in the boots of a gem-digging dwarf in a fantastical mine. Each doorway to a new room is worth victory points, and you spend gems to collect those points and expand the tunnels, thus expanding the mine which then offers new abilities to take advantage of.
What makes Gem Rush a good game is the sheer preponderance of room types you can add, each with its own special ability. Thus, part of the game is set collection and gathering the gems you’ll need to dig as many rooms as possible, the other half is figuring out a workable engine to move about and use the rooms you’ve uncovered. Without that, you won’t have enough gems to keep digging more rooms.
Another twist are the cards themselves. Cards do not simply contain a gem, instead they each contain two gems with each of them usable to unlock a specific door. Thus, finding groups of gems to unlock higher-value doors becomes a hand management game of juggling handfuls of different gems.
In true VPG fashion, the game can be played either cooperatively or competitively. Cooperatively, you’re looking simply to get the best score possible with 3 cards being destroyed at the end of each turn. This limits the gems available and acts as a timer, limiting the solo/coop game to 25 turns. Competitively, you pick a target number and it’s a race to see who can reach that number of VPs first.
The game looks fantastic, taking graphics directly from the second edition of the tabletop version. It also has a lot of touches that you’d expect from a dev well-versed in porting board games, but I haven’t heard of Quicksilver Software before and a quick browse of their website will tell you that Gem Rush is their first foray into hobby games.
For those wondering, yes, there is asynchronous gameplay. There doesn’t appear to be a way to specifically invite friends, but you can create private games and, presumably, get your friends to join. I’d be happy to see if we could make something work once a few of the Stately Players get their hands on this thing.
Of course, there’s also multiple levels of AI for solo play as well as the ability to play solitaire with just one dwarf. You can also play solo controlling multiple dwarves, if that’s your thing.
Gem Rush is too good of a board game port to remain under wraps. Head out to your platform of choice via the links below and give it a shot. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s hope VPG and Quicksilver have a thing going here and we’ll see more VPG goodness on our monitors.
- Gem Rush for iOS Universal, $7
- Gem Rush for Android, $7
- Gem Rush for PC/Mac/Linux via Steam, $9 (on sale)