Thank you to Grand Gamers Guild for sending us this prototype preview copy.
In this preview, we take a first look at Gorinto, designed by Richard Yaner and published by Grand Gamers Guild. This is an abstract game for 1-4 players, based on the premise of a Gorinto, a Japanese pagoda that represents the realm of perfect understanding of the five elements (fire, water, wind, void and earth).
In Gorinto, players take turns selecting element tiles from the Path (perimeter) and moving them onto the central Mountain board. Each element collects tiles from the Mountain in a different way, as shown on the main board. The more tiles you have of each element on your player board, the higher amount of tiles you can take each turn.
The game is played over four seasons (rounds). Players earn points for meeting objectives at the end of each season as well as additional points at the end of the game for final end-game objectives.
NOTE: This is a prototype version, so the components and artwork you see here will likely differ from the final version of Gorinto.
You can check out Dylann’s video preview in the embedded video here, or read our discussion-based preview below.
Dylann: First, and most importantly, Gorinto felt fresh. It has certain familiar mechanics it borrows from other games, but overall, I felt like I hadn’t played a game quite like it before. The amount of games coming out each year is just growing, so for us to struggle to find a comparison, I think that says a lot. It’s really good that a game and a designer can come along and forge their own path and not just borrow heavily from other games with one minor twist. I like seeing a fresh concept so I definitely value that in Gorinto.
Carlo: And it’s not always easy to make a good abstract game that’s going to succeed and last the test of time, right? There are obviously many classics like Chess and Go, and even in recent years, we really love games like Santorini and Hive, and I think it’s tough to make a really pure abstract game that’s going to stick.
Dylann: Totally. The main mechanic of the game that I really enjoyed fiddling around with each time I play is that interesting twist on not just bringing tiles in to collect tiles but the type of tile you’re bringing in affects which tiles you can collect, which affects the way you approach each season and the overall game. To me, Gorinto is like a puzzle. Here’s what I want to do, and given the amount of tiles on the Path and what’s available in the Mountain, I have to find a way to get the tiles I want without getting the tiles I don’t want, because I might not want certain ones for scoring. So it’s this puzzle – can I do what I want? And if I can’t, what’s the closest I can get to completing what I want to do?
Carlo: Yeah, and it’s a fairly easy game to teach but if I wasn’t worried about slowing down the game, some turns I could technically look at 10 or 20 different possibilities in terms of which tile I’d take, how far down the row I’m going to send it, which tiles I’m going to take with it… and obviously that decision space grows as the game goes on… or I guess in some ways it could shrink based on having fewer tiles on board, but either way, it’s a surprising amount of decisions to make from just the base decision of which tile you take from the Path.
Dylann: And the fact that I could prioritize fire early on and I have a nice healthy stack of fire elements on my board and I’m utilizing that to take four tiles each time instead of being able to take one, and then the next season could start and there could be only one fire tile on the Path, and now everything I’ve built with fire I can’t really utilize this game. So thematically, balancing your elements makes sense and actually feeds right into the gameplay.
Carlo: The game definitely looks nicer thanks to the theme and it adds some importance to what you’re doing, but technically, from a mechanical standpoint, the game would work the same way if you just had five different colours and no theme. The light theme dresses the game up a bit, and it IS a really nice-looking game, and I think we both look forward to seeing the final production quality, especially the element tiles.
Dylann: Absolutely. You’re not necessarily trying to keep all the elements equal but you’re trying to manage your understanding of each one that will allow you to adhere to the objectives, so it feels like you’re always working to earn a victory instead of having it fall into your lap.
Carlo: Also, a lot of abstract games are very tactical; you’re constantly reacting to what’s on the board, and I feel like Gorinto has a lot of long-term strategy for an abstract game. In games like Chess or Hive, technically you can come up with a strategy before the game starts, and you might have this particular set of moves that you know is successful, but depending what your opponent does, you still have to always react to something tactically. Gorinto tells you right from the start what you have to do for scoring for the entire game. Everyone’s competing for the same objectives, and it’s sort of just who can do it better. And sometimes it comes down to luck too, such as what’s available on your turn and the state of the board when it comes around to you. Did you feel like there’s too much luck, not enough, or that the balance is right?
Dylann: I think the balance is great. There’s some luck to which tiles get placed on the Path at the start of each round, but there are usually enough options out there that if you’re out of options to grab fire it’s because you didn’t grab enough fire early on. I scored well when I planned well and found a way to complete the puzzle in a way that I balanced my stacks the right way. If I got a low score I could say I deserved that because I took certain tiles that limited me from scoring in the way I intended. For people who like that tactical type of game where you truly need to earn your victory and when you lose you really deserve to lose, Gorinto is a great example. I wouldn’t call it punishing, but your score will often reflect how well you played. I was never really surprised by my score in Gorinto.
Carlo: Well said. I agree.
Dylann: My favourite part of the game which really takes it to the next level is the objective cards that score at the end of each season. I’ve played a lot of games with public objectives, and it’s a pretty common trope to add variety to games and make each session of a game feel different since you’re scoring differently, but Gorinto felt drastically different in the games that I played. For example, one objective pushes you to keep low stacks because whoever has the lowest stack of each element will score points. This makes it so that you’re trying to minimize the amount of elements you’re gathering instead of maximize them. Other objectives score for the highest of each element. So, depending which goal cards are out there, the puzzle of Gorinto fundamentally changes, and you’re trying to do something completely different that sometimes even feels against the basic rules.
Carlo: It really does feel like a different puzzle every time. It’s a fairly pure abstract game, but the public objectives make a huge difference and add a lot of variety to a game that might have otherwise felt a little repetitive.
Dylann: Definitely. There’s a lot to think about in Gorinto. Almost every turn players have their heads down trying to count the number of elements in their stacks because you’re having to consider one goal card, another goal card that might be in complete contrast to the first one, then you’re also trying to maximize the amount of two different elements, while trying to pick elements from the Path that allow you to gather the most or maybe the least, depending what you’re trying to do. There are so many things going on and this could easily lead to analysis paralysis for a lot of people, where you’re just so fixated on finding that ultimate move that you take forever with your turn. In my experience it has been a 30-45 minute game, usually on the lower side of that, but if you’re playing with 4 players who all want to analyze everything and take the perfect turn, I could see this taking an hour.
Carlo: For sure, especially late in the game when you only have one or two turns left and you see that final big scoring opportunity that you want to maximize, and your options on the board are limited. As you’re sort of crunching the numbers, you feel bad holding up the game, but you also don’t want to just take some random move that might lose you the game by 1 or 2 points just because you rushed it. Even though the end can grind to a bit of a halt, every time we’ve played there’s a decent amount of tension with scoring and nobody really knows who’s going to win until the end because of the seasonal and end-game objectives, which are the same for all players. There’s obviously some competing for tiles, but I felt the level of player interaction was just right for Gorinto. How about you?
Dylann: I thought it was pretty minimal. It’s not impossible, but with everything you already have to consider in this game, trying to also think about what your opponents might be going for and trying to block them from taking a tile before they do, just for the purpose of trying to slow them down, was just too much for me to think about. I had a hard enough time trying to optimize my own board to score the most points. I was never in a position where I could set aside my own goals and just focus on limiting someone else’s score. You would probably be really successful at this game if you can manage that information as well, but I found it much easier to just focus on what I was doing so I was fine with not having that interaction, but I can see how people who really like direct player interaction would find that difficult with Gorinto.
Carlo: Neither of us had a chance to try the solo mode yet, but so far do you prefer Gorinto as a 2-player game or with more players?
Dylann: It felt surprisingly good at all player counts and I would come back to it either way, but I enjoyed it more with more players on the board. It felt more competitive, there’s more tension based on me having to do better than two or three people at the table rather than just one opponent. More players means it’s more rewarding when you win, and the tiles on the Path are disappearing quicker. The size of the Path doesn’t change based on player count, so it just gets a lot more difficult to plan what you’re going to take because there are going to be more tiles removed before it gets back to your turn and you’ll have fewer turns to get everything done, so I think I enjoyed it more at higher player counts but I still enjoyed it with two.
Carlo: Me too. In the 2-player mode, after each player takes a turn you get rid of one extra tile from the Path but it doesn’t get added to the Mountain board as usual, and no tiles leave the Mountain, so the board state is quite different depending on player count. When playing with three players, there were so few tiles on the Mountain board at the end of the final season, and I really liked it, because it was an added challenge that we hadn’t had to deal with in our previous 2-player games where we were basically looking around for scraps in our last couple turns when the board was so empty. I’d be curious to see how much more empty it would be with four players near the end.
Dylann: Totally. That’s another thing that changes between games – depending on the player count the boards can be emptier, and it makes it way more cutthroat at the end if the board is down to scraps and there’s one water tile left and both players need it.
Carlo: I’d also like to point something out that I don’t necessarily think of as a criticism of the game, but I think it’s worth mentioning that compared to some of my favourite abstract games out there like Hive or Santorini, I don’t think there’s much growing tension as Gorinto progresses. In Hive, when your queen bee is being surrounded you kind of feel like the doors are closing in on you and you’re figuring out how to get out of this bad situation. In Gorinto I never felt like I had someone against the ropes or that I was in a rough spot. Sometimes you have a turn that’s not as effective, but you never really feel like there’s a sudden game-changing moment halfway through the game. It’s not like in Hive or Chess where someone can just completely flip the game on its head with one brilliant move and take a stranglehold on the game. Gorinto felt a little more subdued in that sense. Every person’s turn they’re going to do something effective, it’s just a matter of who’s doing that better.
Dylann: It’s that lack of player interaction where the tension can only come if people are trying to influence each other or the board in drastic ways and you’re right, the tension mostly comes from running out of turns to do what you want rather than this person doing this to shift the way I’m thinking about it.
Carlo: Yeah, so not as many big, fun moments throughout the game where you’re like, “whoa, that was an awesome turn”. The excitement and enjoyment in the game for me was first off coming up with a plan at the start based on the objectives, and then also seeing the end-game scoring. Everything in between, there weren’t highs and lows, there was no rollercoaster of emotions, I was just following this strategy that I set out from the beginning and making slight alterations along the way. It’s fairly toned down in terms of the explosive moments.
Overall, we really enjoyed our time with Gorinto and we look forward to playing it again in its final iteration. The combinations of public objectives and end-game scoring elements provide plenty of replay value. It’s an impressive design from Richard Yaner. We highly recommend it if you like abstract games, especially if you’re looking for one that works well at various player counts and you’re okay with minimal player interaction.