Designed by Richard Yaner | Published by Grand Gamers Guild
1-4 Players | 30 Minutes
A Gorinto is a Japanese memorial shrine commonly found in Buddhist temples and cemeteries. The five unique shapes making up the Gorinto symbolize five elements of nature: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Void. Coming together in unique patterns, the elements build energy in a pursuit of balance and harmony. In the game, Gorinto, you pursue these unique patterns, ultimately facing the challenge of seeking to uncover true wisdom.
Gorinto is an abstract, tile-drawing game where you will seek to build patterns of elemental tiles to achieve goals and earn points. Each unique element will provide different pattern benefits allowing you to gain tiles from a central mountain space as you build your own collection. Played over four seasons, players will gain wisdom from points earned. In the end, the player with the most wisdom is declared the winner.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Setup begins by building a mountain peak made of random element tiles pulled from a bag and placed in on the central board. The game features unique ways to set up the “mountain” of tiles, but the 5×5 grid typically starts at two high on the sides and builds to a peak of four in the middle. The mountain is flanked on two sides each by a series of five random tiles each (forming the Path). These serve as the action tiles available to the players.
Two cards providing end game bonuses (Key Element cards) and two additional cards featuring seasonal goals (Goal Cards) are placed on the scoring track board.
The game takes place over four seasons (rounds) and players take turns moving tiles from the Path in a linear movement (vertically or horizontally depending on it’s starting position on the Path) onto the mountain – resting on a stack – and drawing tiles in relation to that tile/element’s abilities.
Each element features a unique way to gather tiles from the mountain. For example, when placing a Wind element, you’ll have access to each of the four locations orthogonally adjacent to your placement. Using the Earth element will allow you access to any of the tiles in the stack underneath that placement spot. The only limitation beyond the element’s abilities when collecting tiles is that you can only draw one more than you have already collected. For example, if you had already collected two Fire element tiles, you would be able to draw a maximum of three fire tiles on your turn. On your first turn you can only draw 1 of each type.
Players will need to keep in mind the Goal cards active during that season. These cards will dictate how scoring takes place that round. You might end up scoring your tallest stack of collected tiles AND your shortest stack earning a point of wisdom for each tile (so a more balance strategy may be beneficial that round). The season goals vary each round: You may be tasked with scoring the difference between your tallest stack and your shortest stack or you might get to score each stack at a similar height in relation to another (like size stacks for example). If nothing less, these goals will keep you on your toes from season to season.
After the final season, players will gain the Key Element bonuses which serve as multipliers for specific elements gathered. The player with the most wisdom points earned after four seasons is declared the most enlightened.
Gorinto also features unique gameplay modes for solo and 2 player games.
The main feature in Gorinto are the element tiles. They’re made from a thick, high-quality plastic. They are decent sized and stack easily. They might actually stack a little too easily since they tend to naturally stack when mixed together in the drawstring bag. It’s a minor complaint, but I found myself having to break the stacks down inside the bag before drawing them. The main player board and scoring board are both good quality. Playing cards are all acceptable. The scoring track markers may be a little small, but didn’t cause too much trouble. The season marker is shaped like an actual Gorinto statue and looks pretty cool. Additionally, the first player token is a golden, metal coin that seemed to be a big hit with my group. I’m nitpicking here since the overall quality of the components is really good.
Even before opening the box, I got a great vibe from the artwork in Gorinto. The box cover art and player boards look like they’re made from patterned stones while the box bottom is wallpapered in energetic, traditional Japanese artwork. The stone texture looks great and almost feels like it has some dimension. The card artwork is minimal which seemed to suit the theme. Each tile, while just a plain single color, features that element’s Japanese symbol. The color pallet used in the game is well thought out and carries a good amount of harmony.
The thing that grabbed me right away with Gorinto was its table presence. The game looks rich and intriguing. The mysterious stacks and symbols are only elevated by the simple, yet elegant boards. That combined with the fact it’s fairly easy to set up, rules are minimal and gameplay is quick. Needless to say, a lot of factors are in place for success.
I think it’s important to understand my preferences when coming into a game. I have a love/hate relationship with abstract games. I feel some are through the roof while others just fall flat. It’s not really and issue of game quality either. I LOVE Azul, while I loathe Sagrada. I’m a big fan of Hive, but Photosynthesis was a bust. Not that these are polar ends of any spectrum, just picking some of the more modern titans of the genre. Where does Gorinto sit in the world of abstract gaming as far as my preference is concerned? I’ll break that down a little later.
Let’s talk about some of the bolder features of Gorinto.
The variability is really one of its most appealing traits. This is guaranteed to be a new game every time you pull it out. Drawing from a pool of 100 titles randomly from a bag ensures a unique arrangement of game elements. Included in this is the placement of the Path tiles. While the central mountain of tiles will be unique, your strategic approach will change based on the different layout and element types on the Path that skirts it. On top of that, Gorinto features a number of different suggested mountain set ups to keep things interesting.
I understand variability is a bit of a “weeds” issue, but when shopping for a new game you want to ensure it won’t grow stale too quickly. Gorinto does its best to keep things interesting.
At its heart, Gorinto is a family-style game. It’s simple, yet interesting rules and short game-time both equate to one of it’s greatest assets: Accessibility. Setup can be a little bit of a pain sifting through a big bag of tiles, but it’s not complicated. I found that setup usually takes under 5 minutes and you’re ready to go. An issue – at least in my family – is playtime. A game of Gorinto can literally be played in 30 minutes. This is an important number, because a minute longer and my youngest daughter (6 years) is gone. We’re in a safe zone and I appreciate it.
Finally, the rules are easy to teach, completing the trifecta of accessibility! You can avoid those glazed over eyes so often present as you move past the 15 minute mark while explaining phase 3, subset 2 of your character’s asymmetrical abilities. Gorinto can easily be explained in the 5 minutes it takes to set up the game.
Variability and Accessibility are great friends to have, but how does Gorinto play? Is it fun? I actually do think it’s fun. The variability works because of the 5 distinct tile actions. They each do something different, challenging you to find the Path action that best benefits your objectives within the boundaries of the available mountain tiles. It’s a great representation of controlled chaos.
There are a few things to keep track of, but not so many that you ever feel overwhelmed. The 5 tile/element actions are easy to learn – plus the board has a handy reference graphic just in case you forget. So you’re essentially weighing your available moves against the season and end game goals. I think the benefit for casual gamers is that it’s forcing their brains to process more than they’re typically used to in a game, but not so much that it creates exhaustion or disconnect. In the end, it’s a very satisfying exercise that leaves you wanting more.
I do have a couple minor gripes with the game. The first is that I’d love to see some different ways to score. While the current season scoring goals are fun, they are fairly straightforward and I was hoping for a bit more. I’m not exactly sure what that would even be – it’s just a feeling I was left with.
The other issue is how you build up your collection of tiles. The limits in place allow you only to take 1 additional tile per type more than your current inventory. Initially, this does restrict your build up, but it quickly becomes irrelevant. With each tile/element action, you only have access to so many tiles as it is. After a couple turns, you’ll be able to grab whatever you can. Not a deal breaker, but I’d like a little more tension here.
Of course these issues are minimal, and possibly necessary to keep the game from becoming too complex.
Back to the abstract board game spectrum: Where does Gorinto sit? I’m pleased to say Gorinto has a vibe closer to games like Azul. While it’s not Azul, it’s a great companion for fans who have played Azul 100 times like myself. It seems to satisfy a similar niche for me.
I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed Gorinto. It’s an engaging experience from the aesthetics and production quality to the accessibility and the mechanics. It offers some interesting decisions that are satisfying yet not overwhelming. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great addition for fans of spatial/abstract games like Azul. Gorinto is a keeper for my collection and one I’ll enjoy introducing to new and seasoned gamers alike.