Every now and then a game comes around that blows you away the first time you play it. A game so good you finish playing and just say “Wow, now that’s a good game!”, Gorinto is one of those games.
Read on to find out why the abstract tile drafting game Gorinto is one of our all time favourite games. This is a game that scratches all of the right itches. It is a game I consider a modern classic, something that almost every game group is going to enjoy.
Disclosure: Our copy of Gorinto was received from Grand Gamers Guild in thanks for our Gorinto Preview that we published back when Gorinto was just launching on Kickstarter. Links in this post may be affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast.
What do you get in the Gorinto box?
Gorinto was designed by Richard Yaner and features artwork by Josh Cappel. It was published last year by Grand Gamers Guild here in North America after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
This abstract strategy game plays one to four players (five with the expansion) with games taking about an hour max.
Gorinto normally has an MSRP of $39.99, which is pretty good for all of the plastic you get in the box. The 5th player expansion, sold separately is $9.99, and the Kickstarter extras set, which includes the Dragon Tiles mini-expansion, is $8.99. Both of these add-ons can only be picked up directly from Grand Gamers Guild.
I say normally because right now, and for the rest of May, if you head over to Grand Gamers Guild and use the code BELLHOP you can get the Kickstarter version of Gorinto for $5 off and they will also toss in the 5th player expansion for FREE!
Unfortunately, this offer is only valid in the US. Sorry, fellow Canadians.
Gorinto is an abstract tile drafting game where players are trying to build their knowledge in five elements by selecting tiles from The Path and moving them onto The Mountain and then claiming tiles based on the element of the tile placed. Each tile you gain increases your Knowledge of that element, allowing you to take more tiles when you use that element in the future. At the end of each season, players are scored based on their existing Knowledge. At the end of the game, players also score bonus points for tiles collected in the Key Elements.
To get a look at the very well made components in this tile laying game check out our Gorinto Unboxing Video on YouTube.
Note that this unboxing is of the Kickstarter version of Gorinto, so a couple of the components are upgraded. Specifically, the round marker is thick plastic and the first player marker is metal. Our unboxing also includes the Dragon mini-expansion and 5th Player Expansion.
The component quality here is great with the highlight being the various element tiles. These stack together really well and feature bright easy to distinguish colours as well as symbols to help with any vision issues. The Mountain board, player boards, and scoring track are all nice and thick and the cards are of excellent quality. The player components are simple with a wooden score marker and a cardboard token to mark when a player tops fifty or one hundred points. There are also some additional tokens used when playing with the included gameplay variants, such as the solo or two player rules. Finally, there’s a nice big bag to hold all of the plastic tiles that has the Gorinto logo on the side of it.
I do have to admit that part of me wishes the mountain board was plastic, something like the board for the word game Upwords, where the Element Tiles could slot in on top of it. I fully understand that this wasn’t possible at the price point Gorinto sells for. Maybe that’s something that could potentially be part of a deluxe edition sometime in the future.
How to Play Gorinto
The first thing you do in a game of Gorinto is to build The Mountain. The Mountain is made up of a five x five grid of Element Tiles stacked on the main board. The standard Mountain pattern is a stack of four tiles in the centre, surrounded by a ring of stacks of three tiles, surrounded by a ring of stacks of two tiles. The rulebook also includes other patterns you can try out.
Once everyone has selected a player colour, they take a player board in that colour, plus a wooden scoring marker and carboard point token. Then everyone’s scoring markers are placed at zero on the score track.
Next, the scoring cards are shuffled. There are two types of cards, Goal Cards and Key Element Cards. Two of each of type are drawn and placed on the board with the scoring track. The Gorinto shaped marker is placed on the first spot on the season track.
The scoring cards tell how points will be scored during the game. The Key Element cards tell you which two elements will award points at the end of the game (each player scoring two points for each tile they have of each of the two colours on the key element cards). While players score the Goal Cards at the end of each round based on everyone’s current Knowledge levels. These Goal Cards include things like scoring your highest and lowest stacks twice, scoring only your even stacks, scoring triple your middle stack, or having the lowest stack in each colour.
Each season of Gorinto starts by filling in The Path with ten random tiles; these tiles go at the end of each row and column of The Mountain, on the spots provided on the board.
Each player turn, the active player selects one tile from The Path and moves it onto one of the stacks on The Mountain that is in the same row or column that the tile came from. They then draw tiles off of The Mountain in a pattern that is based on the element of the tile that they moved from The Path.
Each element has its own unique tile drafting pattern. Void forces you to take tiles diagonally adjacent to the tile you played, while Wind forces you to select orthogonally adjacent tiles to the one just placed, and Fire has you take tiles in the same row as your placement, whereas Water has you taking tiles from the same column as your placement and Earth lets you take tiles from under the tile you placed.
The number of tiles you must take from The Mountain is equal to your existing knowledge in that element plus one, to a maximum of four tiles for all elements but Earth (there is no restriction for how many tiles you can draft with an Earth placement). All tiles drafted are placed onto your player board thus increasing your Knowledge of the elements of the tiles you just drafted.
The game continues until there are less tiles left on The Path than the number of players. This triggers the end of the round. Any tiles remaining on The Path are removed from the game. All players then score the two Goal Cards and the start player token is passed clockwise to the next player. Then the path is re-filled with ten more random Element Tiles, unless you’ve just finished the final round.
A game of Gorinto is played for four seasons or four full rounds. At the end of the final round, after scoring the Goal Cards, everyone also scores the Key Element scoring cards. Then the player with the most points wins with any ties based on total Knowledge gained during the game.
When playing Gorinto with only two players there is a slight change to the rules. After each player’s turn another tile is removed from the path. There are two ways to determine which tile is removed. The default method is to use the included Burrow Tokens, which are shuffled and then the top tile is drawn any time a tile is to be removed. Already empty slots are skipped and the tiles are shuffled again if they ever run out.
The other method of tile removal has the players decide themselves which tiles to remove. To me, this is the preferred option as it makes the two player version more tactical and strategic.
Gorinto also comes with a set of solo rules where you play against Kitsune (a fox spirit). When using the Kitsune rules, you play the game as normal on your turns but after each turn, Kitsune will also take some tiles.
Which tiles the AI gathers is based on a system of tokens and tiles that isn’t worth getting into here. What is worth knowing is that Kitsune always takes a minimum of four tiles since, as a spirit, they have an unlimited understanding of all five elements. At the end of four seasons, your score will be based on both the Key Element Cards and Goal Cards as usual. Kitsune on the other hand scores the two Key Element Cards in Play as well as two other randomly drawn ones. The number of points these Key Element Cards provide can be varied to adjust the difficulty of the solo game.
Other gameplay variants are also provided in the Gorinto Rulebook. For example, Compassionate turn order has players going in the order of lowest score to highest instead of clockwise around the table (a great catch-up mechanic), while Partnership mode is a fascinating two on two team version of play where goal cards are shared by adjacent players and any time you draft any tiles you have to pass one of them to your partner.
My favourite variant in Gorinto is the Seasons of Change. When using this optional rule you place out four Goal Cards instead of two, with the cards rotating at the end of each round so that you only score two goals each season. This is my preferred way to play Gorinto and unless I am teaching someone new the game I always use this variant.
There are two upgrades you can pick up for Gorinto and I wanted to spend some time pointing out why you may want these in addition to the base game.
The first is the Gorinto 5th Player Expansion.
This add on does exactly what you expect it to do, it lets you play Gorinto with five players. The big change here is that you add five more of each element tile to the game. These are randomized in the bag with the rest of the tiles. When you are building The Mountain you simply add one additional tile to each stack.
For five players, the only real change during gameplay is that there will be no tiles left on The Path at the end of the round. This also means that the last player to go will not have a choice of what tile to draft. Due to this, I recommend also using the Compassionate Player order optional rule.
The second add-on for Gorinto is the Gorinto: Kickstarter Extras pack. You won’t need this if you manage to get a Kickstarter version of Gorinto, as everything in here is already included in the Kickstarter edition.
This small pack contains two component upgrades. The first is a solid plastic 3D Gorinto round marker. The second is a metal first player token. These don’t do anything to improve the gameplay but do look and feel cool.
The more important thing in this upgrade pack is the Dragon Tiles. To use these new Element tiles, you add the five Dragon Tiles to the bag at the start of the game. The dragon tiles will show up randomly, like any other tile, while you are building The Mountain or filling The Path.
When moving a Dragon Tile from The Path to The Mountain you choose which element it represents at the time you play it, which will affect which and how many tiles you can draft.
When you draft a Dragon Tile off The Mountain you also get to pick which element it is and then place it onto your player board as whatever element you choose.
One interesting side effect of using the Dragon Tiles is that you may no longer end up with a perfect balance of the elements in the game as there will always be five tiles left in the bag that don’t enter play. Though it’s not mentioned in the rules, there’s no reason you couldn’t remove one of each of the five elements from the bag when adding the dragon tiles, to keep this balance in play.
Why do we love Gorinto?
Gorinto is a fantastic game. We greatly enjoyed it, even back when all we had was a prototype copy. Feel free to check out my Gorinto Prototype Review to see just how hyped I was about the game even back then. What I am very happy to announce here is that the production version has everything we loved and more.
The gameplay in Gorinto is engaging, tactical and strategic, but dead simple to learn and teach. This is one of those games that deserves the term elegant. I’ve played Gorinto with hardcore heavy gamers and with kids, I’ve played it with non-gamers and with gamers, and each of these groups has enjoyed this game greatly. I’ve yet to teach Gorinto to someone and not have them enjoy it.
Since I reviewed Gorinto before, back when all I had was a prototype, I wanted to highlight some things that are new now that the game is officially published. These include the much improved tiles which have a fantastic tactile quality, the better looking player boards, the added variety in Goal Cards and some excellent rule additions. Rule updates I appreciate include the differences in the two player rules, the solo game and the Seasons of Change variant that I absolutely adore.
Seasons of Change and Compassionate scoring are two optional rules that I strongly recommend everyone use as soon as possible.
Despite how much we love Gorinto it’s not perfect. There are some minor issues here that I do want to call out.
The first and most glaring problem with Gorinto comes from the 5th Player Expansion. The rule card that comes with this expansion doesn’t actually tell you what to do with the additional Element Tiles that come with it. The first time with the fifth player expansion, we tossed the new tiles into the bag with the rest and then proceeded with set-up as normal. All that did was leave us with a nearly empty Mountain at the end of the game, and also mess up the Element distribution by leaving us a ton of tiles left in the bag at the end of the game.
For our second five-player game of Gorinto, we decided to try putting extra tiles out onto the Mountain right at the start of the game. This played much smoother, and it turns out it’s the way the designer intended for the expansion to be played. I know this rules misprint is something that will be fixed if
Grand Gamers Guild ever does a second printing of the expansion.
My next complaint is the scoring track. Sure it’s a minor thing and you can easily keep score on paper but I hate that the scoring track only goes up to 50. I don’t think we’ve ever had a game where anyone scored under 50 points and we’ve had many games where one or more players ended up in the 150+ range, which you can’t actually track with the tools in the box. While there are little cardboard stars with +50 and +100 on them in each player’s colour, they don’t allow you to track scores of over 150. I would have preferred a longer scoring track or some other method of keeping score, like maybe three tracks for 1s, 10s and 100s.
My final, minor, complaint is about the plastic Element Tiles. I love these plastic tiles in many ways. I love how they feel, how thick they are, and how much easier it is to tell what colours are in the stacks on the mountains.
The problem is that these tiles nest together a little too well. This becomes an issue in three ways. First off, the tiles like to stick together in the bag. This can make pulling out one tile at a time difficult. Next, these tiles also tend to stick together on The Mountain, often requiring players to use two hands to take the tiles they are drafting. The final problem, and this one, to me, is the biggest, is that these tiles stack so well that they blend together and you can’t easily tell how many tiles are in a stack at a glance.
This is a game where you want to be able to quickly look at your opponent’s player board to see how much knowledge they have and you don’t want to have to tip your hand by asking, “How many fire tiles do you have?” I really wish each tile had a ring around the bottom or symbols on the sides to make them easier to count at a glance.
Overall, not only do we love Gorinto but everyone I have taught Gorinto to has loved it as well. To me, this game is a modern classic.
Gorinto is easy to learn and difficult to master, requiring a lot of strategy to play well. It features near perfect information and winning means not only watching what you are doing but also keeping track of what everyone else at the table is doing as well.
Gorinto is one of those rare games that I think almost every game group is going to enjoy and I can recommend it almost universally. The only gamers I could see possible not being interested in Gorinto are story gamers or super thematic game fans who love epic games and games with high excitement levels usually driven by lots of randomness. You aren’t going to find any of that here.
If you enjoy abstract strategy games at all you really owe it to yourself to find a way to try Gorinto. I would go so far as to say that you are probably safe just picking this one up, even if you can’t find a way to try before you buy.
As for the expansion content for Gorinto, I found it to be completely optional. If your game group usually consists of five players, then you will want to pick up the five player expansion. As for the Dragon Tiles, I like them well enough. My kids really like having wild tiles as part of the mix and due to this, I don’t usually take the dragons out when playing with my copy.
It’s not often that I discover a game I absolutely love. Gorinto is one of those games and that love started from the very first time that I cracked open the prototype copy that Grand Gamers Guild sent me.
Since then we’ve become de facto ambassadors for this game. I advocate for it any chance that I can, constantly recommend it and jump at any chance I get to play it.
This really is one of the best games that I own and I want it to do well and succeed. I want more and more people to discover this game and fall in love with it (then maybe we can get that deluxe edition with a plastic board!).