Review: Web of Gold
Publisher: TSR under license from Three Wishes Limited
Year: 1987
Tagline: A game of daring adventure in an abandoned gold mine.

The cover says Web of Gold in big gold letters with a giant spider and a man running down a mine holding a lantern

how we met

Web of Gold has what may be my favorite game cover of all time. I knew of Web of Gold as a thing, but the only time I ever saw it for sale was still in shrink for $30 a few years ago. That’s a decent price but more than I cared to pay. At this point I believe I will eventually find anything I want, so I have learned to be patient and hold out for thrifted games. And finally one day Bill found Web of Gold at thrift. It was in fantastic shape and only about $5 or $6.

how it plays

Your object in Web of Gold is to be the first player to collect six gold nuggets and escape the mine.

Each player controls an Adventurer pawn and a Spider pawn. The Adventurer moves first, can move 1-2 spaces, and must move each turn.

The Adventurer and Spider pawns
A closer look at the pawns

The outer area of the mine has green colored circles with numbers on them. If an Adventurer ends their turn on one of these spaces, they can roll the die. If they roll equal to or higher than the number on the space they have successfully discovered an item and may draw an ITEM CARD! These ITEM CARDs will help Adventurers in different aspects of gameplay.

Example ITEM CARDs like a Torch that allows you to break down two webs
The art on the ITEM CARDs feels like a departure from the cover, but they are also very cool. As you see

The gold colored circles act the same way, except a successful roll on one of these gets the Adventurer a GOLD NUGGET!

Each Adventurer gets this cool LANTERN that starts at full oil. At the beginning of their turn they decide whether the LANTERN is on or off. If they turn their LANTERN on, the oil tracker moves down one and the LANTERN is on until the beginning of their next turn. When the oil tracker gets to zero there is no more oil so that LANTERN stays off! So use it wisely.

A LANTERN that is on will give Adventurers +1 to their die rolls, making discovery of gold and items just a little bit easier. A lit LANTERN will also prevent a Spider from biting an Adventurer.

The lanterns show a tracker for oil, a tracker for on/off and a tracker for spider bites
The LANTERN is one of the coolest components. They track on / off, oil level, and spider bites

Adventurers can only carry six items, including ITEM CARDs, GOLD NUGGETs, and the LANTERN. It is likely they will need to return to their starting space at some point to “drop off” any collected GOLD NUGGETs.

The gold nugget chips
These are the nuggets. FUN FACT: the original German version of the game was called Gold Fever (Goldfieber)

After the Adventurer moves and completes their play, that player takes their Spider’s turn. A Spider can move from where it is to any adjacent pillar, but Spiders are not required to move. For example, if you decide to use your Spider defensively to protect your own Adventurer then you may not want to move it.

After Spiders move they have two different actions they can choose to take. They can either spin a web or bite an adjacent Adventurer that is caught in a web.

Overview of the board showing lines between the pillars
This is a shot of the board. It still has webs in it because I am lazy, but you can also see the white lines between pillars where the Spiders move

Spiders always spin 3 strands of web. If there is already a web nearby and you want to make it stronger, you can add 3 to it. Webs have a maximum strength of 6.

Adventurers will quickly need to move through webs in order to get around the board, and to accomplish this they need to attempt to break down the web. The Adventurer rolls the die then subtracts that amount from the number of strands (the LANTERN bonus does not apply to breaking webs). If the result is 0 or less then they are successful. The web is removed and the Adventurer moves into the next space. If they are not successful they get trapped in the web! And the web gets changed to the new number. For example if I am trying to take down a web with 6 strands and I roll a 4, I replace the 6 with a 2 and place my Adventurer on the 2 to indicate I am trapped!

This shows an Adventurer trapped in a web
The Adventurer pawns slide onto the webs when trapped, like the purple Adventurer here

If a Spider is next to a trapped Adventurer they can choose to bite them, as long as the Adventurer’s LANTERN is off. The player controlling the Spider rolls a die. If the result is less than or equal to the number of strands then they are successful! The Adventurer moves the BITE MARKER on the LANTERN up 1.

Adventurers perish with 4 Spider bites. If that Adventurer is out of the game, the player can still control their Spider. If all Adventurers end up dead of Spider bites, the player whose Spider has the most Spider bite markers wins. But there is no way to track this, so that was strange and hopefully does not happen often.

how it went

My memories of Web of Gold are colored by Keri’s delicious Whiskey Sours, so we’ll see how this write up goes!

We played Web of Gold during our regular game night with four players, and play went a bit long. Not too bad, but a few of the BGG ratings say that 3 or fewer players is best. I can see that.

Web of Gold is often called an unsung hero in vintage board games, a game that is little-known and deserves more credit. And, eh, I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with that.

The game is really cool. The art is cool. The components are amazing. The theme is dense and never wavers. And one of my pet peeves with vintage games is when they abandon the theme with a dumb win condition or something (for an example see me complain about The Miss America Pageant Game). So I give Web of Gold lots of props for picking a theme and sticking to it relentlessly.

The web tokens
The web markers are kind of cool because they show more strands as the numbers go up

The game does have more strategy than a lot of the games we cover here, which is a pretty low bar, granted. The Adventurers can be treated almost robotically – they have one job. The Spiders are more interesting to play as they can be offensive or defensive, and they move rather slowly so those decisions need to be made at the right times to make the Spiders useful.

This is an overview of our gameplay showing my green spider near my green adventurer
I was green and kept my Spider nearby toward the end of play to block the other terrible spiders

But even as you move around, you are really just constantly rolling the die to try and get a high number, or a low number. So at its core, Web of Gold is pretty simple.

Our mine got extremely webby. We actually ran out of the 3 strand web markers several times during play. The rules do not address how to handle this, so we decided to just use 2 strand web markers. It seemed the most fair option.

As our game winded down, I was facing a couple of webs in order to get to my starting space and win. And if I did not pull it off then Bill would get the win on his turn. Fortunately I had drawn my one and only item of the game the turn previously and received a Torch. So I was able to blast my way to victory!

play or pass

Play. I think the game is a little overrated in some cases, but I love a good theme and if Web of Gold delivers anything, it delivers theme. Plus if you find it at thrift you can sell it for a couple bucks. And that cover! 😍