Box of Golf

Reviewer Reviewed On Publisher Designer Published In Rating
August 26, 2005 Box of Golf, Inc. Not credited 2003 6.5
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When I received Box of Golf: A Classic Golf Board Game (Box of Golf, Inc., 2003 - No designer credited), I was amazed at how heavy the box was. Few games I have even seen come close to the weight of the game - in fact, only Carabande is heavier. Upon opening the game, I realized why it was so heavy - Box of Golf comes in a wooden box with nine double sided wooden boards to represent an entire golf course. The game I have is the "Enhanced": version, which is halfway in quality between the "Basic" and "Deluxe" versions.

The Enhanced version is so fabulous, however, that I'm not sure how much better the Deluxe version could be. Certainly, this is reflected in the price of the game, with the Enhanced version running around $100. Is the price worth the components - probably. But is the game inside worth snagging or is this merely a collectible item for golf clubs to display in their lounges?

The answer probably lies somewhere in between. The game itself is quite good - it's more simplistic fun than an actual golf simulation. But I don't know that the game is good enough to warrant spending such a large sum on - even the $50 basic version. I'm sure that if you have any type of golf inclination and a fairly decent disposable income, then Box of Golf would be a nice coffee table display/game. But for the ordinary gamer, this would definitely be a "try-before-you-buy" type of game, before parting with such a hefty sum of cash.

The game takes place on the eighteen holes of a golf course - each consisting of one board. Players take a token representing them and place it on the "T" space on each board. Players also take a gem of each of four colors: blue, green, yellow, and red. The rest of the gems are placed mixed together in the box. One player is chosen to go first, and the game begins.

On a player's turn, they are trying to get their ball, represented by their token, into the hole. This is done by rolling one to five dice, simulating the different golf clubs. Dice have colored sides (black, purple, red, blue, green, and yellow), and the player may choose how many they want to roll each "shot". The objective of the player is to get as many of the same color as possible. Purple dice are actually "wilds" and count as red, green, blue, or yellow. Black dice are "divots" and count as nothing. Once a player rolls, they have the option of re-rolling any dice that are not wilds or part of the largest color group. They cannot re-roll black dice, unless they are on the "T" space. Dice may be re-rolled only twice. Once the player gets their final roll, they move their token on the golf track that many spaces. If they land on the "P" space, they move their token to the putting track.

Players take turns in this way, in order, until all of them have managed to get their balls into the hole. With their rolls, players may overshoot the hole or land on a special space that affects their next die roll, etc. Spaces on the board have different meanings:
- Star spaces: If a player lands directly on a star space from the "T", they get a gem from the box (randomly chosen). Also, a player on a star space may re-roll their black dice, just as if they were on a "T".
- Arrows: If a player lands on an arrow, they must immediately move their token to the space the arrow is pointing. Sometimes this is helpful, but often it causes the ball to land on a poor space or on an out-of-the-way space.
- Rough: When a player is shooting the ball from this space, they must subtract one from the total on the dice.
- Green: If a player lands on the "P" space without using a gem or any purple dice, they immediately may roll again on the putting track.
- Tree: When a player hits a ball that goes through a tree space, they must roll one die. If it is black, their ball hits the tree and stops on the tree space.
- Water: If a player lands in water, they add one stroke to their total, and the player moves the ball back to the first "dry" space.
- Sand Trap: In a sand trap purple dice count as black dice.

Players can also use gems - by paying them and putting them in the box, to affect their shots. Except for red gems, players may only play one gem each turn.
- Red gems: These are "mulligans", or allow a player to take the entire turn over.
- Yellow gems: Paying one of these allows a player to roll again as soon as they land on the green.
- Blue gem: These are gusts of wind, and allow a player to add or subtract one from their total when moving the ball.
- Green gem: These are "gimmees", and allow a player to put their ball into the hole automatically if on the green, and that player has missed the shot.

After each hole, players compare the total number of shots they needed to complete the hole. Players who have made par (shown on each board) or less get one gem randomly from the box for each stroke under par. The player with the lowest score for the hole gets two extra gems (in case of ties - all players involved get one gem). If a player has less than four gems, they increase their number to four before playing the next hole. The board is then removed and the next hole revealed. Play continues until players have gone through all eighteen holes (nine in a short game), and then the player with the most gems is the winner!

Some comments on the game… (All are based on the Enhanced version I have.)

1.) Components: Stunning. Absolutely stunning. My wife was amazed when she saw this game, and she commented on how nice it looked (a comment she doesn't throw around lightly.) And it's the truth. An extremely good quality wooden box allows the wooden boards to slide in and out - each with rounded corners and beautiful artwork on them. I almost felt that I could use the boards as placemats at our table - that's how nice they were. The gems were little glass stones - 100 of them - that fit nicely into a container at the side of the box. The dice are rounded, white six-sided dice with the color shown on each side (although I imagine it might be a problem for color-blind people). The tokens are painted plastic pieces that look like a golfer from a bygone era, or a bag of golf clubs (the one everyone wants). The whole display is stunning, and I imagine that a lot of golfers (who seem to have more money anyway) would be pleased to have this game on display at their house. In fact the main differences between the versions are simply the components. (The Basic version uses plastic instead of glass stones, and wooden tees instead of painted figures, etc. The Deluxe version comes with 24K gold plated pieces, and a custom brass plaque on the game, etc.)

2.) Rules: The rules for the game are written decently, although not in a very good order, and can be a little confusing on the first read through because of that. However, the lid of the box has incredible quick reference rules, which are far better in color and very easy to reference during the game. For example, players are constantly forgetting what each color gem does, but the quick reference rules help fix that problem easily. The game is simple to teach to people, although some have a harder time adjusting to the fact that we're not keeping golf scores, per se but rather collecting the most gems.

3.) Gems: I actually thought that the gem idea was fairly ingenious. Not only was it an easier way to keep score (instead of writing numbers down all the time), but it allowed players to give up part of their score to do better on a hole. Many times during the game, players are faced with the choice: Should they use one of their gems, helping them do better on the hole, or keep it, since it will add to their final score. The players who best know how to use their gems are the ones who will win the game. The difference in the value of the colors is debatable, I'm sure - I personally liked the yellow gems the best, as they allowed me to get a "hole-in-one".

4.) Dice: Any game that has dice will make folks wary as to the strategy within the game. And to be sure, the dice do include a certain amount of luck. But, the player can determine how many dice they roll, whether they want to re-roll them, and whether or not to use a gem. This adds some strategy to the game - not a lot, but enough to make the game more than mindless.

5.) Simulation: You can't decide whether to use the nine-iron or the eight. You can't decide which direction to hit the ball (although occasionally there are two tracks to choose between - each with their pros and cons). You can't see exactly how many inches you are from the hole. Frankly, I like that. If I want a golf simulation, I can play a computer game. If I want a fast, fun board game, I have Box of Golf.

6.) Fun Factor: Box of Golf is a lot of fun, even for people like me who have pretty much no interest in the actual game of golf. It's simple but offers enough choices, so that when the game is over players feel the best person won. Getting a hole-in-one or a "birdie" produces an emotional high, and excitement is certainly present. There is very little player interaction, to be sure, but in this game, watching other player's shots is still fairly fun - and downtime is minimal.

7.) Expansions: I have the Old Course St. Andrews Links expansion, which is a set of boards for a famous golf course. The expansion uses actual photographs, and has a few features not found in the basic game. This opens up a world of opportunities for the Box of Golf company, as they offer to customize the game for people's enjoyment, making any golf course you'd like. (I'm sure the fees are sizeable, though.) Still, if I owned a golf course, I'd love to have a game that was personalized to match. And for players, having two or more golf courses to play on provides a bit of variety.

I would recommend this game in an instant, if it wasn't for the high costs. Yes, the money is certainly worth it, as the components are simply astounding. But most people don't usually have a hundred dollars to throw around on a board game. But if you are a golf fan, or simply want a tabletop showpiece that has a decent game packaged inside, and have the extra money, then Box of Golf is a good choice for you. Have a non-gaming spouse who loves golf? This might be the perfect present for them. For me, a gamer, it's fast and fun, but perhaps not worth the price. That being said, I proudly display my copy.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games."