The Randlords

In the winter of June 1884, Jan Gerrit Bantjes made a discovery that would forever change the face of South Africa. He had discovered gold!

Although this was not the first discovery of gold in South Africa, it would prove to be one of the most significant discoveries worldwide.


Although Bantjies’ discovery was only of a minor gold reef, it precipitated the discovery of a major reef two years later by George Harrison. The new discovery was made on a farm called Langlaagte in July 1886. The name “Langlaagte” is of Dutch origin and directly translates to Long Layer, but Long Flat Valley is perhaps a more appropriate description for the location. Langlaagte would become the first official privately owned gold mine in South Africa. Owned by The United Langlaagte Gold Mining Co. Ltd, this mine is the first mine seen on our game board.

A share certificate issued by The United Langlaagte Gold Mining Co. Ltd 

There is some contention on who first discovered gold in South Africa. George Harrison discovered gold 2 years after the first discovery in the Witwatersrand, but he is generally credited with the discovery of gold thanks to British attempts to claim the gold fields as British and thereby laying claim to the gold mined in the area.

The discovery of gold at Langlaagte prompted a significant gold rush, as immigrants flocked to the area in search of riches. Within three months, a mining camp of around 3000 people – mostly foreigners – was established. Similar mining communities sprung up on farms where riches of gold lay beneath the earth.

On 8 September 1886, digging sites on 9 farms were proclaimed public digging sites. The area became known as The Witwatersrand, which directly translates to The White Water’s Ridge.

Map of the Gold fields in the Witwatersrand, 1902

On 13 October 1886, the centrally located farm “Randjeslaagte” was renamed, Johannesburg.

The original miner’s camp, under the informal leadership of Col Ignatius Ferreira, had been located in the Fordsburg dip due to the site’s close proximity to the diggings and a fresh supply of water. The newly formed government of Johannesburg decreed that the area be taken over by the government and they assumed the management of all mining operations and prospectus rights.

As the gold rush grew more frantic and the number of immigrants seeking to find their fortune in South Africa increased, President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic started introducing measures to curb their influx. One such measure was the introduction of heavy taxes on the sale of dynamite to all foreigners.

However, this only further aggravated Anglo-Boer relations and culminated in an uprising known as the Jameson Raid.

The Jameson Raid

The 5-day raid lasted from 29 December 1895 until 2 January 1896. Led by Sir Leander Starr Jameson and initially supported by Cecil John Rhodes, the raid was an attempt to overthrow the Transvaal government and turn the region into a British colony. The raid failed with 23 people killed and several more arrested, tried and sentenced. Jameson would later be tried and sentenced in London, serving a 15-month sentence.

Sir Leander Starr Jameson

For conspiring with Jameson, the members of the Reform Committee (Transvaal), including Colonel Frank Rhodes (Cecil John Rhodes’ brother) and John Hays Hammond, were jailed, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to death by hanging. This sentence was later commuted to 15 years’ imprisonment. In June 1896, all surviving members of the Committee were released upon payment of stiff fines.

Colonel Frank Rhodes would later return to the Transvaal, setting up shop as a financier and later acquiring large ownership stakes in several mines.

Fame and Fortune

The rich gold fields in the Witwatersrand were different from the usual alluvial gold deposits found in other regions, in that the gold was locked up in quartz and hard rock, and therefore both difficult and expensive to extract.

Most of the entrepreneurs who made substantial profits from gold mining operations during the early stages of the gold rush were in fact not the miners or prospectors, but the financiers who charged substantial fees and interest rates, and who often took unused claims as payment. These men became increasingly wealthy and many held significant stakes in the various mining operations. These men became known as The Randlords.

The Board Game

The gold rush of the Witwatersrand undoubtedly put South Africa on the map. It was a precursor to the Anglo-Boer War, the scene of intense political horse-trading, the economic cornerstone of Southern Africa, and the base from which industrialisation spread throughout Africa.

An early mockup of The Randlords Game Box

Although fortuitous for some, many hopefuls lost everything in their pursuit of riches – often even their lives.

When designing The Randlords, we wanted to capture the essence of the period, as well as create an enjoyable but challenging gaming experience that encapsulates the risk/reward spirit of the largest gold rush in the world. We chose the 20 most prominent Randlords, and embodied their characters into the game for an added layer of authenticity.

Who were the 20 Randlords?

Sir Abe BaileyBarney Barnato
Alfred BeitSir Otto Beit
Hermann Ludwig EcksteinSir George Herbert Farrar
Adolf Goerz John Hays Hammond
Gustav ImrothSolomon Joel
Harry StrubenSamuel Marks
Maximilian MichaelisSir Lionel Phillips
Cecil John RhodesSir Joseph Benjamin Robinson
Charles Dunell RuddJim B Taylor
Sir Julius WernherSir George Albu

The Randlords board game, although liberally painted with a creative brush, is set in a very rich and intriguing piece of South African history. We certainly learned a lot about the country and its history while making it. We hope you enjoy playing it as much as we enjoyed designing it.

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