English language edition
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Our thanks to Kurt Adam for permission to excerpt and modify parts of his review of Arabana-Ikibiti which appeared in The Game Report, edited and published by Peter Sarrett.
Arabana-Ikibiti was much in demand and proved quite difficult to get at Essen 97. Now Funagain Games has purchased the rights to and produced a limited edition American version of this popular game. Order your copy soon before supplies run out!
In the game, each of two players tries to build bridges amongst the islands of the imaginary land depicted on the map. Bridges are placed and removed between the islands as the players fight for dominance. Control can seesaw back and forth between the two players providing a tense, interesting game.
The map contains twelve islands with anywhere from three to six connections to other islands. Along with the map comes a set of cards (two each for the twelve islands) and a set of wooden bits in two colors. The bits represent bridges and blocks for marking domination of an island by a player. The cards are shuffled and each player gets a hand of three. Three more cards are laid face-up to allow a few choices when it comes time to draw (as in Airlines). On his turn, a player can play any number of cards he likes and then must draw a card. The hand limit is five cards, so players may be forced to discard prior to drawing.
The card play is the core of the game. If a player plays a single card, he may lay a bridge between the island named on the card and any adjacent island provided that the connection hasn't been used already. If a player lays a bridge such that they have the absolute majority of all possible bridges on an island, he marks the island with one of his markers and removes all of the opponent's bridges from the island. This is the nasty bit that really makes the game work.
Opponents bridges may also be removed by card play, without having a majority of bridges. If, after removing a bridge, the opponent does not control both islands, then the player can lay on of his own bridges in the now vacant spot.
Play continues until the last card is drawn. At this point, the number of islands that each player controls is determined. Whoever controls more islands scores the difference between the totals. The game then continues for two more rounds. After the third round, the player with the most points wins.
Arabana-Ikibiti is a fairly simple game, mechanically. The great fun and the great challenge come from all the choices throughout the game, and all the potential variations in strategy. Since you can play as many cards as you like, you can choose to hold out and then have one massive turn, grabbing a whole slew of islands at once, or you can grab a corner and try to methodically work your way across the map. Since some of the draw cards are face-up, you can also play chicken with your opponent, watching who draws which card, anticipating where he plans to use it, and how you might disrupt his plans.
The game can go back and forth, with islands changing hands multiple times as each player struggles to get the upper hand. This makes for an active and uncertain game, right down to the wire.