Through the Desert
English language edition of Durch die Wüste
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The desert is treacherous, mysterious, and without mercy. But for those willing to risk the dangers of the shifting, sun-baked sands, the desert holds riches beyond compare.
In Through the Desert, two to five players each control a tribe of nomads vying for control of the desert. By establishing caravans and taking over oases, the players gain points as their tribes increase in power.
Strategy is essential in deciding how and where to build your tribe's caravans. There is more than one way to gain points, and several ways to win. Should you try to build the longest caravan? Or should you dominate the desert's oases? Don't forget to keep an eye on your opponents' caravans, or you may find your own tribe cut off from valuable water holes.
I do not know what the previous gamers reviewing this game are thinking. This is a great game of pure strategy- there is no luck involved. You have to keep one eye on your opponents moves and possibilities and one eye on your situation. Hem an opponent in, close him off from an oasis, capture territory, and strive to have the longest caravan in at least three of the five colors (in a two player game-10 bonus points per color to the longest caravan is huge- often game deciding). This game is a GREAT two player game and does play differently with three or more. Depending on experience, a third or fourth player can wreck your plans or unwittingly play into them. You must keep your eyes on the camel supply, because when one color runs out, the game is over. This is harder to project with multiple players. I cannot speak highly enough of this game - it is awesome strategy- and you are never sure who is going to win. I suggest that the reviewers giving this game a poor review should try playing an experienced player in this game and see how dull or boring it is- There is so much to do and so little time- prioritizing is paramount and you are planning many moves and possibilities at all times. One of the best for a pure strategy two player game.
Through the Desert is one of Knizia's best works. As with many of his games, it is fairly abstract - the camels have no real realationship to the the game; the theme is an overlay to a great system. The game system is a derivative of Go. As such, the mechanics are minimal but the strategic and tactical possibilities are near infinite.
This is not a game with a lot of player interaction (like Res Publica, High Society or Modern Art). It is very chess-like in nature yet simple enough to teach in a few minutes. Of all of Kinizia's games, I feel this one is the one that should be mass marketed; it easily surpasses Othello and Mastermind in possibilities and yet is no more difficult to teach. This is a classic.
The claim has been made that this game is blatantly abstract and quite dry with a pasted on theme. While I can't entirely deny those allegations, I think they are too strong. This is not only a challenging and enjoyable game, but it also has an aura all its own as the pastel pallette overtakes the sands.
My experiences with this game have been that the game is consistently close and readily understood, if not mastered, by newer players. The challenge of balancing where and when to attack, when to grab easy points and managing the finite, shared supply of camels makes this a game where you just can't consider your position too much. Despite this, I haven't found that the game leads to 'analysis paralysis' the way some other games do. Perhaps it is because so much changes between each turn, you always need to be nimble in your thinking.
Don't be put off by the claims of dryness or abstractness! This is a strong game that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a game where strategy and skill will allow you to plan and react your way to victory.
I didn't know what to make of the gaudy, toylike little camels when I first saw them. But I soon fell in love with this delightful territorial game, in which 170 camels and 30 camel riders roam a desert in search of oases, water holes, and space. After camel riders are placed strategically on the board, preferably near the point-scoring oases, the battle continues as you place your other camels to build caravans connected to your riders. Caravans cannot cross each other, so you will aim to create the largest ones possible to surround the greatest areas of territory, and thus earn points. Reaching water holes also earns points, and deprives others from getting there. The player with the highest score after the last camel is placed wins.
Durch die Wüste is Knizia's game of deserts, camels and water. The game comprises a hexed board showing the desert, camels in 5 pastel colours, oases and various waterholes. In a nutshell, the game is one of placing camels to score points by connecting to oases or waterholes, encompassing areas and having the longest chain of camels in a colour.
To set up, each player is given a brown camel with a rider of his chosen (primary) colour on it and one camel of each of the 5 pastel colours, also with a rider of his colour on it (the 'camel-rider'). First, the oases, represented by palm trees, are placed on the board. In the final reckoning, having a camel adjacent to a palm tree scores 5. Next place the waterholes. These vary in value from 1 to 3 and should be distributed randomly on marked hexes. Having set up the board, each player takes it in turn to place one of their 5 camel-riders on the board until they have all been placed. This initial placement is subject to a few restrictions, namely that you may not place a camel next to an oasis, nor may you place a camel next to a camel of the same colour. From then on, players take it in turn to place any two camels so that they are connected to their camel chain of the same colour, ensuring that camel chains belonging to different players never come into contact. Effectively each player (and his primary colour camel-riders) ends up with one chain of camels in each of the five pastel colours and it must be obvious which camel belongs to which player. Placing a camel on one of the six spaces round a palm-tree gives 5 points for each player achieving this, while the waterholes score from 1 to 3 points but only for the player who places the camel and then removes the waterhole. The game ends when all camels of one colour have been placed. Then it's time for the reckoning. As said, an oasis is worth 5 for each chain connected to it, waterholes are from 1 to 3, longest chain per colour scores 10. For areas enclosed you score the number of unoccupied hexes within that area and also get any waterholes within it. Most points wins.
When I first got the game, read the rules and then played by myself, the immediate comparisons were favourably with Shark, Acquire and Manhattan but with fewer placement restrictions (there's even more than a hint of Blazing Camels/Wurmeln in it). I thought then that the greater flexibility would make it a better game but I can't help feeling now that it doesn't. If my group plays again, we reckon we'll probably start imposing some limitations such as drawing 5 camels unseen from a bag and having to play 2 of those. Having said that, while this game may not have the depth or complexity of Tigris, it is good, quick, fun and to be recommended.
SWD: The trouble with that as a variant, Neil, is that it loses one of the game end conditions -- the one which says that the game ends when one of the colours has been exhausted. In our games, that has been the condition that has actually finished the game and this has added quite a lot to the tactics.