English language edition
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(Worth 2,000 Funagain Points!)
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Enter the street bazaar... the enticing sights, sounds and flavor of the marketplace are everywhere. In Basari you barter and haggle with the other street merchants over precious gemstones that keep changing hands with every round. The trader with the most points after three rounds is declared the winner. Adventure awaits in Basari!
BASARI, reprinted recently, is a fast-paced bartering game (and also a 'rock,paper,scissors' type of game as well).
After numerous plays, I believe that a 4 handed game is best because every one at least one action will be bartered for (or lost!). This keeps the action going.
The game is simple to play mechanically and plays quickly too. Average playing time is about 30-ish minutes (after a first session of rules explanations, etc). With such a short play time, there is a lot of action and, great opportunity for replays that allow players to experiment with new bartering strategies.
Sure, one can incrementally advance a barter, a gem at a time...but imagine shoving an entire pile at an opponent...what would he or she think?
And how about the rest of the opponents? Try it sometime!
Anyway, Basari is an extremely enjoyable, fast moving game that can be played by almost all ages above 10 or so and is just plain amusing too.
Okay, so the title of this review is boring -- but if catches the eyes of a few people looking for family games, then it has done its purpose. I wouldn't mind at all if this game got some more attention. For, every once in a while, I stumble onto a game that is so much fun, easy to teach, and short, that it makes me wonder how long it will take for big American game companies to take notice.
This version of Basari (a visual reworking of the original German version) is produced by Out of the Box: purveryors of fun, but cheaply produced games. I have a real bone to pick with them when it comes to graphics, but for Basari, they actually did okay. A sturdy board depicting a gem market with a vaguely Persian feel, clear reference charts in each corner of the board, small, but nice wooden pieces for each player, and glass drop beads in 4 colors repreenting the gems players will be haggling over.
Gameplay is Basari is fairly simple -- one of its main appeals in fact. Players place their pawn and their 'market' (wooden disk) on any space in the city. Then every player simultaneously rolls their own die and moves their own pawn that many spaces on the board. Now each player is sitting on a gem space on the board with two pieces of information: a set of 2-4 gems in various arrangements (eg. 2 greens and a blue, or 3 yellows, or 2 red), and a number between 4-7. Now each player must make a decisions about which action he wants to do, choosing one of three actions. Either he will try to: obtain the gems on the space he is on, obtain points equal to the number in the space he is on, or roll the die and move his pawn a second time in this turn.
Players have a set of three cards, one for each of the possible actions, then choose one secretly and reveal them simultaneously. If 3 or 4 players picked the same action, they all lose their turn. If 1 player picked the action, then he gets to take the action. If 2 players picked the action they must negotiate to see who gets it. Carry out these results and repeat process until the round ends by one or more players completeing a lap around the track and making it back to their home market.
So why pick the different actions?
Gems: At the end of the round, the leader in each gem color gets big points: Red lead is 14 points, Yellow is 12, Green is 10, Blue is 8. But that's not all. Gems are also what players barter with when they are negotiating to perform an action. Very important stuff. (More on that in a minute!)
Points: Well, uh...they're points. And you need points to win.
Roll die: Every player gets to roll their die at the beginning of the turn, but this allows an extra roll and move. The quicker you get around the board, the quicker you finish the lap back to your home market and end the round. AND every persom who makes it back to their home market gets 10 points!
Okay, that's all well and good, but what really makes the game explode in fun-drenched madness is the negotiating. Only one player can do each action, so if two players pick the same action, only one of them can do it. So, one of the player makes a compensatory offer to the other player: 'Jenny, I know you want those 2 red gems, but I want the 3 yellows. So I will offer you 2 blues to let me take the action.' If Jenny acccepts, then she gets the 2 blues I offered from my gem collection, and I obatin the gems from the sapce I was sitting on. But, let's face it, 2 blues is not a very good offer. If Jenny thinks it's a ripoff, she has to counter offer with a more valuable set, say 2 green. Which I don't want, so I offer 4 blue. Which she doesn't want, so she offers 2 green and 2 blue. That starts to sound pretty good to me, so I accept her offer, and she then gets the gems on the space she is sitting on. This part of the game is so social, so tense, and such a hilarious exercise in daring oneupmanship, that I enjoy watching others barter as much as I enjoy participating myself!
There is so much to the negotiating that it's hard to convey. You need to weigh what you'll gain versus what you'll give away; you need to make sure that players don't get runaway leads in colors, or, if they already have runaway leads, give them more gems in that colors since it won't benefit them at all! Trying to create ties between other players is always fun (they have to divide up bonus points if tied at the end of the round), and trying to squeeze a couple gems out of a player when you didn't want the action in the first place is one of my favorite tactics too.
Sure there is luck. And player chaos. But when I think of 30 minute games aimed at families, I can't think of many games better than this. The redone American graphics aren't as good as the original German version, and the cheap Chinese productions hurts too. But the price is fantastic, the game is short, the play is fun, the people will laugh, and the replayability on this game is off the carts. It isn't Bohnanza, but actually has a lot in common with Bohonanza: for whatever reason, negotiation games have a lot of replayability with most people, especially non-gamers.
Buy this, and enjoy!
After playing Basari when it was first released back in 1998, I found the game fair, but nothing terribly exciting. However, as with numerous other games, further playings heightened my enthusiasm considerably so much so, that Basari is now a personal favorite. I was thrilled to hear that Out of the Box would be releasing a new version and was happy to acquire a copy.
This new version of Basari is identical to the original in terms of rules, but the components have been altered. Gone are the plastic gems, replaced with glass stones. Although the glass does feel better, I did like the shape of the plastic pieces, which gave the visual appearance of finely cut gems. The actual features on the board are the same as in the original, but the board is larger and a bit more garish. I really liked the parchment appearance of the FX Schmid version, but this is strictly a matter of personal taste. The new board is certainly large and easy to see but it does have that nasty gutter where the board folds. Cant any company in America produce a game board without this valley?
The rules are very easy to understand and very straightforward. Newcomers to the game should have no trouble whatsoever diving into the game with just a quick reading.
Although the game was originally released nearly six years ago, it has been out of print for several years. Thus, an explanation is in order. The setting for Basari is a Middle Eastern Bazaar. Players travel around the bazaar, visiting various stalls and deciding to purchase various items. Each stall (which is a space on the board track) depicts a various types of jewels in various combinations, as well as a number ranging from 4 7.
Players each begin the game with three each of the four types of gems: rubies (red), topazes (yellow), emeralds (green) and sapphires (blue). Gems are worth victory points when scoring occurs at the end of each of the three rounds, but they are also used as commodities when bartering for the right to perform various actions. Keeping a healthy stockpile of gems if vital, lest one lose the ability to barter and suffer when points are tallied.
Each player begins the game on a stall of his choice, indicating this as his base. This is marked with a disk of the same color as the players pawn. Players also each receive a die of the same color.
Each turn is conducted in a similar fashion. Players simultaneously roll their die and move their pawn the indicated number of spaces in a clockwise direction around the bazaar. When they come to rest on a stall, the jewels and victory points depicted thereon will be available to the player maybe. You see, the player will then have the following options:
1) Take the jewels pictured on the stall;
2) Take the number of Victory points listed on the stall; OR
3) Roll the die and move that amount forward. The player also subtracts the number rolled from '6' and gets that difference in victory points.
Well, this isnt exactly correct. Each player DOES have these options, but they are not guaranteed that they will be able to enjoy the benefits. Why is that? The main mechanism in the game is one wherein each player secretly 'bids' for which action he wishes to take by use of bidding tiles. Each player possesses three bidding tiles, one each for the three options listed above. Each player chooses one of his tiles and they are simultaneously revealed. If only one player chooses a particular option, he reaps the benefits. If, however, two players bid for the same action, they must negotiate a deal to see which one gets to execute the action. If three or more players happen to bid for the same action, those bids cancel each other and none of those players can execute the desired action. This can be immensely frustrating!
When choosing the action you wish to perform, it is vital that a player examine the potential rewards being granted for the other players. Often, you would love to have a certain set of jewels, but based on the stalls occupied by your opponents, you know there is a good chance that they, too, will be seeking to acquire the jewels. So, it is sometimes wiser to choose a different action that you feel wont be chosen by your opponents. Still, they may be thinking the same thing, so will also choose a different action. Certainly, there is a strong element of guesswork here, but instead of being overly frustrating, it works well and adds tension and excitement to the game.
As mentioned, the jewels are the unit of currency. Whenever negotiation is required, process involves players making offers and counter-offers in jewels until one player decides to accept the other's offer, taking the jewels offered. The winning bidder then gets to execute the contested action, either the taking of jewels depicted, the earning of the victory points depicted, or the rolling of the die.
The bartering process is at the heart of the game. The player who is currently furthest ahead on the victory point track makes the first offer, sliding forward one or more gems as an offer. The opponent can either accept the offer, or make a counter-offer. A counter offer must consist of either more gems, OR an equal number of gems, of which at least one is of a higher value than those offered by his opponent. The ranking of the gems in terms of value are ruby, topaz, emerald and sapphire. Thus, an offer of a ruby and two sapphires bests an offer of two topazes and an emerald. This bartering process continues until an offer is accepted.
Once all contested actions have been successfully resolved, players again roll the dice and repeat the same procedure. This continues until at least one player travels around the board and again reaches or surpasses his starting base. At this point, any player who reached their starting base on that turn receives a bonus of 10 victory points (this is one reason why the dice roll option is important). Then, each gem category is examined to determine which player has the majority in each. The player with the most gems in a category will receive points ranging from 8 14 points, with the most points being awarded for the ruby category. Points are divided if players tie for the majority in a category. As an equalizer, each player who had a majority must return three of that color jewel to the bank. Thus, the race for majority position remains competitive from round-to-round.
Players then reset their bases to the current location of their pawn and play another round. The game continues in this fashion until the completion of three rounds. The player with the greatest cumulative total of points after three rounds is victorious.
Basari has a lot going for it. Although the choosing of actions and the corresponding guesswork involved is fun, the bartering is at the heart of the game. Players must keep a careful eye on the majority status of the four gems and be mindful of how the current negotiations will possibly affect those positions. There is a constant struggle between the players for control of these majorities and one transaction can drastically later the current status. Shrewd negotiation is required, but must be accomplished by the offering of gems and not with a silver tongue!
When the game was first released, a few folks complained about the potential of a king-making problem developing at the end of the game. That is, the results of one negotiation involving a player who is out of contention can determine who will win the game. Yes, this can occur, as it can in numerous other games. Fortunately, the appearance of this unsettling situation has been rare. The vast majority of my games have been extremely enjoyable and competitive and noticeably free of this potential problem. This is one Middle-Eastern bazaar I will be happy to visit over and over again.
Are you cunning enough to get something for nothing? All players roll their dice, move their Merchant that number of spaces, and secretly pick one of their three permanent Action cards. If two players pick the same card, they must offer each other increasing values of gems for the privilege of playing it. When three or more choose the same card, nobody plays it!
The three Actions are: Gemstones, which get you the number and color of gems depicted on your Merchant's space; Points, which earn you the number of points shown on that space; and Roll, which lets you move your Merchant by a die roll. A Merchant that completes an entire lap of the board ends a round, and prompts a scoring. Earn points for having the most or second most gems of each color, and for completing a lap; then return half of your scoring gems to supply. Most points wins after three rounds. Entertaining proof that great minds should not try to think alike!
Reinhard Staupe would seem to be the new kid on the block, current holder of the 'most promising newcomer' title. He made it on to the nominations list for the 1997 Spiel des Jahres with a self-published game called Comeback, one of several card games that he produced last year. This year he has two on the list: another card game, this one called David and Goliath, and Basari. What is more, the enthusiasm of the Spiel des Jahres Jury seems to be shared by the German reviewers, with Fairplay using the word 'Meisterstück' of David and Goliath and Spielerei going one better with 'Meisterwerk' for Basari. My German is limited, but my understanding is that 'Meisterstück' is the word used for the piece of work that a would-be master craftsman produces to demonstrate that he now deserves the title and that 'Meisterwerk' is what modern English means by the word 'masterpiece'. Either word is high praise and it means that, although I haven't seen the card game as yet, it is an omission I intend to remedy, because I agree with their opinion of Basari.
The game is an ingenious combination of race game, collecting game and trading game. The board shows a loop of thirty arches and the game consists of three circuits of the loop. At the end of each circuit, the game is scored and the starting positions of the runners reset. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the three laps. In addition to a spot for the runners to occupy, each arch also contains a number in the range 4-7 and a picture of 2-4 jewels in a mixture of blue, green, yellow and red. The numbers can be converted into points and the jewels are the things you collect and trade.
Each player begins with three jewels of each colour, a die, three wooden pieces and three cards. Each then chooses a starting position on the loop and marks this with the smallest of their bits of wood; the other two are your runner and your scoring marker. The cards show actions you can take in the second part of each turn.
The first part of each turn is simple: everyone rolls their die and moves their runner. Then each player simultaneously selects one of their three action cards. The options are:
The lap ends at the end of the turn in which someone gets back to their starting position and points are then scored for having completed the full circuit and for having the largest number of jewels in each colour. It is these scoring considerations that will influence your choice of cards.
It is still pretty simple and there is still nothing in what I have said so far to justify the talk of "Meisterwerk" in the first paragraph, but now comes the crunch. You don't necessarily get to do the action you have chosen. If you are the only player to have chosen a particular action, you do it; if three or more of you have chosen the same action, none of you gets to do it; and if exactly two of you have chosen the same action, the haggling starts. I make you an offer in jewels and you either accept it or make a higher counter-offer. And so it continues until one of us accepts, at which point the other gets to perform the action.
Now we have a real game on our hands. Everyone can see exactly how close to completing the lap each player is, what each player's jewel holdings are, how many points they have already accumulated and what they stand to gain from each action. All the information you need to be able to decide what each of your opponents would like to do. Then you look at the likely consequences and try to figure if they'll go for it or not. Some times you'll want to avoid a clash; other times you'll want to provoke one. That also goes into the mind game.
The Spielerei reviewer declared "Basari is an absolutely first class game and already belongs to my personal top ten". I don't have a personal top ten, but I do agree with the "absolutely first class" part and for a game of its type would put it up alongside Medici. The only drawback is the restriction on the number of players: 'three or four players only' is quite restricting and my guess is that it won't play as well with three as it does with four, because you will lose a significant number of the clashes and it is the clashes and their effects that make the game so interesting. So really, you are looking at a 4-player game which can be played with three at a pinch. However, if four is a common number for your games sessions and if you like games such as Medici, this is definitely one that you should look at.
The only caveat I would put on that recommendation comes if you are one of those who demands that a game should have a strong theme. This game doesn't, but then neither for that matter does Medici. Both are abstract games. I am a mathematician. Abstraction doesn't worry me, but I am aware that some of you feel differently. Be warned therefore, if you are one of those who needs a strong hook to engage your imagination, you could well not like this one. Your loss. The rest of you should check it out.