Edel, Stein & Reich
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As a boss of the trading firm Edel, Stein & Reich the players are on the move through the jewel stock exchanges of the world. Incessantly they look for valuable emeralds, precious rubies and noble sapphires. But only those who correctly predict the intentions of their competitors will win the exciting haggling for money and jewels....
I sure didnt want to buy this game. Nearly completely abstract, about gaining majorities in colored stones, and this edition, based on Basari, ditched the board and made it a card game. I dont think a game could have anything more going against it for me, but with the constant positive buzz on this, I finally had to try it for myself. Folks, two words for you: HOME RUN!
Okay, okay, so there is a little bit of theme. Something like we are gem brokers trying to blah, blah, etc. etc. The theme is less than convincing, but the gameplay makes up for it. There are 4 different colors of gems, and there are three rounds. At the end of each round, money is awarded to the leader in each gem type. The colors are worth different amounts, and so some gems (red) are more hotly contested than others (blue). Since money is what wins the game, majorities are pretty nice to have. But majorities arent the only way to get money! But I am getting ahead of myself
Each player has a hand of 3 actions cards (4 action cards if playing with 5 players); the hands are identical. The first action is Money, the second is Gems, the third is Special Action Card; (the whole game is in German, so I am giving you the Yirmeyahu version of these actions.) At the beginning of a hand, each player is dealt a gem card face up, and a special action card is revealed. The gem card for each player is different and depicts between 2-4 gems (in all sorts of different possible combinations) and a dollar value between 4-7 million. Each player will look at all the gem cards, and the special action card and try and figure out which action would help them the most, and choose it secretly. Players simultaneously reveal which action they want to carry out. If you pick Money, you want the total dollar value (pure points) shown on the bottom of your gem card; if you pick Gems, you want the Gems on your card; if you pick Special Action, you want the Special Action card. Elementary!
But theres a catch (isnt there always a catch?): If 3 players pick the same action, they all lose their turn. Ay Caramba! If only 1 person picks an action, they may carry it out unimpeded. But if 2 players pick the same action, they must negotiate to see who gets to carry it out. And this, my friends, is the game. And what a marvelous game it is! The person with the least red gems begins the negotiations by offering any combination of gems (and only gems!) to the second player. The second player can accept the gems, allowing the first player to carry out the action, or they can counteroffer, which means their offer must be more valuable. The first player can then accept, or up the value again! And back and forth we go! So if you can figure out what an opponent will go for, do you avoid hios action and let him have it for free? Or do you try and tie him to get something out of him? What if he takes your offer leaving you with an action you didn't want in the first place? Delicious!
Sometimes a bid will start out small and escalate a lot. I have seen offers go back and forth 10 times or more! Its not only wanting to get the action that is important but also making sure that if the other person gets the action, you are adequately compensated for it. But you also need to consider what you are gaining compared to everyone else (after all 3 reds is worth a lot less if you are still 3rd place in reds) and what your opponent will gain relative to everyone else. Creating ties, or offering valuable but (to your opponent) useless gems is a useful tactic, and the whole game just crackles with tension and laughter.
Downtime isnt too bad, and barely noticeable since watching the negotiations can be more fun than being in them! This has gone over well with families, gamers, non-gamers this game is a smash. Unless you hate negotiation games, you should check this out. The negotiating is not complicated, and the compensation factor makes it a friendlier game than many other negotiation games are. There is something about the system that is easy to pick up for nearly everyone. Dont let the German text scare you either. The only place the text is bothersome is the special action cards, but since they have pictures on them depicting what happens, after your first game (referring to the English translation often) the pictures make complete sense and you can ignore the text completely. I recommend this game highly, and suggest families give this one a serious look.
As mentioned in my just-written review for its sister game, this is the new, gamer's version of Basari. While dispensing with the gameboard, the game has also acquired a richness with its expanded options. Nicely produced and filling one of the Alea small boxes, this is a game that is both easy to learn and fun to play.
While ostensibly about a competition between directors of a gemstone trading house, this is really a well-crafted abstract game. Players must out-guess their opponents at every turn, or failing that, must engage in a cleverly designed bartering system in order to take their intended action.
The biggest change from the prior game is the inclusion of a set of action cards. Players must decide whether to go for the cash listed on their gem cards, the gems themselves, or to take the action on the single action card each turn. The action cards can provide ether immediate advantages, or bonuses at scoring. Some of the cards can be very tempting, or at the very least devastating if not taken!
My one quibble is that the game can play a bit long. There is a balance though, as more players will result in fewer rounds played. This is a game that can be enjoyed by both hardcore gamers and more casual guests at the table, and therefore receives my highest rating. Highly recommended.
This game turned out to be the most popular requested game at a recent weekend games session, admittedly with many non regular gamers. It was favoured even over Carcassonne and several other titles.
The mechanics are simple. The objective of the game is to earn as much cash as possible from collecting the most gems of any one color or by acquiring the majority interest in the mines.
There a are 3 scoring phases per game. Each phase consists of 8 card deals. On each deal, cards are turned over depicting a certain quantity of gems, money and an event (which can increase a players score immediately or at the end of each phase in the 'Scoring' round).
The players then secretly play a card to decide which of the 3 options they want: Gems, Money or Event. The players then reveal their choices simulataneously which is the game main source of amusement.
The reason is that if only 1 person elects an option, then that persion gets to receive that option unchallenged. But if exactly 2 people go for the same option they must bid against eachother, with their precious gems. Something to be avoided if at all possible.
Worst still, if more than 2 people bid for the same option, then the option is forfeit altogether.
Play is fast and fun as each deal results in the dilemna: should I go for the most profitable option and risk gaining nothing or, opt for a less profitable option, which one might win unchallenged. The problem is that everyone else may think the same and opt for the lesser option. The real fun in the game is in trying to fathom out what may be going through your opponents minds and guestimating their choices based on their past performance, gut instinct etc..
8 fairly quick guesses later and you have a scoring round.
In the scoring round, money is awarded to the person who has collected the most gems of each color: Red, Yellow, Green and Blue earning 14,12,10 and 8 million respectively. Ties result in the money being shared. Another way to earn money is to acquire the most mining certificates (these form, about half of the event cards). The person with the most certificates gets 10 million and the second place player 4 Million. Money can also be obtained directly from choosing the money option on each deal and collecting between 4-7 Million as depicted on the card.
The Event cards add great interest to this game. Some events add bouses to the majority owner of specific colored gems. Other Event cards allow players to trade and collect gems to help them get an overall majority in one type. It often happens that you desperately want both the gems and the event cards but have to choose one. As when a Gem card offering 3 yellow gems appears with an Event card offering a bonus of $7m to the person who owns the most yellow gems. Going for the bonus card may mean that another player takes over the majority so you must content yourself with losing the bonus. Another interesting facet to the game is that you must continually appraise how much benefit your opponents can get with a particular card. At times, you'll need to choose a fairly weak card to yourself in order to stop your opponent making large gains.
All in all, the blend of gems, events and money on offer provide plenty of challenge, there is great entertainment provided by the revealing of choices and the bidding rounds that frequently result.
This game is the best light-middle game I have discovered this year, liked by gamers and non-gamers alike.
Alea's boardless version of Basari (see page 44) again demands that you choose one of three Actions each turn, with the same consequences. Rounds begin with everyone drawing and placing faceup a Treasure Card that illustrates the gems or money awarded to him if he successfully selects either. One Event card is revealed, and the action is executed by the player who gets it.
Events earn you gems or money for having more of certain colors, let you exchange one color for another, or allow you to steal or discard opponents' gems. A Certificate Event is a card you collect.
Each phase consists of several rounds and ends with a scoring session. Earn money by having the most of each color gem and by holding a majority of Certificates. The player with the most money after three phases wins. We highly recommend this Basari variant.
One of the hits of Nuremberg 1998 was Basari by the then new kid on the block, Reinhard Staupe. It was a game that packed in a lot of ingredients - racing round a track, collecting things, bargaining with other players, trying to anticipate their actions -- and yet which still only took 45 minutes. It was a very clever piece of design. Edel, Stein & Reich is Basari reworked as a cardgame, but please don't regard that statement as pejorative. This is not a case of them trying to sell you the same thing twice. The central mechanic remains the same, but the setting for it is substantially different and the changes have succeeded in making a good game better.
Basari was split into three sections, in each of which you moved your piece round the track by throwing a die. That sounds hackneyed, but the movement, which was simultaneous for all the players, was not the main part of the proceedings. The interesting thing was not so much how far everyone had travelled but where they had landed. Each space showed a number in the range 4 to 7 and a picture of between 2 and 4 jewels. Each player now made a secret choice of an "action" and you had three to choose from: 'number', 'jewels', 'dice'. Once everyone had decided, the choices were revealed.
A successful gain of the action 'number' would net you that number of victory points; one of 'jewels' would give you the jewels shown; and one of 'dice' would bring some victory points and some movement along the track -- the latter being valuable because at the end of each section of the game there are bonus points for those who have completed the lap. The snag to all this is that at most one player can gain each action. If only one player has tried for a particular one, they get it; if more than two have, then none of them gets it; and if exactly two have, they have to reach a deal. This involves using the jewels each has in order to strike a bargain and it works on a basis of offer and counter offer. One player begins by making his opponent an offer, which the other must either accept or better. This continues back and forth until someone accepts. The other then hands over the jewels agreed and takes the action.
The section ends when, at the end of a round, one or more players has completed the lap. Those who have collect 10 points and there are also 14 points for the player with most red jewels, 12 for most yellow, 10 for most green and 8 for most blue. It is these jewel bonuses that players will have been looking towards when they were deciding what actions to try for and what offers to accept as they journeyed round the board. After scoring these bonuses the players who got them have to surrender half of their jewels of that colour to the bank. This makes sure that they don't get off to too strong a start for the next section of the game, which now follows the same pattern as the one I have already described. The game ends after the third section.
It is not my normal strategy in a review to start with a fairly detailed description of a game's predecessor, but I felt it was the best approach here for two reasons. The first is that for those of you who already know Basari the main question you are likely to want answered is "what has changed?" for only then can you decide if this is sufficiently different to be worth buying. If I am going to do the comparison, it helps to have something to point at. The second concerns those who haven't seen the original. Basari itself is about to be republished by one of the new, small American companies and so for you the question is about "which?" as well as about "whether?".
In Edel, Stein & Reich the board and the dice have gone, to be replaced by two decks of cards. The first is a simple substitution for the spaces on the Basari board. It consists of 30 cards, each displaying a number and a set of jewels. At the start of each round each player is dealt one of these cards, which they then display in front of them. This sets up exactly the same sort of situation that you have in Basari after the dice rolls and the movement. The other deck is a set of event cards and one of them is turned face up at the start of each round. These cards are of two sorts: one which takes immediate effect and the other which comes into play the next time a scoring takes place. The 'immediate' ones affect the current jewel holdings of you or your opponents - things such as "exchange one of your gems for one of an opponent's gems" or "choose and return to the supply one gem from each of your opponents". The 'scoring' ones are either bonuses such as "1 point for each red stone" and "receive an extra 7 points if you have the sole lead in yellow" or they are certificate cards. Certificate cards are a fifth thing to be collected and, as with the different colours of jewels there will be points for whoever has the most.
In the 3 and 4 player versions of the game the next step is just as in Basari: each player secretly selects one of three actions. The 'number' and 'jewel' ones are the same as before, but the third is now 'take an event card' and if you gain this, you will have a choice of either the card that has been exposed or the top one from the face-down deck. Once the actions have been revealed, play proceeds as it did in the parent game. If you match with exactly one other player, you bargain and if you match with more than one, you curse and swear.
Playing with 5 was not an option with Basari, because the chance of the frustrating 3-player match becomes too high, but in the new game the extra player has been squeezed in by providing a fourth possible action which becomes available when you have this number. This is less valuable than the main three -- you just gain one jewel from the bank - but it has the advantage that you get to take it irrespective of whether it has been chosen by someone else. If it is tight between you and another player for the lead in a colour, it can be an excellent choice. At other times it provides you with a way of wimping out.
Like its parent, Edel, Stein & Reich is played in three sections with a scoring at the end of each. The difference is that this time a section consists of one passage through the jewel/number deck.
So is the new game better than the old? Yes, I think it is. Not by a lot, because Basari was and remains a very enjoyable game, but Edel, Stein & Reich edges its parent in two areas. The first is that it can be played with 5 players. Basari is for 3-4, but it is so much better with 4 that it is best regarded as being solely for that number. With Edel, Stein & Reich 3 is going to be as bad a number as before, but the 5-player game works well and so there is a definite gain in flexibility. The other improvement concerns the event cards. They provide more interesting play -- both in themselves and in the effect they have on other areas of the decision making -- than you get with the dice-related stuff in Basari.
Final question: Event cards mean writing and so is it possible for strict anglophones to play with the German edition? Yes, and doing so should not be a problem. There is only one card exposed at any one time, there are only ten different cards in all, all the cards carry pictures which illustrate the actions and Patrick Korner's translation on the Geek includes the illustrations as well as the text. Even if you have no one in the group who can read the simple German involved, a 1-page crib sheet for each player would provide all the information that anyone would need.