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I have a deluxe version of this game which I treat with kid gloves. It is based on the baring off of counters in backgammon and some deceptive card-play. Explaining this game is like trying to describe the taste of chocolate to someone who has never tasted it. It is rich, sweet and unique. I wish that a major game company would republish it. With all the silly card games getting rave reviews, a new generation of gamers would warm to this classic.
Marrakesh has been out of print for a very long time, which is a terrible shame. This is one game that should be considered a modern classic. It combines elements of backgammon with card play in a seamless wedding of two classic games into a new, richer experience.
The game is based on the bearing-off portion of backgammon. Each player rolls six dice to determine on which points to put their six tokens on their own home board. Six cards from a special deck are dealt to each player, and play begins.
The first player leads a card from their hand face-down, and the second player responds with a face-up card, trying to play a higher or matching suit, hopefully of the same value. The winning player of each trick uses the values of the two cards to bear off tokens. 'Doubles' and even 'triples' can be scored, allowing the player to bear off more tokens, or move them to more advantageous points. Bearing off tokens in certain combinations, such as 2-2-2 result in higher pattern scores. Twelve hands end the game, and highest score wins.
What makes the game unique is its casual elegance. It is relatively simple to learn, yet deceptively devilish in its depth. There is something very satisfying about scoring a 'fez' bonus for keeping an opponent to a low score. There is also a great feeling of triumph in scoring a 'backgammon' and moving all six pieces off in one fell swoop.
Xanadu Leisure turned out both a deluxe version as well as a small travel version of this game. Sadly, neither one is currently in print. If you ever see this game for sale, new or used, I highly, strongly recommend buying it and making it a regular part of your gaming library.