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In the blistering heart of the desert, a caravan route winds its way through a lush oasis. The steady stream of travelers and pilgrims who cross the simmering dunes to this place are in desperate need of goods and supplies.
As an enterprising merchant, you plan to meet the demand.
Set up shop by building encampments, stitching them together from various merchant tents; peddle camels, water and other resources to expand your trade. The player who takes control of the most encampments gains control of the entire desert bazaar... and wins the game.
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
The second game in the new Mattel “Eurogame” line is Desert Bazaar, a multi-player game wherein players collect resources and use them to construct tents. In a mechanism reminiscent of Attika, previously constructed tents can provide credit when constructing adjacent establishments. The challenge is to time one’s constructions to take advantage of these credits, as well as to construct solitaire tents for greater points.
Players construct tents on the small, hexagon-shaped board. Tents come in four different colors, with each depicted on tiny hexes, which are, sadly, way too small. In addition to the picturing the tent, each hex also depicts three tiny colored flags, which indicate the resources required to construct that tent. Unfortunately, the diminutive size of the hexes makes all of these details too difficult to see, forcing players to stand in order to see the board and components more clearly.
Resources are represented by cards, and are collected by rolling the three resource dice. A player must take an entire turn to collect resources, and even then his effort may fail if he is too greedy. There is a push-your-luck element to rolling for resources, and sometimes the temptation to attempt to acquire more or specific resources is just too great.
Eight tent tiles are placed face-up beside the board in two sets of four. Armed with nine resources and seven markers, players alternate exercising one of the following options on their turn:
1)Roll for Resources. When exercising this option, the following steps are
a. Draw one resource card.
b. Roll the 3 resource dice. Each die depicts one of each resource, a “wild” resource, and a desert, which yields no resources. The player may then choose one type of the resource rolled and take a number of resource cards equal to the number of that type of resource rolled. For example, if a player rolls two spice and one silk, he may either take two spice OR one silk, but not both.
c. Re-roll the dice. This is optional. If a player is not satisfied with the resources he rolled, or wants to get more of a particular resource, he may “lock” one die, and re-roll the remainder. However, he must roll at least one more resource that matches the locked in die. Otherwise, he goes empty handed for the turn.
2) Building Tents. This option, too, has several steps to follow:
a. Pick a tent tile from one of the two rows. This is important, as if a player opts to construct more than one tent on a turn, he must choose additional tiles from the same row.
b. Place the tile to the board. A tile can be placed on a vacant space, but may not be placed if it causes a grouping of adjacent tents to exceed seven tiles.
c. Pay the required resources. The three flags on a tent tile dictate the resources that must be paid in order to construct the tent. However, if placed next to an adjacent tent or tents, the color of those tents provide satisfy the requirement of a matching flag. Thus, it is possible to construct a tent with less than three resource cards. Indeed, sometimes a tent can be placed without any cost … and this is one of the main strategies of the game.
A player can construct multiple tents per turn, provided they all come from the same row and he can pay the necessary resource costs. Tents are marked with a player’s tent marker to indicate ownership.
When an isolated tent is constructed – not touching any other tent – the player immediately earns two points. Tents that are constructed adjacent to previously constructed tents do not immediately score points, but will score one point once that encampment reaches seven tents. Further, the player constructing the seventh tent in an encampment scores a one-point bonus. Player markers are then returned to their owners.
Players continue collecting resources and constructing tents until there are no legal spaces upon which new tents can be constructed. Unfinished encampments still score, earning one-point each for their owners. Thus, there really isn’t any risk to placing tent markers onto the board, other than the potential threat of depleting your supply before they can be scored. Victory goes to the player with the most points.
Unlike Voltage, Desert Bazaar has a deeper level of strategic options. Once must analyze the tents available for construction, and figure out the best way to construct them so as to take advantage of “credits” offered by the tents as they are placed. Proper positioning is important. Additionally, players must keep a steady supply of resources flowing through their hands so they will be able to take advantage of these multiple builds when the opportunity arises. At times, however, it is more advantageous to construct solitaire tents, as they earn an immediate two points.
While there are quite a few things to ponder and balance, the game is still on the lighter end of the strategy scale. However, there is certainly enough here to entice and engage gamers, while being accessible enough for the average family. As such, Mattel and designer Brian Yu seems to have a game that is positioned well to break into the mainstream market.