Thief of Bagdad
English language edition of Der Dieb von Bagdad
List Price: $39.95
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(Worth 3,195 Funagain Points!)
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The sun is going down and dusk is slowly descending upon Baghdad's silhouette. The shadows in the alleyways are getting longer and becoming darker. The Bazaar slowly empties and the honorable citizens of this desert metropolis make their way home. This is the time when Ahmed and his men go about their business. They have planned a big mission for this night. They want to steal no less than 4 treasures from the palaces to leave no-one in any doubt -- there is only one thief of Baghdad!
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Thorsten Gimmler’s Thief of Baghdad was brought to my attention by some of my British gaming buddies, who were quite pleased with the game during this past year’s Spiel in Essen. I was fearful for my already over-packed luggage, which was bursting at the seams, but just couldn’t resist cramming in yet another game. I’m happy I made the effort, as I find the game to be interesting, allowing for some very clever card play.
As with many of Queen’s games, the box is simply too big. Everything could have fit in a box half the size. The components consist of a board depicting six palaces – each a unique color – a deck of cards, a handful of small cardboard treasure chests, and a bag filled with wooden meeples. There’s enough air inside the box for a small rodent to survive for weeks … but I won’t test that hypothesis!
Players each receive a supply of twelve thieves and 2 – 4 guards, depending upon the number of players. Guards are placed in front of palaces, along with six “neutral” guards. They are guarding treasure chests, of which there are four in each palace. An initial hand of cards is dealt to the players, and the thievery begins.
Each turn, players may take as many actions as they desire, but only three of those may involve thieves. Each action requires the expenditure of cards that match either the palace being entered or the palace being departed. The possible actions are:
1)Place a thief into a palace. This requires the player to expend one card for each external guard. External guards include neutrals and those owned by opponents. The cards played must match the color of the palace. In order to perform this action, the player must have one of his own guards in front of the palace. Seems like that guard is in cahoots with the thief, and secretly allows him to enter the palace.
2) Moving your own guard. To move an owned guard from one palace to another requires the expenditure of one card that matches either the target or departed palace.
3) Moving your own guard and a thief. The requirements are the same as listed in #2, but the guard may take a thief that is located in the palace with him.
4) Moving a neutral guard. Those neutral guards require a bit more coaxing to move, as two cards must be expended: one matching the target palace and one matching the palace being vacated.
Each palace can only accommodate four guards, so sometimes a player’s plans are delayed or even foiled by a well-guarded palace.
So just what is a player attempting to accomplish with all of these actions? Stealing treasure, of course! In order to steal a treasure chest, a player must gather a certain number of thieves inside a palace. The number required increases with each chest stolen. The top chest in each palace requires only four thieves, but this increases by one with each subsequent treasure. Further, once a player is successful in absconding with a chest, all of those thieves are removed from the board. So, it will take some time to once again assemble one’s thieves for another crime.
After a player completes his actions, three new cards are drawn. If a player opts to forgo any actions, he may draw four cards, one of which may be a “dancing lady” wild card. There’s not reason not to draw a wild card in this circumstance, as they can be used as any card. This option can be quite useful when a specific card is needed.
The game ends with victory when a player steals a fourth treasure chest. This has taken about 30 – 45 minutes in each game I’ve played, so the game does move along at a brisk pace. This surprised me, as some of the folks in Essen were claiming that the game was a bit of a brain-burner and tended to suffer from the dreaded ‘analysis paralysis” syndrome. I can honestly say that this has never occurred in any of my games.
The four simple actions actually provide players with a considerable amount of latitude in using their cards. Indeed, players can quite creative in moving the guards and thieves from palace-to-palace. Sometimes it seems as though it will be impossible to assemble the required number of thieves in a palace in order to steal a treasure chest. However, it is often possible to achieve objectives with a clever combination of cards and actions. Pulling-off such maneuvers is quite satisfying, and gives me a feeling of accomplishment. When I’ve won, I’ve felt I’ve achieved the victory with clever play. That is a good feeling. I never knew it could be so much fun to be a thief!