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Through the Desert
English language edition of Durch die Wüste
List Price: $34.95
Your Price: $27.99
(Worth 2,799 Funagain Points!)
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From the award-winning game designer Reiner Knizia comes a game of strategy, patience, and cool plastic camels! The desert is still treacherous, mysterious, and without mercy. But for those willing to risk the dangers of the shifting, sun-baked sands, the desert holds riches beyond compare.
In Through the Desert, two to five players each control a tribe of nomads vying for control of the desert. By establishing caravans and taking over oases, the players gain points as their tribes increase in power.
Strategy is essential in deciding how and where to build your tribe's caravans. There are multiple ways to gain points and several ways to win. Should you try to build the longest caravan? Or should you dominate the desert's oases? Don't forget to keep an eye on your opponents' caravans, or you may find your own tribe cut off from valuable water holes.
Through the Desert is playable by ages 10 and up, and is suitable for the whole family. You can play an entire game in under an hour.
Players: 2 - 5
Time: 20 - 45 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Est. time to learn: 10-20 minutes
Weight: 910 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. Game components are language-independent.
- 1 game board
- 175 plastic camel playing pieces
- 30 plastic camel-rider playing pieces
- 45 water hole counters
- 5 plastic oasis trees
- 40 point-counting chips
Average Rating: 4.4 in 35 reviews
First things first, what are you gonna’ get and what’s it gonna’ cost you? Through the Desert comes with 1 game board, 175 plastic camels, 30 plastic riders, 45 watering hole counters, 5 plastic oasis trees, and 40 point chips. The game retails for $29.95. That comes out to be about 17 cents a camel, which may seem a bit steep at first. The components of this Fantasy Flight game may leave something to be desired, particularly the game board, which never lays entirely flat, but what it lacks in presentation, it more than makes up for in gameplay. In the end, I think you’ll find the pastel pieces and clip-on riders somewhat endearing, and part of the game’s charm.
So what are you doing for 45 minutes with all these camels splayed out before you? First, the game setup is pretty quick and painless, and is the only random part of the game (which is my favorite kind of game, increases replayability, but eliminates the role of luck). To setup the game all you have to do is randomly place the watering hole counters on the blue dots, so that the counters with values of 1, 2, and 3 are randomly distributed. Then all that’s left is to reattach the tree tops to their bases and distribute those randomly across the oasis spots. Second, the initial placement involves every play putting down a camel of each color. There are five camel colors (blue, green, yellow, purple, and peach), and every play will be building a caravan in each color. To begin the game everyone starts with one camel in each color, and this initial camel for each caravan is bearing a rider of that player’s color. This initial placement is actually an extremely important part of the game. You need to situate your riders near oases and watering holes. But there’s more involved because the game is really all about developing strong positions in relation to your opponents, so you’ll want to be sure to react to what your opponents do during initial placement. Third, the game proceeds with each player alternating placing two camels (of any colors of their choice) on the board. The rules for camel placement are very simple, and pretty much amount to the fact that you must grow your existing caravans, and not merge them with an opponent’s caravan of the same color.
How do you win this game anyway? The scoring is what really makes this game (as in all Knizia games). There are four different ways to score points, and thus many different strategies for coming out ahead in the end. The four ways to score points involve: 1) claiming water holes, which are worth between 1 and 3 points; 2) linking to oasis trees, which is worth 5 points; 3) enclosing areas, which is worth the number of hexagons enclosed; 4) having the most of a camel color, which is worth 10 points, and up to 50 points if you were to have the most in all five colors. The scores are tallied when any one of the five camel colors runs out. The game length varies because sometimes all players are using a lot of a single color, and other times placement is more evenly distributed across all of the colors.
The key to what makes Through the Desert great lies in the fact that the rules are simple and the playing time is short, but the gameplay is engrossing, interactive, and constantly presents difficult decisions. First, the game is engrossing because downtime is limited. Players can begin planning for their move on other player’s turns, developing contingency plans and the like. Moreover, all that anyone ever has to do on their turn is place two camels. Finally, the actions of other players can affect you significantly, so you’ll always want to be paying attention when others are going. Second, the game is interactive because a lot of the strategy revolves around blocking each other. In many circumstances it might be more worthwhile to prevent your opponent from getting points, rather than getting points yourself. The board is a tight space that quickly becomes congested, and players’ caravans will weave tangled webs, as they feint and counter-feint across the hexagonal desert.
So how many people can you play this with anyway? The game is designed for 2 to 5 players, with slight rules modifications depending on how many players there are. However, the game is at its best with only 2 players. The game works reasonably well with more, but predictability and control decline as the number of players increases, which can make it more frustrating and less strategic. As a head-to-head duel though, the game is an excellent battle of wits to dominate the desert through a variety of scoring methods.
Through the Desert is very deceptive, with its pastel pieces, simple rules, and short playing time, the game may appear to be a light filler, but what you’re really getting is an excellent strategy game that gives players an enormous amount of control, presents them with many difficult decisions, and rewards them with far more than meets the eye.
I do not know what the previous gamers reviewing this game are thinking. This is a great game of pure strategy- there is no luck involved. You have to keep one eye on your opponents moves and possibilities and one eye on your situation. Hem an opponent in, close him off from an oasis, capture territory, and strive to have the longest caravan in at least three of the five colors (in a two player game-10 bonus points per color to the longest caravan is huge- often game deciding). This game is a GREAT two player game and does play differently with three or more. Depending on experience, a third or fourth player can wreck your plans or unwittingly play into them. You must keep your eyes on the camel supply, because when one color runs out, the game is over. This is harder to project with multiple players. I cannot speak highly enough of this game - it is awesome strategy- and you are never sure who is going to win. I suggest that the reviewers giving this game a poor review should try playing an experienced player in this game and see how dull or boring it is- There is so much to do and so little time- prioritizing is paramount and you are planning many moves and possibilities at all times. One of the best for a pure strategy two player game.
Through the Desert is one of Knizia's best works. As with many of his games, it is fairly abstract - the camels have no real realationship to the the game; the theme is an overlay to a great system. The game system is a derivative of Go. As such, the mechanics are minimal but the strategic and tactical possibilities are near infinite.
This is not a game with a lot of player interaction (like Res Publica, High Society or Modern Art). It is very chess-like in nature yet simple enough to teach in a few minutes. Of all of Kinizia's games, I feel this one is the one that should be mass marketed; it easily surpasses Othello and Mastermind in possibilities and yet is no more difficult to teach. This is a classic.
The claim has been made that this game is blatantly abstract and quite dry with a pasted on theme. While I can't entirely deny those allegations, I think they are too strong. This is not only a challenging and enjoyable game, but it also has an aura all its own as the pastel pallette overtakes the sands.
My experiences with this game have been that the game is consistently close and readily understood, if not mastered, by newer players. The challenge of balancing where and when to attack, when to grab easy points and managing the finite, shared supply of camels makes this a game where you just can't consider your position too much. Despite this, I haven't found that the game leads to 'analysis paralysis' the way some other games do. Perhaps it is because so much changes between each turn, you always need to be nimble in your thinking.
Don't be put off by the claims of dryness or abstractness! This is a strong game that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a game where strategy and skill will allow you to plan and react your way to victory.
It seems as if some people just don't 'get' Through the Desert, and I can't figure out why. As everyone's entitled to their own opinions, all I can say is this: If you do 'get it', you will soon come to realize what an absolutely perfect game it is. It's deep, scales well from 2-5, is luck-free, and plays fast. Woohoo!
I love this game. And the mechanics of the game are simple enough for my 4 year old to understand. He doesn't play particularly well, but still...
This games rocks! I receieved my copy in the mail only a few days ago and immediately taught it to my parents who love it. In our third game, my mother (who had been moaning about the lack of area enclosed by her caravans) racked up a single 15-hex enclosure! My father and I knew we were going to lose when that happened. This pretty little gem by Dr. Knizia has fast become a favorite in the house.
But I swear that I have never before seen purple camels...
I really enjoy this game because it's pretty much all strategy. A scant amount of the setup is luck-driven, but everyone has an equal chance to place their starting pieces where they want; so luck doesn't really factor into the game too greatly.
I find the game plays better with 3 or 4 people (instead of 2 or 5).
The one drawback to this game is the preparation required to get everything started: after dumping the hundred-plus plastic camels, oases, and cardboard chips onto the table, it takes some time to get everyone situated for play.
Overall, the game is an excellent blend of strategy, fluff, and fun.
I have played on a friend's English version, and I own the German version of this game. For anyone who has any reservation about the value of luck in gaming, this game is for you. It has none. You make or break it on skill, especially on the two player version. I've played it with 3, 4 and 5 players as well. The dynamics get very entertaining as you're constantly reacting with strategic and tactical changes to your opponent's moves, while counting remaining camels (game ends when a camel colour runs out).
The game has several interesting phases. First of all, the placing of the initial camel leaders is already demanding of your full attention. Then you need to figure out which caravans you'll develop, which you'll neglect, which of your opponents' caravans you'll try to curtail. Then you'll be trying to hoard points based on caravan lengths, size of enclosed area dominated, and number of waterholes/oases controlled. There are a number of ways to get points, and at a minimum you can always play kingmaker. Win or lose, you can't help but have fun playing this--there's just too much to do and decide until the very end. You're always working out tradeoffs and trying to minimize your regrets . :-)
After 5-6 games, you should be able to play a decent 2 player game in 15-20 mins. 4 player game, maybe around 30-40 mins, which includes time required for taunting. :-)
Comparing the English and German game versions.. the English version seemed to have the better board (from a quality of the seam point of view), the German version slightly thicker and more 'artistic' non-camel pieces (camels are the same in both).
Worth every penny.
The other reviewers have done an admirable job of describing the game. I will say only that this is one of those games where you have four or five things that you need to do in a turn, and being able to place only two camels forces you to prioritize very carefully.
The cry of 'Not enough camels!' is now a common one in my gaming group, for any situation in which there just isn't enough time to do everything you need to.
A great game!
The German version is more expensive, at least at present, by $7.00. For this extra charge, the buyer gets a considerably more substantial board. German games are normally designed with a back fold, so that there is no 'valley' along the fold-line. Most US games, however, are inexpensively produced, and have the well known 'hinge' in the middle, which is fine for some games and tortuous in others.
Through the Desert falls squarely into the category of games that benefit from a flat board. The camel pieces are identical from one game to the other, and are placed over almost the entire surface of the board. With the US game, the camels have a tendency to sit awkwardly in the valley that bisects the board.
Overall, this is one of Knizia's very best games and is highly recommended. If you want the premium version of a premium game, get the Kosmos version. If money is an issue and you can put up with the flimsier board, get the Fantasy Flight version.
Sing, "Plastic camels, plastic camels, plastic caaaaaamels on the boooooard" to the tune of "Oh My Darling Clementine." =)
I usually dislike abstract games, because Go is the best abstract game ever--and if I am going to play games with a group of people, I want to have fun and not burn out my brain. But I will make an exception for this wonderful game. Lay camels all over the board, only two per turn, trying to score five different ways. And, boy, will it have your mind doing loops! In fact, the scoring is so hard to track, the person you think is last may very well kick everyone's butt. In most games, I dislike that, but Through the Desert is not your average game!
This is the perfect multiplayer, abstract strategy game for families. There is thinking, but it is loads of fun, and the decisions are wonderfully tense. And the game always ends just one turn 'too soon' which means you just have to play one more game... =)
Recommended for gamers, families, grandmothers (who will love the pastel camels, I bet), new-to-German-games gamers, even you pet dog, Rolf, will probably like this game. (But don't let him choke on the camels.)
"Plastic camels, plastic camels, plastic caaaamels on the boooard...."
For those who have sweated over Go boards, Durch Die Wuste (Through the Desert) offers a related but refreshing game system which is deep enough to draw you in, but is not nearly as bewildering as its rigorous Japanese/Chinese cousin. For the others, Knizia has created a spatial game that is both deep and accessible. The board is not nearly as large as a Go board and the absence of any rules for capture make this more of a game of jockeying for resources (camel-jockeying, that is) than one of military conquest, in the way of Go. That may appeal to those who find the sublimated violence present in the Go struggle ...too violent.
Players gain points by reaching specific spots on the board with six different lines of camels, for having the longest caravan, and for surrounding the most empty space. Understanding the potential of each caravan's starting position is key to success. Cutting off the other players from sources of points while preventing them from making territories or making longer caravans than your own is the heart of the game.
The game works very well with 2 players. Having only one opponent makes it relatively easy to keep track of all the variables. This often results in very close contests. After a bit of experience, each games is played quite fast.
Overall, Durch die Wuste combines that classical board game feel with an interesting theme and some fresh twists to successfully deliver a very satisfying gaming experience.
I've only played Through the Desert with two players, and I'm pleased to say that it works wonderfully. So many games, even if you can play them with two, work much better with 3, 4 or 5.
Through the Desert is sort of a Go Lite. You're trying to enclose territory, but it's fast (a 2-player game takes about 15 minutes) and fun. What other game gives you a zillion little plastic camels that look like wedding mints?
As has been said about Knizia's games, simple rules, multiple strategies, and limits on actions make this game a genuine winner.
What could be simpler game mechanics than this: each turn, a player can place one OR two pastel-colored camels to connect to 'caravans' of the same color. Sounds easy enough, but it belies myriad scoring and blocking tactics that each player must consider every turn. And like chess, a player must envision possiblities two or three turns in advance.
The point locations (waterholes and oases) vary with each game, requiring the players to analyze the board anew before placing his/her initial five camels (4 in a 5-player game). Strategies will often change with each preparatory camel placement--before anyone has even begun to score!
Pace of play is excellent--not much downtime.
Players will carefully scrutinize their options toward the anticipated game end, as trade-offs must be made between enclosing areas (1 point for each space), blocking opponents (point denial), or extending the caravan of a particular color (10 points for the longest of each). The hidden scores keeps everyone guessing until the final tally. It's not unusual for a player who thinks his/her standing is poor to suddenly realize that he/she's won in the end. (I recommend that players not be allowed to keep written tallies of other players' scores as they accumulate. It's much more fun to try to sort it out in your head).
This is a great game for novice and veteran strategy gamers. Most highly recommended.
And if you like THROUGH THE DESERT, you'll probably enjoy STEPHENSON'S ROCKET, where Knizia has added more scoring options, meaning more strategies & tactics, which are, as usual, limited by the number of actions per turn.
I played this for the first time with 5 players and it played great! There wasn't a lot of waiting for your turn, but there was a lot of strategy with where you chose to put your camels. Everyone that played enjoyed the game and we actually played it twice (a rarity for our group).
I like games to have simple rules, but to be a lot less simple than their rules. This game certainly fits that description. When it's your turn, you place a couple of camels in a desert. You score for getting to water, in the form of waterholes and oases, for cordoning off portions of the desert, and for having long caravans.
A caravans' length is measured in camels. Pastel plastic camels, to be precise. I like these bits.
I've played this game with 2, 3, and 4 players (not yet with 5), and it really does scale down well to 2. No hesitation in awarding this one five stars.
I bought this game from Funagain because of all the accolades being thrust upon it. Boy was I not disappointed. There is a certain upper echelon of games that are so good they must be in every gamer's closet. I would put this up with Elfenland, Acquire, London Cabbie, Expedition, Bohnanza and Apples to Apples. These represent the finest games I have played and this is pretty much a consesus with my fellow gamers. I had no idea this would be so good. You are trying to expand the five colored camel caravans you control to get points by placing next to an oasis, on a waterhole or by surrounding territory. You also score points by having the longest camel caravan in each of the five colors. You place two camels each turn and they have to be placed next to one of your camels in the same color. That's it. As simple as can be but there is a lot going on. There are a limited amount of scoring spaces and there are an awful lot of other camel trains trying to get them before you do. Since you are only playing two camels per turn it actually goes very fast and your next turn comes around very quickly. Based upon this game I am now dying to play the games which others have said are Reiner's best, Modern Art and Euphrat & Tigris.
I bought this game based on the reviews posted here and was not at all disappointed. The game is quick and a blast to play. The first time around it may seem stupidly simple, but by the second game you begin to realize all the different strategies and implications of placing camels to your caravan.
It works well as a two player game, but when you get the full five players and play over and over again then the game becomes super challenging and competitive.
At the most basic level though, you will enjoy handling the little pastel colored camels (don't eat them). I love this game!
We just recently picked up this game, and already it has become a group favorite. It plays pretty quickly, there is endless variation, and the winner is not usually known until the very end.
At first, we were a little put off by the pastel colored camels, though that soon became completely irrelevant. Every turn there are so many things you want to do, but only a few that you can do, making the choices very difficult. You must also constently watch what the other players are doing, which keeps you involved even when it isn't your turn. The winning strategy seems to change depending on who's playing, and we've not had any single consistant winner.
This is my first Knizia game, though I had been reading great things about him. On the strength of this game, I know I'll be getting several more.
'May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your hair' was euphemisticly uttered during the playing of 'Thru the Desert'. My gaming group found this game to be totally addictive. Pure strategy and allocating of your pieces wins this game. With no dice, cards, or random factors, only the player with the foresight to plan two to three moves ahead will win. The components of the game (camels, palm trees, oases) are colorful and the game board clean. Play of game is fairly quick and several rounds of gaming can be accomplished in an evening. The greatest joy of 'Thru the Desert' is how easy it is to introduce to new or non-gamers. I highly recommend this Reiner Knizia game to all gamers looking for a great evening of gaming.
This game is a fantastic warm-up for serious gamers or a delightful center-piece to an evening with family and friends.
If you are still on the fence about whether to throw down for another Knizia game, there are three standout features that make Through the Desert an essential addition to your collection:
(1) It doesn't matter how many player's you have; the game scales beautifully
(2) There is plenty of smash-mouth strategy. It is one of the most frantic games I've played.
(3) Finally, the plonk a pink camel here and a lemon camel there is simple and charming.
Ok, I admit that it is a watered down version of GO. In fact, I suspect that is where the pastel colors came from. I am a fan of GO but cant find anyone to play with me. Through the Desert, however, is always well accepted among my family and friends. How perfect! The Germans have a great way of taking an abstract strategy game and making it appealing to a broader market buy slapping on a colorful theme and giving it first class components. As with any abstract strategy game it plays best with two players, but unlike most abstract strategy games, this also plays very well with three or four players. I have yet to play a five-player game so I cannot speak to how well that plays. Through the Desert may be a little pricey, but if you are getting tired of the roll of the dice or the shuffle of the cards determining a winner then it will be a welcoming addition to your game collection. I only give it 4 stars because it is not entirely unique; it is a derivative of GO.
The game plays well. It's easy to learn. Has good replay value. But my biggest beef is the extremely ugly board. Shades of brown is all we get after so many beautifully rendered boards of late. I've been tempted to design my own board. The pastel camel pieces blend so well together in low light that they are hardly distinguishable from one another. And how do you like the pre-chewed Wrigley's Spearmint and JuicyFruit colors? Just two among the five flavors.
Great game, if I just didn't have to look at it.
If you enjoy strategy games, then you won't mind playing Through the Desert by Fantasy Flight Games.
The best part of this strategy game is one page rules. It will take
you 10 minutes to read and 45 minutes to an hour or more of playing time.
This game contains plastic mini camels in a variety of pastel colors with, of course, riders. The packaging and design are done in a great desert theme. The quality of the game pieces are better than average and the cost is worth it. I give this game a 4 rating. Why only 4 stars and not 5 stars? This game could use an expansion. Playing cards could add twists to the game or extra obstacles on the board.
Overall, Through the Desert is a great game for all ages. The strategy is simple, but given the right partners it can be hours of fun.
I really enjoy this game (even if I rarely win). It's fast and simple. The underlying strategy takes a bit more of thinking though....
I have the Fantasy Flight version, I don't seem to be having any problems with the board like some other reviewers noted.
The worst thing is the number of pieces. I take great care of my games and Through the Desert has been a nightmare because I always worry I'm going to lose a camel or two... And they are a pain to count after you are loaded with beer! :) They should have had included a couple spare camels at least.
At its core, Through the Desert is a very simple game. Each player tries to collect points by making caravans that connect to water holes and oases. The game is truly a blast to play and is more complicated than it first seems.
Plus, who can argue with a game that comes with a sack full of pastel colored camels?
Durch die Wuste (Through the Desert) is known by the more common name of ...'That Camel Game' in my group. This game's most distinguishing feature is the camels. These camels are all pastel colors and looks like they all hung out in Miami along with Don Johnson. The detail on them is remarkable, with little tiny humps and everything!
The game itself is really enjoybale and the end game gets really strategic towards the end. The ablilty to count is important in this game as ties mean a split in victory points! Many of our games have ended with players only being seperated by only a few points.
This is one of Reiner Knizia's tile laying triology, along with Tigris & Euphrates and Samauri. The flavor of this game is lighter and the theme is less believable... but it's REALLY fun! Its not uncommon for us to play three or four games in a row.
DURCH DIE WUSTE is a fascinating gem of a game by famed designer Reiner Knizia. Set amidst the backdrop of a harsh desert that's sprinkled with oases, waterholes, and mountains, this title offers participants many challenges in its 40 minute playing time.
Physically, DURCH DIE WUSTE is quite attractive, with its 170 pastel camels (in 5 colors) drawing the most attention. Thick tiles (humorously called 'chips') help players track victory points in various areas. The mounted board has a dividing line on it to represent areas off limits if playing with less than 4 people.
Each player begins with 5 camel riders, one to start a caravan in each color (note: in a 5 player game, each player only gets 4 riders to prevent the board from being overcrowded). The initial placement of your riders on their first camels is crucial as your opponents will be maneuvering to visit the same oases (5 vp's) and waterholes (1-3 vp's) as you. Players can also score many vp's by using a single caravan to enclose hexes (board edges and mountains help towards this goal), and for having the longest caravans in the colors. Using your caravans to cut off other riders from their intended goals is a legal and viable strategy.
The game ends when the last camel of any single color is placed on the board. Simply add up all the vp's accumulated, and high total wins.
Since a player may only place two camels each turn, and having 5 caravans to worry about, one can easily see that the decision dilemmas are constant. Not only does a player try to achieve his own objectives, but one also has to deal with all the other caravans that are meandering about the burning sands.
I found DURCH DIE WUSTE to be a bit lighter than EUPHRAT & TIGRIS and SAMURAI, but no less enjoyable than those two excellent games. I explained it to my friends in 5 minutes, and we were quickly driving our caravans through the desert. My young children seemed eager to try it as well. Also, with extra locations to set up the oasis trees in, and random placement for the waterhole chips, replayability is a big plus.
DURCH DIE WUSTE is addicting and fun. I rate it four stars (plus), and I like the game better each time I play it. Reiner Knizia has scored again!
Nice gameplay involved here. If you like mathmatical games this is for you. You can keep track of every players points and possibilities before you play a camel. I like the game but can't get a lot of my gamer friends to keep playing because of those darn pastel camels, I have half a mind to re-paint them all!
Enjoyable game that moves quickly. The thing I liked best about this game is that fairly young players can get involved and it still requires some strategy. However, it is not complex and lacks the appeal of many other strategy games. In keeping the play rather simple the game sacrifices some potential levels of complexity that could have made the game more interesting.
A positive feature of the game is that strategies must change to reflect the number of players playing.
I found this game to be totally uncompelling--it was more of a laborious excercise than anything else. Maybe I'm just not getting something here, but it was just not a lot of fun for me and my group. It was good, but not a 5 star game. We have only played it once, but it doesn't feel like it would improve much after multiple plays.
If you're a fan of pure abstract games (Go, Chess, Twixt, Kunst Stucke, SiSiMiZi, etc) you'll probably like this one. The desert theme and pretty pastel camels (too bad they weren't ponies, for alliteration's sake) are surely grafted onto an otherwise pure abstract game after the fact. There's absolutely no sense of desert-ness in this game. The playing pieces could well have been Smurfs attempting to create a 'hands across America' chain and the game would work just as well.
Don't get me wrong, though. The game you get is well thought out with very simple rules and somewhat challenging decisions. Its greatest downfall is that the game is usually over before you really get into it (much like MarraCash, another base game with a theme thrown on at the end).
So, add this one to your collection, but it'll be neither head-and-shoulders above or below the rest of your better games.
I bought this game and have played it with a few different gaming groups. I can't get anyone to play it again. Although it has a slightly interesting concept, it just isn't very fun. It definitely gets my vote for the ugliest game ever made. The colors of the board and pieces are hideous!
You place your camels, you score points. Most points wins. I guess there is a strategy somewhere, which involves having to make choices about where to place your two camels per turn. Of course you always set up two hexes away from an oasis, and you always try to build the longest camel train that someone else isn't building. Can you say boring? Don't expect this game to have anything to do with actual travel through the desert. It is a thinly pasted theme. Can you say boring?
I didn't know what to make of the gaudy, toylike little camels when I first saw them. But I soon fell in love with this delightful territorial game, in which 170 camels and 30 camel riders roam a desert in search of oases, water holes, and space. After camel riders are placed strategically on the board, preferably near the point-scoring oases, the battle continues as you place your other camels to build caravans connected to your riders. Caravans cannot cross each other, so you will aim to create the largest ones possible to surround the greatest areas of territory, and thus earn points. Reaching water holes also earns points, and deprives others from getting there. The player with the highest score after the last camel is placed wins.
Durch die Wüste is Knizia's game of deserts, camels and water. The game comprises a hexed board showing the desert, camels in 5 pastel colours, oases and various waterholes. In a nutshell, the game is one of placing camels to score points by connecting to oases or waterholes, encompassing areas and having the longest chain of camels in a colour.
To set up, each player is given a brown camel with a rider of his chosen (primary) colour on it and one camel of each of the 5 pastel colours, also with a rider of his colour on it (the 'camel-rider'). First, the oases, represented by palm trees, are placed on the board. In the final reckoning, having a camel adjacent to a palm tree scores 5. Next place the waterholes. These vary in value from 1 to 3 and should be distributed randomly on marked hexes. Having set up the board, each player takes it in turn to place one of their 5 camel-riders on the board until they have all been placed. This initial placement is subject to a few restrictions, namely that you may not place a camel next to an oasis, nor may you place a camel next to a camel of the same colour. From then on, players take it in turn to place any two camels so that they are connected to their camel chain of the same colour, ensuring that camel chains belonging to different players never come into contact. Effectively each player (and his primary colour camel-riders) ends up with one chain of camels in each of the five pastel colours and it must be obvious which camel belongs to which player. Placing a camel on one of the six spaces round a palm-tree gives 5 points for each player achieving this, while the waterholes score from 1 to 3 points but only for the player who places the camel and then removes the waterhole. The game ends when all camels of one colour have been placed. Then it's time for the reckoning. As said, an oasis is worth 5 for each chain connected to it, waterholes are from 1 to 3, longest chain per colour scores 10. For areas enclosed you score the number of unoccupied hexes within that area and also get any waterholes within it. Most points wins.
When I first got the game, read the rules and then played by myself, the immediate comparisons were favourably with Shark, Acquire and Manhattan but with fewer placement restrictions (there's even more than a hint of Blazing Camels/Wurmeln in it). I thought then that the greater flexibility would make it a better game but I can't help feeling now that it doesn't. If my group plays again, we reckon we'll probably start imposing some limitations such as drawing 5 camels unseen from a bag and having to play 2 of those. Having said that, while this game may not have the depth or complexity of Tigris, it is good, quick, fun and to be recommended.
SWD: The trouble with that as a variant, Neil, is that it loses one of the game end conditions -- the one which says that the game ends when one of the colours has been exhausted. In our games, that has been the condition that has actually finished the game and this has added quite a lot to the tactics.