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Famed designing duo Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling will have a new title out from German publisher Ravensburger in time for Spiel 2010: Asara, which is subtitled "Land of 1,000 Towers."
The archetypical "dude with blueprints" on the box cover is doing his job of overseeing the construction, watching the solar waves bathe and caress the magnificent spire before him – which is apparently supposed to distract gamers from noticing that said dude is standing on a tower even taller than the one being supervised. We're on to your tricks, Johnny Blueprint!
Ahem, as for the game play, designer Bruno Faidutti played a prototype of the game at his 2010 Ludopathic Gathering and has already added it to his Ideal Game Library. Here's a summary of his somewhat detailed game description:
Asara – displayAfter the first explanations of the rules, I was less enthusiastic. It's workers placement, even when the usual worker meeples are replaced by cards. Nothing new here. It's palace building somewhere in Fantasy Land, in the Far East, or in Renaissance Italy. Nothing new here either. But after all, it's Kramer and Kiesling, so let's give it a try.
I played it, and it was tense, deep, unforgiving. Asara is a cleverly-designed and finely-balanced German gaming machine, and much more of a gamers' game than it seems at first glance.
Description written by W. Eric Martin and used with permission of BoardgameNews.com
One of the things I appreciated very quickly about this game was that although the game appears to be very busy at first blush, it is in fact very simple to learn and play. Asara lasts four complete turns, with the majority of the scoring coming at the conclusion of the game. Players are dealt seven cards at the start of each turn and use those cards during the turn to perform one of three major functions
During a turn a player will spend their cards to perform these actions. Usually it takes one card to perform an action, but once an action has been chosen by a player subsequent similar actions require players to follow suit with the same color card (the cards are simply five separate colors with no denominations). If a player does not have that card, they can use any two other cards to accomplish the action. And each action can only be performed a limited number of times during a round.
Ultimately this is a basic building and resource management game with fairly simple mechanics. The beauty of the game comes from using those simple mechanics to outperform your rivals.
Scoring is based on several different parameters. The towers come in five colors, and each color has a different cost associated with it. The more expensive towers generate larger victory point rewards during and at the end of the game. There are bonus points awarded for building the largest tower of each color and largest tower overall. Bonus points are also awarded for building the most towers (the classic quality vs. quantity puzzle). Points are awarded during the game both by building towers and by using prized tower pieces that add additional points to a players score each round.
To summarize, who should buy this game? I think this game is great for families and more casual gamers. It is easy to both teach and learn. It plays fast, so it also appeals to players who appreciate a game that can be played inside of an hour. The more advanced gamer will enjoy this for a while but the replay value is lacking over time. I hesitate to give this game more than four stars because my sense of it is that many players will tire of it after about ten plays or so. The game is unfortunately not very dynamic in that sense, it is very scripted. But for those ten or more plays? Highly enjoyable. I only keep a limited number of games in my home (if they don't get played, they quickly go to eBay) and I can say with a fair level of certainty that this game will be in my collection for a while.