Posted by: gschloesser | July 14, 2011

Basari

Out of the Box Publishing
3 – 4 Players, 45 minutes
Designed by:  Reinhard Staupe
Reviewed by:  Greg J. Schloesser 

After playing Basari when it was first released back in 1998, I found the game fair, but nothing terribly exciting.  However, as with numerous other games, further playings heightened my enthusiasm considerably … so much so, that Basari is now a personal favorite.  I was thrilled to hear that Out of the Box would be releasing a new version and was happy to acquire a copy. 

This new version of Basari is identical to the original in terms of rules, but the components have been altered.  Gone are the plastic gems, replaced with glass stones.  Although the glass does feel better, I did like the shape of the plastic pieces, which gave the visual appearance of finely cut gems.  The actual features on the board are the same as in the original, but the board is larger and a bit more garish.  I really liked the parchment appearance of the FX Schmid version, but this is strictly a matter of personal taste.  The new board is certainly large and easy to see … but it does have that nasty gutter where the board folds.  Can’t any company in America produce a game board without this valley?

 

The rules are very easy to understand and very straightforward.  Newcomers to the game should have no trouble whatsoever diving into the game with just a quick reading. 

Although the game was originally released nearly six years ago, it has been out of print for several years.  Thus, an explanation is in order.  The setting for Basari is a Middle Eastern Bazaar.  Players travel around the bazaar, visiting various stalls and deciding to purchase various items.  Each stall (which is a space on the board track) depicts a various types of jewels in various combinations, as well as a number ranging from 4 – 7.  

Players each begin the game with three each of the four types of gems:  rubies (red), topazes (yellow), emeralds (green) and sapphires (blue).  Gems are worth victory points when scoring occurs at the end of each of the three rounds, but they are also used as commodities when bartering for the right to perform various actions.  Keeping a healthy stockpile of gems if vital, lest one lose the ability to barter and suffer when points are tallied. 

Each player begins the game on a stall of his choice, indicating this as his base.  This is marked with a disk of the same color as the player’s pawn.  Players also each receive a die of the same color.  

Each turn is conducted in a similar fashion.  Players simultaneously roll their die and move their pawn the indicated number of spaces in a clockwise direction around the bazaar.  When they come to rest on a stall, the jewels and victory points depicted thereon will be available to the player … maybe.  You see, the player will then have the following options: 

1)  Take the jewels pictured on the stall;
2)  Take the number of Victory points listed on the stall; OR
3)  Roll the die and move that amount forward.  The player also subtracts the number rolled from ‘6’ and gets that difference in victory points. 

Well, this isn’t exactly correct.  Each player DOES have these options, but they are not guaranteed that they will be able to enjoy the benefits.  Why is that?  The main mechanism in the game is one wherein each player secretly ‘bids’ for which action he wishes to take by use of bidding tiles.  Each player possesses three bidding tiles, one each for the three options listed above.  Each player chooses one of his tiles and they are simultaneously revealed.  If only one player chooses a particular option, he reaps the benefits.  If, however, two players bid for the same action, they must negotiate a deal to see which one gets to execute the action.  If three or more players happen to bid for the same action, those bids cancel each other and none of those players can execute the desired action.  This can be immensely frustrating! 

When choosing the action you wish to perform, it is vital that a player examine the potential rewards being granted for the other players.  Often, you would love to have a certain set of jewels, but based on the stalls occupied by your opponents, you know there is a good chance that they, too, will be seeking to acquire the jewels.  So, it is sometimes wiser to choose a different action that you feel won’t be chosen by your opponents.  Still, they may be thinking the same thing, so will also choose a different action.  Certainly, there is a strong element of guesswork here, but instead of being overly frustrating, it works well and adds tension and excitement to the game. 

As mentioned, the jewels are the unit of currency.  Whenever negotiation is required, process involves players making offers and counter-offers in jewels until one player decides to accept the other’s offer, taking the jewels offered.  The winning bidder then gets to execute the contested action, either the taking of jewels depicted, the earning of the victory points depicted, or the rolling of the die. 

The bartering process is at the heart of the game.  The player who is currently furthest ahead on the victory point track makes the first offer, sliding forward one or more gems as an offer.  The opponent can either accept the offer, or make a counter-offer.  A counter offer must consist of either more gems, OR an equal number of gems, of which at least one is of a higher value than those offered by his opponent.  The ranking of the gems in terms of value are ruby, topaz, emerald and sapphire.  Thus, an offer of a ruby and two sapphires bests an offer of two topazes and an emerald.  This bartering process continues until an offer is accepted.  

Once all contested actions have been successfully resolved, players again roll the dice and repeat the same procedure.  This continues until at least one player travels around the board and again reaches or surpasses his starting base.  At this point, any player who reached their starting base on that turn receives a bonus of 10 victory points (this is one reason why the dice roll option is important).  Then, each gem category is examined to determine which player has the majority in each.  The player with the most gems in a category will receive points ranging from 8 – 14 points, with the most points being awarded for the ruby category.  Points are divided if players tie for the majority in a category.  As an equalizer, each player who had a majority must return three of that color jewel to the bank.  Thus, the race for majority position remains competitive from round-to-round. 

Players then reset their bases to the current location of their pawn and play another round.  The game continues in this fashion until the completion of three rounds.  The player with the greatest cumulative total of points after three rounds is victorious.

Basari has a lot going for it.  Although the choosing of actions and the corresponding guesswork involved is fun, the bartering is at the heart of the game.  Players must keep a careful eye on the majority status of the four gems and be mindful of how the current negotiations will possibly affect those positions.  There is a constant struggle between the players for control of these majorities and one transaction can drastically later the current status.  Shrewd negotiation is required, but must be accomplished by the offering of gems and not with a silver tongue! 

When the game was first released, a few folks complained about the potential of a “king-making” problem developing at the end of the game.  That is, the results of one negotiation involving a player who is out of contention can determine who will win the game.  Yes, this can occur, as it can in numerous other games.  Fortunately, the appearance of this unsettling situation has been rare.  The vast majority of my games has been extremely enjoyable and competitive … and noticeably free of this potential problem.  This is one Middle-Eastern bazaar I will be happy to visit over and over again.

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Responses

  1. Interesting group think kind of game. You need to understand how your opponents think. (6/10)


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