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Subject: A Year With Through the Desert rss

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United States
Redford
Michigan
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Through the Desert, that Knizia, themed, abstract game with the edible-looking camels. I thought of putting this game on my Christmas list last year when luckily, I ended up winning the game in a raffle at last year's Wintercon, a local convention.

Since getting the game, I've played it 13 times at all player counts. So lets take a look at it.

The Premise:
The caravans crossing the desert are growing. It is up to you to lead your caravans to the oases and palm trees and claim them for yourself. It is also in your best interest to block off sections of the desert to prevent other caravans from accessing them. The player that scores the most points by doing these actions is the winner.

The Components:
Overall the components are nice, though I got a game board that doesn't like to lie too flat when it is unfolded. There are a bunch of cardboard chits that represent the oases, and scoring tokens.

175 plastic camels in five different pastel colors are used to make up the caravans. 5 of the camels are grey, and are simply used for each player to have in front of them with their caravan leader on it to keep track of which player is which color. The caravan leaders themselves come in 5 'bolder' colors and represent the player colors, and are also made to clip and hold in place on any of the camels.

The Gameplay:
The rules are posted online, but I will go over the general gameplay of the game here. First, the board must be set up with the palm trees and oasis markers placed on their designated spots on the game board. The oasis markers should be placed randomly since they have different values (1-3), but will be face up before the game begins so all players can see how many points each one is worth. Each player will select a color and place each of their caravan leaders on a different colored camel.

Once the board is set, in player order, each player will place a camel with their caravan leader on the board. The restrictions here is they cannot be placed next to a palm tree, on an oasis marker, or next to another caravan leader. After all the leaders have been placed, the main game begins. Generally on a turn, a player will take two camels of any color(s) from the supply and place them on the board. Players will rotate turns until one of the 5 camel colors are completely used up. At that point, the game ends immediately. A camel can only be placed in the space next to a camel of the same color, and only if that group of colored camels contains that player's caravan leader. A camel cannot be placed such that it is next to two different player's caravans of the same color with the result of the two caravans would become one.

The point is to earn as many points as you can. If a camel is placed on a space with an oasis token, that player gets the token, which is worth the points printed on it. If a camel is placed next to a palm tree, and is the first camel of that specific caravan to be placed next to the tree, then the player gets a 5-point marker.

If a player uses a single caravan to block off a section of the board, which makes it impossible for any other caravan to enter those spaces (the number of available camels is not factored into this) than any oasis tokens in those blocked off spaces immediately go to that player. If there is an untouched palm tree within that section, that player will also get a 5-point marker for the tree. And last, that player will also get 1 point for every blocked off open space at the end of the game. Blocking off sections of the desert is a great way to earn a lot of points, as long as you can do it without your opponents trying to get in your way.

At game end, there is one final set of points to be calculated. 10 points for each camel color are awarded to the player that used the most camels of that color. 5 points is given to each player if more than one are tied in a color.

Final Thoughts:
Despite there being a theme, this is a pure, luckless abstract game. All information is known to all players at all times, and therefore is based purely on strategy and tactics. Of course, with more players, there is more chaos between turns, and ganging up on a player can't be prevented, so it is probably best as a 2-player game of you want a more "serious" game.

Other than a somewhat involved setup due to all the tokens that need to be placed on the board, it is a quick game and easy to explain. It will take a game or two to get a handle of the strategy needed, but most strategy games are like that.

It's a fun game if you like abstracts. The theme makes it a little bit easier to get into, but by much. You're placing camels in a desert that never move, so the name Through the Desert may be a little misleading. With all the standing around, Loitering the Desert may have been a more apt title.

Following the BGG rating guidelines, I give this game a 7.5. You can view my other reviews at A Year With My Games. Thanks for reading!
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Phil Miller
United States
Michigan
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Nice review. I just got it for my iPad and love it. If you ever bring it to the games at the library day, I'd be happy to give it a go with you...

-Phil

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Gerald McDaniel
United States
Lakewood
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Well-done.

We've had this game for many years, but I don't believe I've ever played with just two players. I also played a number of games online several years ago, again with either 3 or 4 players. I like the bit of chaos created by more players, and I like 4 better than 3, which obviates some of the ganging-up.

I haven't played this for the past year or two, but think about it now and then. I expect to play it some in 2012.

Thanks for the excellent summary.
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tom franklin
United States
Garner
North Carolina
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This has become our default lunchtime game. I've played it with both two and three players and find that it's a good challenge either way. (Our latest three player games have used the entire board, making gameplay a bit more challenging)

What I like about Through the Desert is that there is so much you need to keep track of to win. Between the many ways to score points and balancing offense and defense, it's a very thoughtful game.

Now, if only the camels didn't look so much like buttermint cremes...
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Gerald McDaniel
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Lakewood
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fivecats wrote:
This has become our default lunchtime game. I've played it with both two and three players and find that it's a good challenge either way. (Our latest three player games have used the entire board, making gameplay a bit more challenging)

What I like about Through the Desert is that there is so much you need to keep track of to win. Between the many ways to score points and balancing offense and defense, it's a very thoughtful game.

Now, if only the camels didn't look so much like buttermint cremes...


I agree with your comment about the different scoring options. I sometimes concentrate too much in scoring one way, when I should be balancing my efforts. The game has been around for some time, but has held its interest for me.
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Jim fulner
United States
Berkley
Michigan
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PhilFromIT wrote:
Nice review... If you ever bring it to the games at the library day, I'd be happy to give it a go with you...

-Phil



I cannot agree with this statement more. Browsing around at other things, I some how stumbled on this, and GeekBuddy Analysis says Bill owns it. A good review by said Bill only wants me to play more.
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