What're you looking at!
This game is the current favourite for my wife and I. I put off buying this game for quite awhile--I could never get past "'Jambo'" means 'hello' in Swahili" when reading about it on websites that sold games. It didn't seem very appealing, until I looked at some pictures of the bits on BGG; then read about it; then had to get it. I think it is an excellent game.
The game comes with 112 cards, with nice artwork--a nice blend of realistic drawing and a bit of cartoonishness. There are fifty-two gold tokens, that look a little like they have golden popcorn pictured on them. There are five action markers, and, my favourite, 36 ware tokens. The colouring and artwork on this last item is striking, bright and appealing. There is no board for this game.
Each player starts with a market card which can hold six wares; five cards; and twenty gold.
Players buy and sell wares (silk, salt, tea, hides, trinkets, and fruit), using ware cards, to make a profit, with a goal of getting 60 or more gold to trigger, and hopefully win, the end game. To assist them to this end they also play other cards: animal cards harm your opponent, sometimes very creatively; people cards usually help you, but sometimes also harm your opponent; utility cards perform a similar funtion as people cards, but after being played may be re-activated for as long as they are face up; small market cards allow you more space to accumulate wares.
A player is allowed five actions on his turn, indicated by his use of the five action markers. Phase one is card selection: a player takes a card off the pile; she may keep it or discard it. The player continues to do this until she has found a card she likes, but each selection costs one action. A player may skip phase one.
Phase 2 is card playing, so I will describe the basic funtions of the different type of cards, and write more about specific cards under a strategy session. Generally, when a card is played, it cost one action.
Small market cards: These cards give you three additional spaces to display wares (your original market stand has six). As the sixth space on your original market stand costs two gold to use it, a small market is a useful way to avoid that extra cost, balanced against the cost of playing the small market card: 6gp for the first player; 3 gp for subsequent small markets. My wife and I have both won games without ever purchasing a small market, and I like that the game is so well designed that it is not necessary to have one, or wait on one.
Ware cards: These cards display various combinations of the six wares available in either groups of three (the majority of ware cards), or groups of six. The profit margin is sizeable, 7 gp, (10 gp for the cards displaying six wares), but is is surprising how many transactions you sometimes have to make to get to 60 gold. You have to get a little creative to get maximum profits because there are many different combinations of the six wares, and you definitely have to make use of other cards to flesh out the prescribed sets of three.
Utility cards: These cards display various objects (scales, weapons, well, etc) that help you acquire either more cards, more gold, or more wares. In every case however, something must be given up. For example, the Well card, when activated, gives you an extra card, but you have to pay one gold. Utility cards are especially useful because, once played, they can be activated on subsequent turns, at the cost of one action. As you only get to keep one card in phase one, the utility cards that allow you to get additional cards are very useful, but all utility cards are quite useful at specific times, or when you have no choice.
People cards: Like utility cards they they help you to get cards, gold, or wares, but at a price, sometimes at the opponents expense. They differ from utility cards because once they are played and activated, they are discarded. Both utility and people cards are essential for helping you to get the specific wares you need for get the prescribed sets in the ware cards.
Animal cards: Like people cards, these are discarded after being used, but their main purpose is to thwart your opponent.
This is a card driven game, but like other well designed card driven games, every card is useful when you are forced to use it. I think that a player could easily get in the habit of ignoring some of the less obviously powered cards, in favour of waiting for more obvious cards, but that is a very serious mistake. You have to play well the hand you are dealt. Here are some obvious and less obvious cards that I think are very cool:
Well: for the price of a single gold you get another card. This is a very useful card, especially in the first 3/4 of the game, or when you are desperately hoping for a bit of luck in the near the end game.
Scales: similar to Well, but you draw two cards, keeping one and giving the other to your opponent. It doubles your chances of getting a card you really want, and while you have to give your opponent a card, you know what it is.
Weapons: discard a card and get 2 gp from the bank. I like getting this card towards the end of the games so that you can max out your gold, before triggering the end of the game.
Wise Man from Afar: Buy for two less gold and sell for two more gold for this turn. A great card to make lots of money; especially useful for the end game.
Dancer: sell three wares regardless of what three wares are on the ware card. Good for unloading accumulated goods that just don't fit your current ware cards.
Snake: you and opponent discard down to one face up utility card each. This is a very cool card to have just before you trigger the end game, as often one's final moves may depend on a utility card or two.
Ape: both players place their cards face, and take turns picking from them. A killer card in the end game. My wife has utterly destroyed my well laid plans on two occassions with this card.
This is only scratching the surface. There is a wide selection of cards, and I love how this game surpirses me with how useful a card can be when you don't expect it.
The end game is totally high-noon. When a player is at sixty gold at the end of his five actions, his opponet has one full turn to tie or surpasses the amount of gold obtained by the player who triggered the end game. Sometimes the best move is to trigger early; other times you need to build up. Of course there is lots of bluffing, and you can aim to go out selling big, crushing your opponent, or a combination of both.
This is a great game, although marital bliss may be affected--a grown man almost cried the first time my wife played the ape card as her last action when triggering the end game. I give this game 9 out of 10.
- Last edited Wed Apr 19, 2006 3:39 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sat Apr 15, 2006 12:06 am
...i WILL own it all!!!
...My wife and I have both won games without ever purchasing a small market, and I like that the game is so well designed that it is not necessary to have one, or wait on one.
... but have either of you still won when the other person does have a small market stand??
What're you looking at!
Yes. You should have a way of adding or selling individual wares so that you avoid the sixth space and can sell sets quickly. It is quite interesting to work without the small market--a different strategy altogether.