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Subject: Give me the camels! rss

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Steve Barker
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I had my second game of Yspahan last night, along with three of my fellow Lincoln Board Game Group-ers Mary, Dave and Becky (http://www.lincolnboardgames.org.uk/index.html). Mary and Becky had played once before with me and Gary (who was elsewhere conquering the Mediterranean, as one often does of a Tuesday night), while Dave was new to the game.

To briefly summarise, the game is played over three "weeks" of 7 daily rounds, with the aim of filling marketplace "souks" with goods to be collected at the end of the week. There's more to it than that, of course, and buying useful buildings with the currency tokens of gold and camels is vital, as we were reminded in this session...

In the first week, newcomer Dave got off to a strong start, leaving everyone else behind in terms of points; he was focusing on filling the souks with goods which is the most straightforward method of play and scores the most immediate points in the early going. Becky and I were roughly joint second place, playing a balance between filling souks and collecting currency to construct a couple of buildings. Mary was left behind by a significant margin as she hoarded gold and camels to focus on buildings. Appearances can be deceptive, however, as we later learned!

In the second week Becky and I caught up to Dave as our earlier investment in buildings began to pay off in various ways (some increase your gold or camel income, one increases your scoring marginally, one increases the number of goods you can place in souks) and Dave realised he'd been left behind in terms of building and was going to have to change strategy. Mary, meanwhile, was even further behind but had four out of the five buildings, several cards and a large gold supply.

The third week saw a major turn-around. Becky moved steadily ahead with a good balance of building and placing goods while Dave constructed a few buildings and overtook me to get into second place. Mary appeared to still be lagging behind while, to be honest, I lost focus and started making bad decisions. It all changed on the final day of the week; in Yspahan, the order of play in the final day is the lowest-scoring player goes first, then in reverse order of score so the leader plays last.

This meant that Mary had first pick of the resources and filled a couple of souks before completing her fifth building for a bonus of 10 points and a huge leap forward on the scoring track. I continued to make bad decisions and Dave, in second place, was left with too few options in terms of resources to make a final push. Becky had last pick and consolidated her position slightly.

When it came to scoring, though, Mary's souks counted heavily and she flew from fourth place into a commanding lead that none of us could challenge. Becky stayed in second place and Dave in third. As the only person to have actually read the rules (twice, no less!) I only managed a measly fourth place cry

Lessons learned: Long-term planning is important. In our first game, we had all learned too late the importance of having the right buildings in play to boost your score. While Becky and I had taken this somewhat on board to balance building with filling souks, Mary's strategy of going all-out for buildings in the early going meant she was able to score most heavily at the end, and being in fourth place gave her first pick of resources to make the most of that opportunity. This would probably be a risky strategy against more skilled players but as we all considered ourselves new and confused, it worked well!

Also, it takes at least a full game to understand the intricacies of the rules. It's quite hard to remember all the options as you go along but by the end of our first game we all understood a lot better and, this being Dave's first game, we saw the same learning curve in him; he made the same comment as we had two weeks previously that he only felt he understood it all towards the end. So this is one that definitely needs a dry run in which you can expect to lose before you know what you're doing. The game can seem overwhelming when you first see it but everyone agreed that it's great fun once you know what's going on!

Finally, there was a general aversion at the table to "negative" play and the Supervisor figure was not used even once. This is an option every player has every turn to move the supervisor and either send some of their own goods to the caravan or to send an opponent's goods and thereby prevent them from completely filling a souk for more points; had we been more aware that Mary was making such a surging comeback, this might have been a way to win but nobody was really looking to play that way. More ruthless players take note - a little timely sabotage could have changed the outcome of this game completely devil
 
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Karis Shem
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Just a small comment :

The Supervisor and the Caravan are easily overlooked in the first games, but the Caravan is a powerful item if you want to score MANY points.

Even the "negative" use of the supervisor has some drawbacks :

- First, when you send another player to the Caravan, if he's got a camel (it's always a good idea to keep one for this purpose), he can spend it in order to avoid to send the cube from the shop (the cube comes from the player's reserve). What a gift !

- Second, if you manage to send the cube, it's not always a bad deal for the other player. This little cube will score 2 points (if the caravan is empty or less point, but with a multiplier), plus at least one point at the end of each week (or when the caravan is empty). That's not so bad, and it can be even worse if the player manage to send more cubes to the caravan...

Try the Caravan once, and you won't be disappointed

Regards,
Cyril


 
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Steve Barker
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We did pick up on the utility of the caravan but nobody was confident in how exactly to use it, plus we weren't aware of being able to block the supervisor with a camel - we missed that one small paragraph in the rules (or should I say I missed it, good reason for someone else to read them!) which probably would have made a difference. I will remember for next time, thank you for the tip!
 
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