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Jim Carvin
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Bayon is another great card game from Wolfgang Werner(designer of Ebbe & Flut) and publisher Adlung-Spiele, published in 2002. The theme of the game is one of exploration and the quest for gold. Bayon itself is actually a famous temple located in Cambodia.

The game consists of 66 cards containing explorers, discovery sites, gold cards, and a customs card. It's for 2-4 players and games generally last about a half-hour. The goal of the game is an all too common one, the most gold wins. How do you acquire the gold? By exploring of course!

The deck is slightly changed depending on the number of players, for less than 4 players a certain amount of explorers are removed. Having a limited number of explorers will keep them moving around, as you will see, since you lose explorers as you go along or they can be taken from you.

There are five sets of discovery sites, one for each continent (Europe, Asia, Africa, S.America, and Australia). Each continent has a different cost in order to explore there, ranging from 5-25. Obviously, the cheaper the cost the lower the payout. Each card shows three separate skill values (map, shovel, microscope)which are required in order to successfully explore an area. The cheaper cards have a total of as low as 2(ie. 1,1,0) while the higher priced cards max out at 12 (ie. 3,4,5). Each card also has a certain gold value, ranging from 20-120.

There is another deck containing the explorers, with two being face up. Each player starts with one explorer, each having their own skill sets (map, shovel, microscope) with totals per card ranging from 2(ie. 2,0,0) thru 4(ie. 3,0,1).

Each player starts with 15 gold, the rest of the money becomes the bank. The customs card, which restricts exploring and gathering of information, is placed on Australia to start.

On your turn you may either:
1. take 5 gold
2. hire explorers and/or carry out explorer actions

If you take the gold, your turn is over, you get to do nothing more.

If you go for option two, you can hire a new explorer from the deck or face-up cards for 5 gold paid to the bank or you could lure an explorer from another player for 10 gold paid to that player. Each explorer can then perform one action, even those just purchased. The actions are:
1. Travel and gather info
2. Carry out an expedition
3. move the customs sign

Since you are limited to 4 explorers, you can perform up to 4 actions(one for each explorer you have).

If you decide to travel and gather info, name an explorer and a continent to travel to(except the continent with the customs sign). You can then secretly look at the top card of the discovery sites. Looking at the card allows you to determine what you need in order to successfully explore there(only for that card, each card is different).

If you attempt to carry out an expedition, pick any continent that doesn't contain the customs sign, even one where you just gathered info. Pay the cost associated with exploring the continent(5-25). You can pay with gold, discovery site cards, or a combo of both. Once the cost is paid, flip the top card of that continent. Now form a team of explorers whose skills combine to equal or exceed the skill requirement on the site card. Only explorers who have not performed any actions this turn may join the expedition. If you are able to meet the requirements then take the card into your hand. If you fail to meet it, then the site card goes back to the bottom of that deck and your turn immediately ends. Either way, one of your explorers must be retired by returning them to the bottom of the explorer deck.

Finally, you could instead use an explorer to move the customs sign to any continent.

Once you have either taken the 5 gold, failed an expedition, or carried out all of your explorer actions, you turn is then over. The game is continued in this way until one player reaches a certain amount of gold, 200-250 depending on the number of players.

Overall, I find the game very enjoyable though a bit on the light side. Of course, I'm biased towards exploration games but I find the theme fits the card play very nicely. The more players there are, the more chance that your team of explorers will look a little thinner when it comes to your turn again. This constant shuffling around of the explorers keeps the game fresh, though the better explorers tend to bop back and forth quite a bit. Take advantage of having a few good explorers as they may quickly be snatched away from you. The different levels of exploration values allows you to continue exploring whether your team is good or not, you'll never get stuck doing nothing on your turn.

With a good theme, excellent artwork, and a relatively cheap price, Bayon is an excellent but seemingly overlooked game to add to your want list. I highly recommend it.
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