W. Eric Martin
This preview first appeared on BoardgameNews.com.
When TricTrac.net announced Cyril Demaegd's Bombay in January 2009, the game was described as being Ystari's simplest title yet, something that will work for both the general public and experienced gamers. Says Demaegd, "Bombay is quite simple and the reason for this is simple, too. Amyitis took two years to develop (of course not full time) and at the end of the process I was really exhausted and I swore to myself that for the next one, I'd try something simpler for once!"
"During a test session with William Attia for an upcoming game," continues Demaegd, "we discussed a bit about different ways to transport goods and sell them, and I suddenly had the idea of the 'mini stock-markets' which are the core of Bombay. So the next weekend I tried to create something really simple around this idea. That's how I made the first prototype. Of course we tested a lot and a few things changed all along the process, but I really wanted to avoid big complications this time."
A Passage Through India
Your goal in Bombay is to make more money than other players by selling silk, earning clients, and building palaces – think of it as another version of a traveling salesman game but with cute plastic elephants.
The gameboard shows an array of paths that connect cities to trading posts and empty intersections where palaces can be built. The game takes place over a number of sets, with each set broken into a series of turns; during each turn, each player can take up to three actions, being able to repeat actions in some cases. Those actions are:
• Move your elephant to an adjacent space.
• Buy silk at a trading post. Silk comes in four colors, and at the start of each round, nine bales of silk are drawn from a bag and arranged in markets, with rarer silks costing more rupees and more actions to purchase.
• Sell one bale in a city. Each city has a demand chart for three colors of silk, paying more for those at the top of the chart and more for yellow and purple no matter where they fall on the chart as they are less common in general. Selling a bale lessens the demand for that color in that city. In addition to rupees, you can also earn city tokens and clients, which provide endgame bonuses.
• Build a palace. When standing in a space without a building, you can sell silk in order to erect a palace, claiming any palace token on the space when you do – the tokens providing various immediate and delayed bonuses – and earning one rupee in the future anytime another player visits.
• Earn one rupee. You must spend all three actions on a turn to do this, so consider this a reset button.
Bombay includes different set-ups for each of the possible number of players. After the proper number of sets, players receive bonuses based on the number of clients they've created and palaces they've built, with those doing the most receiving a larger bonus. Anyone who has collected a set of three or four city tokens also receives a bonus, then the player with the most rupees gets to let out some "Whoopee!"s.
Asked how Bombay fits into the Ystari line, Demaegd says, "Bombay is definitely simple, but I think it does not mean that our fans will be disappointed by the game; there are still those Ystari things (strategies, different ways to score points), but they're in a nutshell, which means that it'll probably be possible to play the game with the whole family for once. For me Bombay is a 'bridge' game which is designed to suit both gamers and non-gamers. For the future, we don’t have other 'simple' games in the tubes for now, but we plan to release other games in this square box format (although the Caylus format will not be abandoned)."
Demaegd went on to expand on what "those Ystari things" actually are: "In my mind a simple way to define it would be: a game which I like." That said, he goes on, "There’s no recipe or anything. Sometimes, the prototype 'speaks' to me and I want to publish it. Quite honestly, even if I admit to this 'Ystari style' thing, I don’t understand it. On the contrary I try to avoid as much as possible to remake the same game. For example, Xavier Georges submitted to us Palais Royal a few years ago and I refused it (even though it was a good game) because I thought the style was too close to our previous games – and let me be clear I don’t mean 'copied,' I mean the 'same style.'"
"Of course you could say that Ystari=management games, but I think it's more complicated. We’ve done Caylus, that’s for sure, and we could have released a few more management games around the ideas of Caylus, but nobody was motivated by this, and when we made the next one (Amyitis), the idea was to propose another kind of management game. Amyitis is a management game, but it's totally based on rhythm. It's not really 'what do you manage?' but more 'when do you manage?' Sylla is another story – I would call it 'political management' since you have to find allies to achieve most of your goals)."
"Bombay will be something like our eighth release (plus five coeditions), and when I take a look at those games, I'm pretty happy because they're all quite different. You can't say that Yspahan is like Caylus or like Metropolys or like Mykerinos. Of course we could discuss CMC "
As for the name of Ystari's latest game – a name that violates the often-mentioned (but never official) "Y and S" rule – Demaegd says, "There's probably too many people who focus on this. It just started as a 'game in the game,' but it doesn't have to be a mental boundary. Of course there's always plenty of solutions with 'Y' and 'S,' and Bombay was no exception, but I thought it was a good idea, for this new squared box, to avoid this so-called 'Y+S rule.' Okay, there's still a 'Y,' so maybe the rule was 'Y' and the 'S' was a pure coïncidence. Just kidding..."
One other break from Ystari tradition is that the game will be distributed worldwide by Asmodee rather than appear in separate editions from Rio Grande Games and other publishers. "[Asmodee is] now our new distributor in Germany," says Demaegd. "As they helped us a lot for the plastic bits and during the quotation process, I thought it was fair to let them distribute the game in the USA. Of course it doesn't mean I won't work with Jay anymore. Jay is an excellent partner and we've got plenty of projects ahead, but Bombay is an exception."