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Subject: Three plays rss

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Jake Thornton
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Samarkand comes up on several 'good for 3 players' geek lists, so when I had a 3 player group in the offing I dug it out again and we had a go.

It's pretty easy to teach and everyone got the hang of it very quickly. What's more, it was both entertaining and a challenge, so we played it again. And again.

The first time I had the advantage of having played it before and I managed to win quite convincingly, even though it took me 10 minutes to get the last 20 piasters. There was also the entertaining sight of Richard having to create a new draw deck on his own when Matt and I had 11 and 12 cards respectively when the old one ran out. Needless to say, this didn't happen again.

The second time out, Matt tried specialising in sets of one of each, and took an early lead. This seemed to do quite well for him, but not well enough and I still managed to win. This despite what became a bit of a running joke with the dice, which insisted on rolling a 1 or a backwards for me almost every time. Now I know gamers like to complain about the luck of the dice (and it didn't stop me winning, so I'm not complaining), but I did manage to roll three 1s and two 'backs' in a set of 5 consecutive dice. And that wasn't the only time.

Anyway, our third game continued the entertaining dice, and I kept paying to roll it thinking that it couldn't do that to me all night (it could). The third game was the closest by far, and we eventually ended up playing it very quickly as the guys had to go to get their transport home. In the final turns we all had the cards we needed to win and just had to get to a market first. In the end Richard pipped us to it, and won a hectic and very enjoyable game.

Samarkand is a fairly light game that won't strain your brain too much so it'd be good to introduce family or non-gaming friends to 'better' games than monopoly. However, there are also enough little wrinkles in the strategy to keep geeks interested.

I rate this a 7.5 on the BGG scale. I'm not quite frothing enough about it to say I'll never turn it down so it's not an 8, but 7 seems overly cool. Whatever the number, I can see us playing this again as everyone was still keen after three plays in a row. Happy to have it in my collection.

Finally, I think the 'good with 3' note is right. It says 2-5, but I think 2 would take too long for the board to mature (filling up the nomads - you'll know what I mean if you've played it), and more than 3 is in danger of having a bit too much downtime. That doesn't mean it's rubbish at other player numbers (and if you've got fast players then more would work fine), but I think 3 players is the sweet spot.
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Jake Thornton
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I'd completely forgotten about Isfahan until after we'd played, but I'll be trying to get a set of counters printed out and ready to play with next time to see what difference it makes.
 
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