Basari Review
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Players: 3 or 4
Playing Time: 30-40 minutes

You’ll have to barter and strategize your way to victory in this complex, multi-leveled game. It isn’t an easy game to master, nor is it an easy one to explain in a few words—because you play on several different levels at the same time, using a number of different strategies.

To begin, players each get three Action Cards, 12 gemstones (three each of four colors), and a set of four Playing Pieces to move around the board. The board has two different tracks. The inside track is made up of 32 archways, each of which has a gemstone value and a point value. Players may start the game on any one of the archways—and each player uses his or her Start Disk to mark that starting point. He or she will then use the Die to move the Merchant Piece around the inside of the board.

As the game progresses, players accumulate both gemstones and points. To keep track of points, each player is given a Points Marker that moves around another track on the outside of the board.

So here’s how it works:
Each turn has two parts—the Movement Phase and the Action Phase. In the Movement Phase, players all roll their dice and move their Merchant Pieces the correct number of archways. Then the Action Phase begins. Each player must choose whether he or she wants to:
  1. collect the gemstones indicated on the archway
  2. collect the points indicated on the archway
  3. roll the die to both collect points and move his or her Merchant Piece to another archway

He or she must then choose the appropriate Action Card and place it face-down on the table. Once all players have chosen, they reveal their choices. If only one player has chosen a particular choice, he or she gets to do the action on the card. But if two players choose the same action, they have to barter—using their gemstones—for the right to perform the action.

Once one player’s Merchant Piece has made it around the inside track, players receive points based on the number of gemstones they’ve collected (and the player(s) who made it around the board gets 10 bonus points)—and another round of play begins.

The player with the most points after three rounds is the winner.

By now, you may have figured out that Basari isn’t a simple, lazy-Sunday-afternoon kind of game. You’ve got to keep track of all kinds of playing pieces, which are traveling around two different tracks. You’ve got to keep track of your gemstones (as well as the number you have of each color)—and your opponents’. And you’ve got to keep track of your points. That’s a lot of stuff to juggle.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t take that long to figure out the basics of Basari. The strategies, however, take a bit longer—definitely more than one game. But it makes for a fun challenge.

I tried Basari out on my parents, who aren’t serious game players, and they were (understandably) a bit overwhelmed, so we moved on to something that required a little less concentration. My husband and I, however, loved the challenge. I only wish it were possible to play Basari with just two players—so we wouldn’t have to hunt down like-minded game players to enjoy it with us.

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