The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Yspahan

I found a cheap copy of Ys, bought it, read the rules, and traded it. It looked fine, but the rules felt like a small blender of games I owned. Its not that I disliked Ys, but I felt no strong attachment to my copy. Given my lukewarm feel for Mykerinos, I’m glad that Yspahan made an appearance for me to try, since I had no plans to buy it.

At the basic level, this is a resource management/control game. You have three weeks (of seven days each), and fill up a city. There are four quadrants, each of which has a few ‘souks’ of tents. A souk has 1-5 tents. A round begins with a roll of nine dice, which are clumped by number. The pips on the dice usually don’t matter, just the number in each group. The low roll is allocated to collecting camels. The high roll to money, and each other roll is assigned a quadrant. So a roll of 1,1,1,2,2,3,3,3,6 will have three camels, one gold, two for the worst (lowest scoring) quadrant and three for the next worst. The upper two quadrants won’t be in play. Then each player chooses a clump. Take camels, gold, or place cubes in the selected quadrant. [In each case you get/place one item per dice]. If you place cubes in a souk, you reserve the rest of it. Souks score 3-12 points at the end of the day, but only if complete. Gold and camels are used to buy buildings (among other things). If you don’t like your choices, you can draw a card or move the supervisor.

Cards do a variety of things, such as let you place a cube for free, trade camels and gold, buy some victory points, get discounts on buildings, and the like. The cards remind me of expedition from Goa. Instead of using a card’s action, you can spend it to add a die to any group you take (so you could place 3-cubes instead of 2 on a two die group).

The supervisor wanders around the city. The supervisor moves one space for each pip shown on your selected group, and you can pay gold to adjust his movement (by up to 3 spaces). If he lands at the entrance to your building, you get sent on the caravan (sometimes good, sometimes bad). You get 0-2 points for being on the caravan, and may get a card (if you’ve got a building). If you have a camel, you can spend it to replace the marker in the souk that was just emptied …. otherwise your group is now incomplete.

At the end of each week, you score all completed souks and empty the city. The caravan also scores … number of cubes times the highest level you’ve got a cube on (levels run 1-3). The caravan only empties when it fills up, which also triggers and additional scoring.

Players can also build six buildings. These cost 2-4 camels, and 0-4 gold each. Each building has it’s own benefit:

  • Bonus camels (when you earn them)
  • Bonus gold (ditto)
  • Adjust the supervisor for free
  • Get a card whenever one of your goods is shipped on the caravan
  • Get two extra VPs when you score a souk
  • Place an extra cube (whenever you place)

You also score VPs for each building … points aren’t tied to a building, but the number you build.

The final twist is that when it’s your turn to roll, you can spend gold to get bonus dice which disappear after your turn.

Yspahan plays quickly. We normally finish in 45 minutes; it fits nicely in the ‘medium’ slot for our group. The dice give you an excuse to claim your loss was due to luck. But the winner will brag about skill. (The perfect mix). Building prices seem reasonable, you could do well buying the cheaper ones first, or get an expensive one. Or ignore them (for a while). Since choices are dictated by die rolls, flexibility matters.

I’ve enjoyed my three games so far; a good opener or closer.

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Written by taogaming

January 2, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Reviews

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6 Responses

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  1. Nice review of this game. I think I’ll have to check out Ysaphan.

    jacob

    January 2, 2007 at 11:03 pm

  2. Camels are the one resource that is always good to have. You can get away with not having much gold (and can burn excess gold on die rolls), but camels are almost a necessity for any position. As far as luck in the game goes, this will probably be the main source of it.

    frunk

    January 3, 2007 at 8:29 am

  3. Camels are the one resource that is always good to have.

    I agree … all buildings require them, and the turn caravan moves from losses (or small gains) into big gains. Luck abounds, but its I can’t point to a single roll and say “That roll won/lost the game.” [Actually, I did say that during my last game, but I was joking.]

    Brian

    January 3, 2007 at 9:42 am

  4. Camels are the one resource that is always good to have.

    I agree … all buildings require them, and the turn caravan moves from losses (or small gains) into big gains. Luck abounds, but its I can’t point to a single roll and say “That roll won/lost the game.” [Actually, I did say that during my last game, but I was joking.]

    Brian

    January 3, 2007 at 9:42 am

  5. Brian, I don’t if I taught the game wrong or it’s just that we have Caylus so thoroughly imbedded into our brain that the provost is still haunting us, but I don’t think there is a limit on the number of spaces that you can pay to move the supervisor (other than your own gold supply). The Hamman allows you to move the supervisor up to 3 more without cost.

    Rick Nichols

    January 3, 2007 at 6:53 pm

  6. Rob taught with the ‘3 spaces rule’ on Monday. I’ve no idea which one of you is right. Doesn’t really matter too much.

    Do they really call that building the Hamman? Then again, they call the final building the hoist, and I call it the trebuchet. (“We airmail your goods to you!”)

    Brian

    January 3, 2007 at 8:51 pm


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