Friday, September 21, 2012

Board Game Review: Through The Desert

Since it's been a while for a post and I don't have much Warhammer to report I thought I'd drop a little board gamer view on ya'll, hopefully you like it.

Through The Desert
Board: Upon opening the box (remember this is KOSMOS edition) I noticed a few things immediately. For one this is an actual Board Game. Not a simple little thing but a thick heavy well made Board.

Tokens: The tokens/counter/chits whatever you want to call them were not only numerous, but made of fairly sturdy card and good printing. I approved.

Pieces: TONS of little colorful camels. I was immediately impressed. I particularly like the little oasis tree's. Truly get you into the feel of the game. The parts are good quality plastic; nothing seems like it will break easily although being small they could disappear rather quickly if you were to drop some on the floor.

Extra?: Having purchased this as a lightly used copy I must say that it was in awfully good condition. I think if it was ever played it was only played once. The board doesn't sit flat yet, not from warp or anything but because it appears to have never been unfolded. The extra I speak of is this. My copy (don't know about retail copies) came with 7 small Ziploc baggies to contain the camels, chits, trees, etc... It also came with 1 large white drawstring bag to contain at least my assumption is the water hole chits so that you can randomly draw them and place them on the board.

Overall: I approve! I've read somewhere that the FFG (Fantasy Flight Games) version of the game isn't as nice. Considering how nice this box is I can only imagine what worse means; but I'll state that I am very happy with this purchase as far as the components are concerned.

Set-up and Game play:
Okay so after hunting down and printing out the English rule set for myself I read it about 4 times. Not that it was complicated; but when introducing a new game to my wife I want to make sure I have the rules down pat so that I can answer her questions. It only takes one screw up to get your wife to nix a game forever and ban it to the pile of games that don't get played. The rules are quite simple. Each player picks a color rider and takes a seat. The camels are divided into piles and some removed depending upon the number of players playing. I'll diverge for a moment to say that I feel this game scales quite well. Designed for 2-5 players I've thus far played it with 2,3 and 4. Haven't heard a complaint yet.

You setup the board by pulling random water hole chits from the bag and placing them on spaces indicated on the game board. The oasis tree's are also placed at this point on designated spaces on the board. Then you determine starting players.

So after determining starting player which we've done by pulling chits from the water hole bag each player places one of their colored camel riders on one of each color camel. These are your caravan leaders. You then place them on the board going clockwise obeying some simple rules. Cannot place next to other camels, oasis, on water chits. Otherwise you can start them on any open space.

After all the leaders are placed play begins again with the starting player. To develop the caravans on each players turn they place two new camels. Any color they want may be chosen, so 2 of 1 color or 2 of 2 different colors. It's up to the player to decide how they want to develop. The only exception here is that on the first turns in a 2 player game the 1st player only places 1 camel. 3-5 players the 1st and 2nd player only place 1 camel. On turn 2+ they place as normal 2 camels. This is a design I guess to keep the 1st players from gaining an unfair advantage; but I can't see how. Perhaps I'm just not smart enough to figure it out.

The goal during development is to score points. You do this by developing caravans and capturing water holes, linking to oasis or sectioning off areas of the desert as your own. It's a very simple game. To capture a water hole you simply build a caravan towards it and during one of your placement phases put a camel on that chit. You then pick it up and claim it as your own. To link to an oasis you simply need to place one of your camels near an oasis tree. Sectioning off the desert is the most difficult. You must use the board edges, mountain ranges or a single color of camel to completely lock off an area of the game board. This area cannot contain any other camels of any players or colors. It can contain oasis and water hole chits. This is one of the best ways to garner big points in the endgame.

Game play ends when one of the color camel piles runs out. You at that point count up your total victory points to determine the winner. Points are quite simple. The water hole chits are worth 1,2,3 points as indicated on the markers themselves. Every caravan linked to an oasis is worth 5 points. For the sectioned off area of the desert you earn 1 point for every space inside the area that doesn't contain an oasis. There is also a bonus 10 points awarded to the players who have the longest of each color caravan. Quite simply you just add your points and the highest point total is the winner. A tie literally results in a tie. You could come up with your own tie-breaker rules if you want, but via the game rules a tie is simply that; a tie.

Overall: Very easy and fast! The big reason I got this game was because it looked simple, fun and I thought my kids could play it. Of which I have found success on all levels. I think this is a great gateway game. I play lots of games myself and my wife does too; but she'd never venture into the realm of Descent:Road to Legend or Axis & Allies. This game is just heavy enough on strategy to get her interested and light enough on gameplay to keep her coming back. As the title says however you will have to get your friends/family past the initial stage of disbelief. When I first obtained the game after reading the rules I said to my wife one night "Were going to play the candy camel game." to which I recieved a look of pure confusion and I would almost go so far as to call it disbelief. She couldn't fathom it. She thought outloud at me that "Surely this isn't an adult game that I'm going to enjoy." but she was won over. She approves of the game as I think anyone trying it will.

So that's the review, hope you all got something out of it. Thanks for reading!

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