The ABCs of Gaming: Y is for…

We’re nearing the end of the ABCs of Gaming.  Y is for…

image by BGG user ArtEmiSa64

Yspahan was first published in 2006, was designed by Sébastien Pauchon, and was published by Ystari Games.  2-4 players aged 8 and up can enjoy this hour-long game that was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2007.  In the game, you are a merchant in the Persian city of Ispahan (respelled as Yspahan thanks to Ystari’s tradition of including a Y in the titles of their games).  You are trying to earn points by putting your goods in market spaces, sending caravans into the desert, and by constructing buildings.  When it was first released, Yspahan was hailed for its unique use of dice.  It is still well respected, winning the Ys with 29.4% of the votes (beating out top-ranked YINSH with 16.9%).

image by BGG user angeral

Yspahan comes with a city board, a tower board, a caravan board, 4 individual boards, 100 goods cubes, 2 white cubes, a Supervisor pawn, a First Player pawn, 25 camels, 25 yellow discs (gold), 9 white dice, 3 yellow dice, and 18 cards.  Each player gets a board, the matching cubes, and 2 gold coins.  The Supervisor goes in the middle of the game board, and the day/week are both set to one.

The game takes 21 days (rounds) to complete.  At the beginning of each day, the first player rolls the 9 white dice.  You may always pay gold to add yellow dice to the pool (up to three).  The yellow dice may only be used by the roller, and are removed if not taken by him.  After rolling, the player will separate the dice by number, grouping the ones, twos, etc.  The lowest number dice will be placed on the camel space of the tower board (at the bottom), and the highest number dice go on the gold space (at the top).  The other dice are placed on the city spaces in the middle – the second lowest goes on the sack, the third goes on the barrel, the fourth goes on the chest, and any remaining dice go on the vase.

Let me explain that better with an example – you roll the dice and get two 1s, three 2s, a 4, two 5s, and a 6.  The 1s go on the camel, and the 6 goes on the gold space. The 2s go on the sack, the 4 goes on the barrel, and the 5s go on the chest.  Because no 2s were rolled, nothing goes on the vase.

Each player will then take turns taking a group of dice and taking one of the three indicated actions.  Each space has the option to move the Supervisor or draw a card.  If you move the Supervisor, you’ll move the pawn a number of spaces equal to the number on the dice.  You can increase or decrease this number by paying one gold per space.  If it stops next to a cube in a shop, that cube is removed from the board and placed in the caravan, where it may score some points.  If you draw a card, you’ll just take the top card and add it to your hand.

Each space also has a special action you could choose instead of moving the Supervisor or drawing a card.  In fact, you’ll probably be doing these more.  From the camel space, you’ll take camels equal to the number of dice in the space.  From the gold space, you’ll take gold equal to the number of dice in the space.  From the region spaces, you’ll place cubes on the board in the indicated region.  Each region is divided into a number of shops clusters, called souks.  When placing your cubes, you must place all of them, you may not place in a souk occupied by another player’s goods, and you must complete one souk in that region before starting another.

After doing your action, you remove the dice from the tower board.  You then may build a special building if you want and can afford it.  Each gives you a special benefit – the Paddock allows you to take an extra camel when collecting camels; the Shop gives you 2 extra coins when collecting gold; the Hammam allows you to move the Supervisor up to three extra spaces without paying anything; the Caravanserai allows you to draw a card every time one of your goods is sent to the Caravan; the Bazaar gives you two extra points for completed souks at the end of the week; and the Hoist allows you to place one extra cube in a region.

After everyone has taken their action, the day ends and the next player rolls the dice.  After seven days (tracked on the board), the week ends and a scoring occurs.  Each completed souk scores an indicated number of points, and all cubes are returned to their owners.  The Caravan scores points equal to the number of your cubes on the board times the highest row you occupy (up to 3).  The Caravan does not empty at this time; however, if it ever filled up, it will score immediately and will clear.

The game is over after the third week.  The player with the most points wins.

I find Yspahan to be a nice simple game that moves quickly.  It can be quite confusing at first, but it’s pretty straightforward.  It’s tough to figure out the strategy of what to go after, and you may just get hosed on a few die rolls.  However, it’s a very nice and beautiful game.  The components are pretty good (other than the tiny cards), and it’s very colorful.  I haven’t gotten to play it much, but it was my choice for the win.  Here are the also rans:

  • YINSH (2003/Kris Burm/16.9%): This is the highest rated of the games in the GIPF series, a group of abstract with other seemingly random names.  I’ve played it online and enjoyed it.
  • Yggdrasil (2011/Cédric Lefebvre and Fabrice Rebellino/11.5%): A cooperative game about protecting the world tree from the forces of evil, set in Norse mythology.
  • Other (11.5%): The only nominee here was the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG.  I know next to nothing about it, and I intend it to stay that way.
  • Yomi (2011/David Sirlin/9.8%): It’s like Rock-Paper-Scissors with anime characters, cards, and special powers.  I don’t know much about it outside of Tom Vasel’s raving about it as one of his favorite games.
  • Yahtzee Free For All (2008/Richard Borg/9%): That’s right.  A Yahtzee game designed by the designer of Memoir ’44 and Commands and Colors: Ancients (also Liar’s Dice).  Players actually interact in this version, as they try to match cards on a board.
  • Ys (2004/Cyril Demaegd/4.8%): Another YS game from Ystari, and I believe this was their first game.  It’s a speculation game where players are trying to make money by making gem prices rise.
  • You’re Bluffing! (1985/Rüdiger Koltze/3.5%): A bluffing game (who knew) where players are secretly trying to outbid each other for animals.  It’s a family auction and trading game that doesn’t interest me at all.
  • Yom Kippur (1995/Dean Essig and Al Sandrick/2.9%): A wargame set in the October War between Egypt and Israel around the Suez Canal in 1973.
  • You Robot (2009/Alain Rivollet/0.4%): A party game from Asmodee where a scientist tries to position a robot only by showing it movement cards.  Sounds fun.
  • Yavalath (2007/Cameron Browne/0.3%): This game got the fewest votes of anything on the entire poll.  It’s an abstract from a small publisher (nestorgames), so I think that’s probably more because no one really knows it than a statement of its quality (it has a 7.08 average on BGG).

Hey!  I’m done with Y!  That means there’s only one letter (and the numbers) to go!  Thanks for reading!

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