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Ascending the Corporate Tower - Asara Review

Jason Moslander
United States
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Originally Posted at

You have been commissioned to build the biggest, most beautiful tower, and as many towers as you can in a four year period. You have a team of workers that must help you collect materials and funds, and assist in the building of these towers. However, you are also competing with other builders who are trying to become more prestigious than you. Do you have what it takes to become the best builder? You will find out when you play Asara.

Okay, I know my opener is lame, but is Asara lame? First, let's take a look at what this game is and then we can get into how bad or good this one is. Asara was designed by Wolfgang Kramer and is published by Ravensburger. The game is for 2-4 players and takes about 45 minutes to play; if you have the game setup and you have experienced players, you can probably knock out a game in 30 minutes. This is a worker placement and set collection game. The goal is to build towers in various colors. You get points after each round is completed, and then there is also an end game scoring. The basic game play is simple. Each player is given 7-9 cards--based on the number of players-- and these are your workers. They come in various colors, which is important in developing your strategy. On your turn, you will place one of these worker cards on one of several locations on the board. There are three marketplaces, a building circle, a bank, a start player place, and a house of spies area on the board. Excluding the start player area, each area has multiple places to place workers.

Let's look at these areas of the board, since they are the meat of the game. The three marketplaces are where you will be purchasing pieces for your towers. There is a market for bases, tops, and two markets for middle sections. Each of these sections comes in one of five colors (brown, red, green, black, and white). Each one costing a different amount based on their value at end game. You will need a base and a top of one color in order to start your tower. You can add onto it later, but these two pieces are the minimum needed to start it. You can buy one piece from a marketplace on your turn, so choose carefully, and make sure that the other pieces you need are available.

If the pieces you need for the towers you are planning to build are not available, you can go to the House of Spies. There are two spaces available here: one costs 3 money and the other costs 5 money. Using your workers here allows for you to look through one of the marketplace decks of tower pieces and select the one you would like to purchase. You still have to pay the cost associated with the piece, so be careful, when you use this, because your funds could be depleted. There is one other spot by the House of Spies called the Caliph's Patronage. This gives you the first player marker for the next round and gives you 1 victory point during scoring.

After the marketplaces, there is the bank. This allows you to get more money (it's called Asari in the game) to purchase more tower pieces and build your towers. There are spots for 12, 10, and 8 Asari. As well as the only spot that can be used repeatedly, which gives you 5 Asari. These are the only places to get money for one of your actions. You will also receive 20 Asari at the beginning of each of the rounds (something to keep in mind as you are using workers for the bank). Finally, at end game scoring, every 10 Asari you have is worth 1 victory point.

The last place you can go is the Building Circle in the center of the board. You can play a card here to build your towers. The more you pay, the more pieces you can build. If you play on the 2 Asari slot, you can build two tower sections; if you play on the 5 Asari spot, you can build five tower sections. So, it's important to use this wisely and efficiently, but if you want to, other players may play a worker card that prevents you from building.

Now, you may say where is the strategy? Well, here is the kicker, each worker that you place must be of the same color as the other workers in that area. So, if someone places a blue card in the bank, all other cards placed there must be blue. If someone places a red card in the building area, all other building cards must be red. However, you can play two of any card face down to play on an area that you don't have that color, or you are wanting to save that color, or maybe you are trying to trick your opponents. Once you play your worker you do the action for that area and then play moves to the next player. This continues until everyone uses all of their workers. The round ends and you do some end round scoring (you get a point for each tower and each decoration on your towers. The start player also gets one point), and then begin the next round of the game. After the fourth round, the end of the game is triggered. You score the round and then score the end game (end game scoring gives points for whomever has the tallest and second tallest towers in a given color, then points are also awarded for who has the most towers and who built the tallest tower overall), the player with the most victory points is the winner.

The components for Asara are good. They are not amazing, but they are not bad either. The box is your standard big box (Ticket to Ride size), which is an automatic plus for me. The board is a good stock, but it could stand to be a little thicker. The cards are small, but this is needed to place them on the board. You are also given a nice sturdy player screen to hide your cards behind. The cards are each a different color and I felt that they were a little too close in color. They do have different symbols in their corners, but different artwork on each card and some more distinction would have gone a long way. The money is good. My only other complaint would be I wish that the scoring track markers were a little bigger, they are a little small and can be lost easily. Overall, descent components beautiful artwork, just not anything to really write home about. Finally, the cost is right on point at about $40.

As far as game play, this one is solid. It was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2010 and I can see why. This is just a worker placement and set collection game, but using cards instead of meeples or pawns was a great idea. It makes you think and gives you opportunities to try to block your opponents. The game is simple to learn and easy to teach which, for us, means it will be hitting the table a lot (especially at game nights). The game play is also very quick. We finished our first two-player game in about 35 minutes. I have heard some people complain about setup time, but this wasn't an issue for us. If you enjoy worker placement, but are afraid to breakout Caylus or Agricola as an introduction game, this might be one to pick up to get people into the ebb and flow of a worker placement game. This one is easy enough for my mom to play, but also deep enough to bring to your gamers game night. There is also a professional version of the game, that gives you more placement options, and gives the game some more depth.

We both enjoyed Asara. I was not expecting much, and I was pleasantly surprised. Mrs. GWT said, "I could see this one making it into my Top 10 in the future." This one will be staying in our game closet and hopefully will take center stage at our gaming table often.

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