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Subject: Game overview and first impressions rss

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Ben O'Steen
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A memory game from Antoine Bauza and Corentin Lebrat themed on the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Unlike the story, it involves 3-5 players competing over the treasure, with players taking turns as the titular Ali.

What do you get?

45 treasure cards with excellent character artwork by St├ęphane Poinsot, including 21 thematically styled 'trapped' treasures (encumbering, noisy or shiny treasures).
A Chief Thief card.
9 trap tokens
A card Ali figure with a stand (like the King of Tokyo monsters)
A rulebook in 5 languages (French, English, German, Spanish and Italian)



First Impressions

The first thing that strikes you is the high quality of the components. The cards are bright and decently printed, the tokens and Ali figurine are reassuringly sturdy and the artwork throughout is excellently themed. The colours used are bold and clear and you couldn't ask much more of a straightforward game like this.



How to play?

You set up the deck by shuffling the treasure cards together thoroughly, and then place the Chief Thief card 8 cards from the bottom. When this is drawn, it will signify the last round of the game.

The youngest player around the table takes the role of Ali Baba and so takes the Ali figurine (which is its only role in the game.) All other players take the role of thieves, trying to steal the treasure from Ali Baba.

The game itself is simple: The Ali Baba player (just 'Ali' for now) draws a card, reveals it to the thief players ('thieves'), and adds it to their own hand so that the thieves cannot see what it is. One of the thieves now has to describe out loud all of the cards that Ali has in their hand - for example 'Ali Baba has a vase, a lion, a shoe and a mirror in their hand'. The thieves take turns to do this with Ali drawing and revealing a card in-between their turns.

Simple enough? Well, there is a catch and this is where the press-your-luck mechanic appears. 21 of the treasure cards are 'traps', in that they are encumbering, noisy or shiny. Every time a card of this sort is drawn, Ali gets a corresponding token. If Ali has 3 tokens of the same sort in front of them, then he is 'discovered' and captured by the thieves, the round ends and the thieves take and distribute Ali's treasure cards amongst themselves, each taking a card turnwise until there are no cards left. (All treasure cards are taken in the same manner.)



However, if a thief makes a mistake when trying to recite the treasures in Ali's hand, then the round ends but that thief will not take a share of the loot! Ali will take 3 cards of their choosing before the leftover treasure is evenly distributed amongst all the players except for the thief who made a mistake. Ali shares in this too so can end up with more than 3 cards.

Ali can choose to stop drawing new cards after a thief has correctly recited what is in their hand, if they are scared they might hit a trap card and lose their share of the treasure. In this case, Ali and the thieves share the loot evenly between themselves, taking cards turnwise from the drawn cards starting with the Ali player.

At the end of the round, the Ali figurine is passed to a new player turnwise, and they take on the Ali role. All won cards are put face down in front of the players to be scored at the end.

Scoring - diversity is key

At the end of the game, you score a point for each different treasure card you possess. For example, if you end up with a sword card, an elephant card, three shoe cards and two book cards, you only score 4 points - sword, elephant, shoe and book. By getting early picks of the treasure, you can ensure a greater diversity of treasure and so, more points at the end.

Who might enjoy this

This is fundamentally a simple filler memory game with a Diamant-style push-your-luck element added in. The artwork and presentation is excellent and I can see this working well as a family game with younger children and their parents. The trap mechanic is a fun one, the artwork should appeal and a thief making a mistake is more likely (see below).

After doing a bit of maths (ah, hypergeom!), it seems that Ali will usually draw the third of one type of trap card between the 9th and 14th card draw. This means that if you are playing against a number of players who don't find it too difficult to recite 10 or so items from memory in an arbitrary order, then Ali may bust out more often than not. It would reduce the game to one of luck alone, with the thief who is next in turn from the unluckiest Ali having a clear advantage.

But wait, there are advanced rules! The rulebook suggests getting the players to recite the treasures in the order they were drawn, or to add an adjective to each treasure - 'a lazy lion' - forcing the next thief to take a turn to recite that as well.

My own addition would be to get the thieves to recite the treasure in alternating orders, normal this turn, reverse the next, alphabetical the one after that and so on. If this isn't challenging enough, let Ali choose the necessary order after they've put the new card into their hand.

I won't give this game a numerical rating, as I don't think that is fitting. This is an excellent and attractive game of its type, the addition of risk taking was a great choice and whether you will find playing this game rewarding will very much depend on the people you play it with. I recommend giving this game a play!
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Rick May
United States
Pinellas Park
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benosteen wrote:
If Ali has 3 tokens of the same sort in front of them, then he is 'discovered' and captured by the thieves, the round ends and the thieves take and distribute Ali's treasure cards amongst themselves, each taking a card turnwise until there are no cards left.


Just picked up this game and actually, the rules state that it is either the condition you stated above OR if Ali has 1 of all three alarms, thus increasing the likelihood of Ali being pressured to bow out earlier. Not sure if this adjustment to the rules came in a later printing, but it definitely would seem to be a good addition!
 
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