A huge storm with lots of blowing snow and freezing rain caused the cancellation of the usual game night. So we stayed in and played Yspahan using the official 2-player variant. This was the first time for both of us.
There are only a few tweaks to the normal game to play with 2 players. One, use only 8 of the 9 white dice. Two, the current player gets a second action at the end of each day (similar to the system used in 2p San Juan). Three, any yellow dice added by the current player remain in place for his second action, but cannot be used (if selected) by the other player. Four, building is now a normal action instead of an optional action; you must do it instead of placing cubes, taking camels/coins/card, or moving the supervisor. Five, only 2 camels on each row of the caravan are used.
It's fairly obvious why these changes are necessary. With the extra action given to the current player (which results in alternating actions), each player now gets 10 or 11 actions per week as compared to only 7 in the 3p and 4p games. Making building a normal action forces you to forego other action if you want to build.
Not Sure I Get It
I understand the mechanics of the game completely, but I don't understand the design, and in particular, the scoring system. There are 2 basic ways to score points: souks and the caravan.
If you fill an entire souk--and keep it full by the end of the week--you score points (from 3 to 12). However, the only way to get cubes into the caravan (other than by a few of the cards) is to play cubes into the shops then use the supervisor to transfer them to the caravan. Either you lose the cube from the board, or you spend a camel to ship a cube from your reserve instead.
Either way, you must get cubes onto the board. So you have to fill up souks and grab lots of camels to protect them, or play cubes and use the supervisor to get them to the caravan.
Will other players ever help you do this? Well, clearly if you have a big score in a souk (eg 12), it's better to force one of those cubes to the caravan. But normally, it's very little change in points to kill a souk. You might be getting 6-8 points for the souk, or an extra 3-5 in the caravan for the transferred cube. Is it really worth using an action to do this to another player?
I guess I just don't understand why the game was designed this way.
Each player only gets 7 action (10 or 11 in the 2p game) per week, then the town is cleared. This is barely enough to do anything interesting. By the time you get the Hoist built, for example, the week is over. If you went for all 6 buildings, I'm guessing you'd score little else.
The action limit is, of course, there to coincide with the potential filling of the town and/or the caravan. But this is of little consolation. At any given point, I can seem to make no plans, even short term. Which action do I take? Does it even matter? If nothing looks useful, I can always go for a card, but that's a shot in the dark.
After one play, I place Yspahan at the bottom of the Ystari pile of offerings. It's a mish-mash of mechanisms with no real goal or discernible theme. I see no strategy nor tactics whatsoever. We did find ourselves discussing ways to improve our results, so all hope is not lost. Perhaps with more play, we will find the game in here.
Yspahan image by richardsgamepack