Thursday, February 15, 2007


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.

2-Player Variant

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.

Enough Actions?

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


At 7:59 PM, Blogger Seth Jaffee said...

I had a different initial reaction to Yspahan. While I see what you're saying, and I did sort of wonder some of the same things, I definitely saw more to it than you seemed to.

I only played once, and I did get all 6 buildings. I got very little out of the Caravan, and I got a fari amount from Souks. I ended up winning the game with 75 or 80 points. The second place player got many more points than me in the caravan, but only had a couple buildings.

I spent the last week basically getting a bunch of souks and finishing out my last 2 buildings, having spent the prior week doing almost nothing but preparing for that I guess (getting cash and camels). The first week I had gotten some mediocre souks.

Anyway, I look forward to playing the game again (maybe tonight!), and I'll keep an eye on the things you mentioned. I definitely see what you mean about getting guys on the caravan. What a pain to get the guys over there, and it reduces your score to do so! Seems wise to more or less ignore the Carvan and instead do "other stuff."

I might like to see a variant where each die is used seperately, like if you roll 3 5's, you could use 2 dice to put 2 cubes into a souk, and the third die to move the supervisor 1 space, or 5 spaces, or something.

- Seth

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I focused solely on the caravan and sent all my cubes there scoring 27 (3x9) points in the final round. I tied for first and really enjoyed the fact that I could play an entirely different strategy compared to other players. I paid for the ability that gave me cards with each cube sent to the caravan so cards were constantly being used by me, which was a lot of fun.

At 3:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly there are not 2 but 3 ways to get points : souk, caravan + buildings.

It seems from your description that you destroyed the building / maybe empty the caravan at the end of a week. Both would be very wrong.

I have not tried with 2 players but I find Yspahan really fascinating + using exactly the right time. Very good game, imo.

At 5:42 AM, Blogger ekted said...

"Clearly there are not 2 but 3 ways to get points : souk, caravan + buildings."

Yes, but buildings are "extra" points.

"It seems from your description that you destroyed the building / maybe empty the caravan at the end of a week. Both would be very wrong."

Not at all. Buildings last the entire game, and the caravan is only emptied when full. However, both of these are irrelevant to my point.

At 12:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, buildings are scored every [u]week[/u]. All buildings are removed at the end of every week.

At 1:07 AM, Blogger ekted said...

No, they aren't.

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, buildings are scored every week. All buildings are removed at the end of every week.

I think Anonymous is confusing the buildings that players place goods in with the buildings that they build. Yes, Anon, you remove the goods at the end of each week from the markets, but any buildings that you build (as marked on your personal chart) are yours until the end of the game.

Jim, I'd suggest playing with more than two players before trying to mess with the game. I've played a half-dozen times with four players, and the winners have used different strategies on the sliding scale from caravans to markets. The buildings are often just a few extra points on the way to caravans/markets, but they often reinforce each other and help your main strategy.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger Ben Turner said...

Quick comment to say three of us sat down for this game, and got somewhat confused into the game too.

The supervisor confused us a lot - we thought we was to penalise players, but it seems he actually helps you out ? This left little conflict in our game.

And buying dice for gold seemed pointless - they rarely offered much of an advantage, and you often took the largest clump of "non-gold" dice anyway, to prevent someone else using them.

Not a complete write off, but far from clear on tactics and objectives and an unsatisfying experience for all of our first plays. Would probably try it again if offered, just to see if the second play adds anything, but can't see it ever being a favourite of mine.


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