A board game for three or four players by Reinhard Staupe, published in Germany by FX-Spiele, 1998.
This review copyright 1998 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated November 21, 1998 [Two-player variant added July 10, 2000]

Basari is an excellent little board game of trading, bargaining, and psyching out your opponents. The game plays well with both three and four players, but very differently at each number. The four-player game becomes more psychological, while the three-player is an excellent tactical game.

The game consists of an attractive board, 100 play jewels in four colors, and four sets of playing pieces including a pawn, home base, scoring token, die, and set of three cards for each player.

In the center of the board are pictured four carpets to store the jewels on, and a scoring table. Around that is a series of spaces in a Middle Eastern arch theme, each of which has a number between 4 and 7, inclusive, and a picture of a certain jewel combination. Finally, around the outer edge, is the scoring track.

The game is won by being the furthest around the scoring track after three rounds of play - usually about 20-30 minutes per game, and it's such a good game you'll happily play an instant rematch. A round ends when one or more players get their pawn around the board back to their home base - those who do, score ten points. Then the player with the most blue jewels scores eight points, the most green jewels scores ten points, the most yellow jewels twelve points, and the most red jewels fourteen points. Those who scored points for jewels must return some to the carpet, to prevent the next round from being an automatic victory for them. Reset the home bases to where the pawns are, and start the next round.

Course of Play

The game rules are quite simple: each player starts with the pieces and cards for his color, plus three jewels of each of the four colors. Place your home base and pawn on any space on the arches - it doesn't matter where - and your starting token on the "Start" space of the scoring track. Each player then rolls a die simultaneously, then moves their pieces.

At this point, you must stop to evaluate the board. Each pawn is now on a space which shows a certain number and a set of jewels. Each player has three cards, one of which shows a die, another the numbers 4,5,6,7, and the third a jewel of each color. In secret, each player chooses a card, then places it face down in front of them. When all have chosen, they are revealed simultaneously.

If only one player has chosen an action, they get to perform it. If three or four players have chosen the same action, none of them get to perform it. If two players choose the same action, they must negotiate to see which one of them may perform it.

The actions associated with each card are:

  • Die: roll the die, move your pawn the number of spaces shown, and your scoring marker six-minus-the-number-shown spaces.
  • Numbers: move your scoring marker the number of spaces corresponding to the space your pawn is on.
  • Jewels: take the jewels shown on the space your pawn is on.
If players have to negotiate, the leader offers the other player a number of jewels to allow him to perform the action. The other player can accept, or make a higher counteroffer. Eventually one and only one player will perform the action, and the next turn will begin.

To Deal or Not To Deal ...

The joy of the game comes in figuring out which actions the other players are likely to choose, then determining if you want to try to stop them, or let them and choose another action, and, if negotiating, offering (or accepting) the right combination of jewels for the action involved. Sometimes negotiators are potentially hurting each other - at other times, they can come to a mutually beneficial agreement. ("You let me take the red jewels, which you don't really want, as you'd still be in second place with them, and I'll give you all my green jewels, which will give you the lead over that other player over there.")

Two-Player Variant

You can play this game two-player, I've discovered. And while it's not as good as with more, it's actually not bad.

  1. One player takes the two brown colors, the other player black and gray.
  2. Each player rolls his/her two dice, and all four pawns are moved.
  3. Each player sets a tile in secret for each of his/her pawns.
  4. You may not choose the same choice for both of your own pieces.
  5. The winner is the player with the highest combined score for both his pieces.
That's basically it - try it sometime.

In Summary

Basari is a very fun, quick game with a near perfect blend of skill and luck. Yes, there's luck in it, but that takes the game out of the purely cerebral realm which games such as Chess and Go occupy, into something mere mortals can play and enjoy and even have a chance of winning. But there's a lot of skill involved - the more you play, the better you get at the game, which is always satisfying.

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