Al-Rashid [Gamers Alliance Report]

[Review published on Gamers Alliance Report Spring 2013 Issue]

Sometimes it looks like we have reached the limit of new companies/designers and it is always great to see someone still interested in trying to make a mark in the boardgames market. Yemaia’s target is clear from their web site – “We decided to produce the games we would love to play”- and they decided to start with a deep and strategic Euro game designed by Pierluca Zizzi and Giorgio De Michele: Al Rashid.

In Al Rashid, players are transported to the Middle East in the time of the Great Caliph Harun al-Rashid as they control a family trying to win over the favor of the sovereign, getting as many Prestige Points as possible. The way to acquire all these PP is to spend time (using family members in something close to a classical worker placement mechanism) or gold coins.

The currency of the game is one of the first great ideas in Al Rashid as you don’t have coins, per se, but rather goods and the value of these goods is in their variety. One type of good gives you 1 gold coin, two different types 3 coins, three different types 6 coins, four different types 10 coins and one of EACH different type 15 coins. I find this mechanism brilliant and new. Gold coins are virtual (you can’t accumulate them but just get and spend when needed). Of course, how to get the needed goods is one of the first things to think about in a typical game.

Al Rashid is played over a map displaying the city with 6 palaces and the land with 7 different areas. The game last five turns and in each turn there is a placement phase, a resolution phase and an end of turn phase.

In the placement phase, players will allocate one of their family members to the leftmost space of a game area and that goes on until all players place all their family members. There are three kinds of family members: Pasha, Merchants and Sages with different values/abilities. Each game area (land or palace) has space for only five family members and, of course, where and when you place members is where most of the strategy lies.

There are restrictions to placement. Every area can host just a single Pasha and a single Merchant from each family. Sages can be added in any number and can also be stacked under your Pashas, Merchants or other Sages. Players will try to get dominance in an area over other families and dominance is evaluated using a point system. Each Pasha is valued at 5 points, 3 points for a Merchant and 1 for a Sage. Ties are resolved in the favor of the family occupying the leftmost area which means placing first is better. Of course, there is a limited amount of family members and all players start the game with just a Pasha, a Merchant and a Sage. There is another important aspect of dominance: only the first 3 players in each area will have the option of taking the corresponding action. This rule is great and really important in 4-5 player games. With 2 and 3 player games, I think something is missing. That doesn’t mean Al Rashid is not a good 2-3 player game but I really consider it much better with 4 or 5 players. So what can dominance do for you?

Read the full review on Gamers Alliance Report Spring 2013 Issue