A majority of the original reviews were submitted by Charles Bahl and Robert Waters...Thanks!!!
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Game: Samarkand (Rio Grande Games)
Submitted By: Charles Bahl (The Quake Coast Game Club, San Jose, CA)
This is a gem of a game by the dean of all game designers, Sid Sackson, and it is one that deserves to be more widely known. Not only does it require a lot of fun tactical and strategic decision making (although on the lighter side), it also provides an exciting and tense (almost race-like) contest that continues right down to the wire. I have played Samarkand many times, and it is almost always a nail-biter for all participants, with players straining with excitement to squeeze by with a hard-fought victory. It seems to work equally well with 2 to 5 contestants, and is a great game for all ages (kid vs. kids, adults vs. adults, and even, rarest of all, kids vs. adults). Samarkand's components are adequate, not great, but its price is also corresponding lower than a great many other German-printed games. For a suggested retail price of $29.95 (as of July '00) you can have yourself a great gaming experience.
In Samarkand you make money by buying and selling six commodities (grain, fruit, copper goods, carpets, camels, and jewels). The game is played on a 5x4 board of squares, each of which represents either an oasis where you can purchase goods, a nomad camp where you can trade them, or a
city where you can sell them. You start the game with 200 Piasters and your goal is to wheel and deal your way to 500. And it is not easy! It is costly in terms of both money and trade goods to move around the board, and often you find that all the money you made on your last deal is gone by the time you are ready to make your next one. Most of the time, you will find yourself straining to squeeze even a slight advantage out of the game in order to gain the upper hand over your opponents. And things rarely go exactly the way you want them. You may have worked and worked to build up a great collection of, say, copper goods, only to find that some one gets to a city and sells them before you do, causing the bottom to fall out of the market. Or you may find that if you don't choose your route around the board carefully, you will have to give away a large percentage of your goods as "greeting gifts" to nomad caravans along the way. As the game enters its final tense end phase, you are apt to hear groans of frustration or shouts of success, as deals fall through or are fortuitously concluded. I have never played a game of Samarkand that has become tedious, boring, or a foregone conclusion. I recommend this game very highly.