Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Michael Kiesling &
Wolfgang Kramer


No. of Players:
2 - 4



Gamebox author Ralf Togler writes about the game:

During the last two years, publisher RAVENSBURGER demonstrated its ability to produce successful, modern family games featuring not only appealing graphic designs but also surprising new game tactics. The latest game of the series following Diamonds Club and last year's Seeland is Asara. Again, famous board game creator Wolfgang Kramer is one of the game's authors. Together with his ingenious co-author Michael Kiesling, he has created a modern buy and construct game, settled in Asara - the "Land of One Thousand Towers". Upon the call of the caliph of Asara who aspires to make his country more glamorous and beautiful, the players take the roles of successful architects and enter a competition for building as many high and pompous towers as possible all over the country.

But before the construction work can begin, the architects resp. the players have to acquire the necessary building materials. In the game, the players run through two stages in order to fulfil this task. During the sending phase, the first phase of each of the four rounds of the game, the players draw up to eight cards (the respective number of cards is dependent on the number of players) representing the buying agents. Those buying agents each feature different colours and must be sent to different spaces on the board. The agents' respective colours indicate where the cards may be placed on the board. There are the following alternatives: Firstly, the board shows four market places where the players can buy four different tower parts, namely the tower footing, the middle part, the windows and the topmost part of the towers. Another action space on the board is used for assembling these different parts and for erecting the towers. Furthermore, the players can also sent their agents to the bank in order to raise more funds for buying tower parts and financing the construction work. Finally, it is possible to make the agents bribe the government; this means, the players search a special card deck for a specific tower part and take that part.


Players may send their agents to all these different action spaces provided that the following conditions are fulfilled: Firstly, there is still an empty spot the respective player's agent can occupy on the action space. Secondly, the agent which is to be sent to the action space in question must feature the colour corresponding to the colour of that action space. However, the colour of the action space is not determined in advance; instead, the first player to place his or her agent on the action space also decides which colour the action space takes - namely the colour of the agent he or she places there. Afterwards, if other players also want to place agents on that action space, they have to place an agent of the same colour - or place two agents. This placing mechanism offers players the opportunity to act strategically: by deciding how to "dye" a specific action space, a player may obstruct other players' access to building materials or leastwise increase the price they must pay for using the action space.

During the second phase of the game, the action phase, the players perform the action stipulated by the action space upon which they did place their agents during the first phase. At the "market" the players buy building material by choosing from an outlay of differently coloured tower parts. During the scoring phase, victory points are assigned to the respective tower parts according to their colour. Consequently, those tower parts which feature the most "valuable" colour are the most expensive ones, too. The players hide their newly purchased tower parts, as well as their money, behind their screens.

If players want to assemble tower parts (only parts of the same colour may be put together), they have to send their agents to the "building" action space. At a minimum, each tower must consist of a base/footing and a topmost part; however, it is possible to add any number of middle parts and/or windows later on - if I should ever meet them again, I will propose this rather unusual way of constructing buildings to my former statics university professors… Anyway, it is only a game, and so the towers are growing higher and higher irrespective of the laws of statics…

During the two phases described above - sending phase and action phase - one player acts after the other (clockwise) until all players have placed their hand cards onto the board. The game round ends and the players score. The players get one victory point for each tower they have built and an additional victory point for each part of a tower which features a "rare" building part, i.e. a tower part with a gold decoration. It is possible to buy those rare tower parts in the same manner as the regular tower parts (at the market), but, quite naturally, there is only a limited quantity of rare parts which means they are extremely sought-after. When the game comes to an end, additional victory points are awarded, depending, for one, on the overall height of the towers. This means, the player who built the overall highest and second highest tower receives victory points. This is also the time when the colour of the parts which make up the towers comes into play - the highest and second highest tower of each colour will also earn their constructors victory points. Moreover, some colours score higher than others. Finally, the overall number of towers build by each player is rated, too.


The board is cross-shaped; during the set-up phase, four triangular playing pieces are placed in each one of the four corners of the board. The playing pieces are two-sided - one side is used for a beginners' game, the other side for an expert game. The game rules advise the players to try the expert level only after having become familiar with the beginners' game. Well, in my eyes this caveat may be appropriate for children trying their hands at the game; adults who are used to play games of moderate complexity such as Monopoly etc. should not confront any difficulties starting with Asara's expert modus. The only major difference between the beginners' game and the expert modus is that the latter offers players the possibility to draw some new building tiles which provide them with a bonus if there should be a tie after the final scoring.

As anyone would - with good reason - expect of RAVENSBURGER, the quality of Asara's game mechanism as well as of the game materials is excellent. Building the towers step by step and keeping trap of their progress is very satisfying. Although the game's rules are quite facile, Asara offers enough strategic opportunities and depth to formidable entertain players for an hour or so from time to time. However, I will not keep quite about my impression that Asara also may become a little boring if played over and over again. In my eyes, the flaw of the game lies in the limited number of tactical options available to the players. The only new element which really surprises is the mechanism of "dyeing" action spaces by placing agents of a certain colour on those spaces; all the other mechanisms, such as bidding, transforming raw materials into buildings etc. can be found in many other construction games. However, let me be very clear about this, Asara still did elate me a lot. I think the reason for this is the usual perfect balance in a Kramer / Kiesling game. You can positively sense how the two authors adjusted every single little detail to make the game perfectly balanced. This will certainly appeal to expert gamers. But occasional gamers will love Asara, too, because the game forgives you a lot of mistakes and in the end everybody will earn a lot of victory points. In my opinion: Though a little bit weaker than last year's Seeland, Asara is a very good family game. If the publisher follows this track, RAVENSBURGER is certainly earmarked for another award.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany