Marco Teubner


No. of Players:
2 - 4



During the last years, publisher ZOCH has enriched the games market with quite a few extraordinary games, which stand apart from other competitors not least because of the opulence of game parts. Thus, titles such as Haste Bock (Shear Panic), Niagara or Tobago come to the gamer's mind almost at once upon the mentioning of ZOCH, and seemingly ZOCH in 2010 once again presents a game which features some quite unusual components.

Directly upon unpacking and mounting the gameboard which comes from a standard-sized ZOCH-box the players will discover that the new game Safranito on first sight resembles a Carrom-type game. Thus, each player receives a set of disks, and the square gameboard is surrounded by a higher border so that the disks the players will throw onto the board stand a higher chance of remaining on the gameboard. However, in Safranito the players will not snip their playing disks in any fashion, but throw them onto the gameboard during their turn.

When a new disks lands on and slides across the board, it will possibly pile and move other disks on the board, but this is not the intended purpose. Instead, players have to hit the different kinds of spice bowls and action spaces printed on the board with their disks. This leads us to the game's topic: In Safranito, players compete for buying spices on an Indian market in order to be the first player to prepare three exotic dishes. Each round of the game sees a display of three available dish cards, and for each of these dishes a mixture of three different spices is needed. All nine kinds of spices in the game can be found in bowls printed on the gameboard, and the players purchase the required spices by throwing disks at the respective spice bowls.


The number of participating players determines both the number of randomly available spice cards AND the number of disks which the players may throw during each turn. Beginning with the start player (which is rotated each round), the players throw their disks, aiming for the action spaces and those bowls which contain the spices displayed on the spice cards. After all players have thrown their disks, the final setting on the gameboard will be evaluated.

For the evaluation of each action space and spice bowl on the gameboard it is rather important to know that all player disks have a down-side which features a value between "10" and "60" (each player possesses an identical set of six disks), and these values actually will be used to determine the prices for buying and selling spices when the spice bowls are evaluated. As far as the four action spaces on the gameboard are concerned, no price needs to be paid to use the space. Instead, the value indicates which player may take the action, since only the player who managed to place the most valuable disk onto that action space will be allowed to perform the action (in case of a draw, the player order decides who is allowed to take the action).

Evaluating the four action spaces takes priority over evaluating the spice bowls, and in addition the four action spaces are dealt with in a fixed order. Thus, following the fixed order of action, the disks at each action space are revealed and each action is performed (provided at least one disk lies onto that specific action space). The first action space allows the instant throwing of an additional disk before the game proceeds with the next action, and so a player has a final chance to change the situation on the board in his favour before the spice bowls are evaluated. The next action field entitles the acting player to an additional spice card, chosen from a number of randomly drawn cards which corresponds to the value of the disk triggering the action (divided by ten). This action is followed by the reservation of a dish card, entitling the acting player to draw and keep a card which features a dish only he may prepare. And finally, the fourth action space instantly awards the honour of becoming the new starting player to the acting player, thus changing the regular sequence of the players and allowing the new starting player to determine the order in which the spice bowls will be evaluated.

As far as the spice bowls are concerned, it is the starting player who decides in which order the spice bowls will be evaluated. Thus, the starting player picks a bowl of his choice, and all disks lying onto that specific bowl now will be turned over. The total value of ALL disks lying onto this bowl is added up, and now players who actually possess a spice card matching that bowl from a previous round may decide to sell such a card for the total which has been calculated. Thus, selling one or more spice cards may come in handy in order to earn some cash (each player starts the game with a small amount of seed capital) - even those players whose disks have not hit the respective spice bowl are allowed to sell a spice card. All sold spice cards will be discarded.

After the sale of spice cards, the purchasing phase ensues, provided that one or more cards of that specific spice are available for sale. If you remember, a specific amount of spice cards is randomly drawn and revealed at the beginning of each round, and if such a card is not purchased during the current round it will remain available in the following rounds. However, in contrast to the selling action a purchase may only be performed by those players who actually managed to place one or more of their disks onto that specific spice bowl, and it will be the total value of each player's individual disks which determines which player may make the first purchase. Thus, this player pays a total matching the value of all his disks to the bank, takes ONE spice card and then removes his most valuable disk from the spice bowl. If additional spice cards are still available for that spice, players may once again purchase that spice until either all spice cards are sold or all player disks are removed from the bowl.

When the first bowl is settled, the starting player picks the next bowl for evaluation, and the game continues in this way until all spice bowls containing player disks have been dealt with. At the time all the players have finished selling and buying spice cards, all the remaining player disks will be removed from the board.


The play round is concluded with the cooking phase. Starting with the current start player the players now may look at the display of three available dishes, and any player who is able to discard three spice cards matching a specific dish may prepare the dish and take the dish card. The order of players once again is important here, since the first player actually has a chance to prepare and take a dish card before his competitors may do so. In addition, a player may also prepare any of his secretly kept dishes which he might have gained through the "reserve dish" action, and it will be the first player who succeeds in preparing three dishes who wins the game.

Obviously, with Safranito ZOCH once again lives up to its reputation as a publisher of unorthodox games, and Safranito - in the same vein as Villa Paletti - also presents players with nice challenges regarding skills as well as tactical grasps. Thus, players will certainly need a few turns to adapt their throwing skills to the feel and weight of the disks used in Safranito, which might lead to an over-absorption with techniques and a neglect of tactical considerations. But once the initial learning process is concluded, the players will start to analyze the situation on the board and the available spices more carefully.

While it might seem that the purchase of a spice which is needed for one or more of the currently available dishes might be a safe bet, the situation may change dramatically if a player changes the playing order or if too many players become interested in that specific spice so that additional disks must be thrown onto that bowl, thus increasing the price if it comes to a sale at all. So, the players will have to observe both their cash level and the stocks of available spices, and sometimes it may be wiser to keep away from a bowl in high demand and instead make a bigger purchase at another bowl for a bargain price.

It is true that the combination of both skill and tactics in a game is not always harmonious, but Safranito leaves a general feeling that everything is well-balanced. The basic market mechanism on which the game operates is not drowned in too much tactical sophistication, but runs quite smoothly due to the fact that the player disks are simply flipped to their down-side in order to determine all needed prices. Likewise, the use of the four action spaces does not overburden the game with unnecessary fancy, but instead the four well-balanced actions provide for just another twist which the players may opt to follow (or which may be triggered just by chance if a player's disk is pushed out of a bowl by a disk which was thrown later).

Overall, the combination of skill, tactics and speculation for which Safranito accounts draws the players into the competition right from the beginning, and due to the very nice design and handling of the disks and other game components Safranito really seems recommendable to players who want to try a game offside the usual worker-placement-line.

[Gamebox Index]

Google Custom Search

Impressum / Contact Info / Disclaimer


Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany