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MARRAKECH

Reviewed by Herb Levy

MARRAKECH (Gigamic/Fundex Games, 2-4 players, ages 6 and up, 10-20 minutes; $39.95)

 

Against the exotic background of a marketplace in Morocco, Marrakech, by Dominique Ehrhard, puts players into the roles of competing carpet sellers with a dual goal: have the most rugs visible in Marrakech square and, of course, collect as much money as possible along the way.

The square box of Marrakech hold a mounted board representing the market square of this center of commerce. The board is a 7 by 7 grid with a perimeter marked by paths which lead you out of and into the grid. There are sets of carpets (15 each in red, orange and yellow, 12 in blue), a large wooden piece (Assan, the market owner), a special six-sided die, chips to represent money and rules (in no less than 24 languages!).marrakech

Each player starts with a bankroll of 30 Dirhams (the game’s currency) while Assan begins his travels in the center of the board. Assan always faces in one direction. At the start of a turn, a player has the option of shifting Assan 90° left or right or leaving him as he is. Then, the die is rolled.

Instead of traditional dots, the six-sided die depicts slippers: one 1, two 2s and 3s and one 4. The number rolled indicates how far Assan must travel in the direction he is facing. If landing on a rug owned by an opponent, the player moving Assan must pay 1 Dirham for each half of a rug belonging to his opponent “connected” to that space, both horizontally and vertically (NOT diagonally). Then, the moving player may place his own rug.

A rug must be placed adjacent to the square Assan occupies, horizontally, vertically but, again, NOT diagonally. As a rug covers two squares, there are three ways to lay carpet. The rug may be placed on two empty squares OR across one empty square and one with part of a rug on it OR across two different halves of already placed rugs. (These rugs may belong to an opponent or two or even the active player himself). A single rug may NOT be entirely covered in one turn by the active player.

Play continues until all players have played their final carpet. (15 turns in a game with three, 12 in a game with four. Rules for two players allow players 24 rugs in two colors to use.) At that point, the final score is tallied.

Players earn 1 victory point for each Dirham they have on hand as well as 1 point for each space of the market still covered by their rugs once the last carpet is played. The player with the highest combined total wins! (If a tie, money determines the winner.)

Known better in Europe as Suleika, Marrakech made it onto the short list for this year’s Spiel des Jahres (German Game of the Year) award. While not a hard core “gamer’s game” of the kind that the SdJ used to regularly recognize, Marrakech does make its mark as a delightful family game with colorful graphics and wonderful presentation. Of course, there is a luck factor here as dice rolls can have an impact. But you can still play the odds as rolls of 2 and 3 will show up more often and you can plan (somewhat) accordingly. Another consideration is the ability to move Assan 90 degrees BEFORE rolling the die. This gives you a chance to modify (and prepare) for results.

Building a network of connected carpet key to winning the game. Such a network generates lots of income should others players land on it and, with many of your carpets in play, hopefully surrounding the always mobile Assan, it is likely your opponents will. This is partially offset, however, by that player’s ability to then lay his own carpe in an adjacent section to cover up some “enemy” carpet and minimize that network’s size and possibly break it into two lesser groups.

In past issues of GA REPORT, we’ve featured many Gigamic games (such as Quarto, Quixo and more) and it seem that all Gigamic games share the same high production values, making particular use of wood to great advantage while sticking to abstract designs. There is still high production value here as Marrakech uses little wood (only Assan is wooden). But this time, theme is offered and wonderfully realized, Colorful material is used for carpets with game play turning the board into a beautiful woven piece. The result is that theme dovetails delightfully with the mechanics; you feel you are weaving an everchanging tapestry as the colors and configurations of the board ebb and flow. Marrakech is a game worthy of it SdJ nomination. Not since the Tales of the Arabian Nights have carpets been the source of so much entertainment. – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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