Thursday, April 16, 2009

#17: Akaba

  • designer: Guido Hoffman
  • publisher: Haba
  • date: 2004
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 1575/6.58
  • age: 5+
  • # of players: 2-4
  • print status: maybe OOP (or maybe not)
  • cost: $35.99 (FunAgain)... there's also a punched "like new" copy for sale for $35.00 on BGG
This entry hearkens back to a couple of themes we've sounded during the Kid Games 100:
  1. Haba has much better game names when it doesn't attempt to translate them from German - Akaba just sounds cool in almost any language.
  2. This game is actually the first of the "puffer" series - The Black Pirate was #33 on the Kid Games 100.

So, you may be wondering why I'd turn back around and put another puffer game on the list. Well, I'll tell you - I think they're both great games that offer very different play experiences.

This is the more wild'n'wooly of the two games, since each player is working to move as quickly as he can... the active player puffing away at his magic carpet, scooting it around the board, while the player to his left is busy rolling a pair of color dice, hoping for them to match so he can yell "Stop!" and end the active players travel.

Tipping over your magic carpet is bad, as is landing in the fountain (a hole in the center of the board) or flying out of marketplace (off the board). Blowing other magic carpets is OK... but the penalty for making a mistake is a gift to the other player.

Your objective is to gather five different gifts from the various marketplace stalls, whose sides are delineated by chunky wooden pieces that fit into the board. Gift tiles also fit into the small holes in each stall - and here's where the memory element of the game comes in. Each player has an identical set of five cards telling which gifts they need... but you only have 2 cards in play at a time. So, you could well arrive at a stall to claim a gift - but it's not one that you need. You must remember where it is... or remember where another player showed you the item you were looking for.

When you do find the appropriate gift, you discard your "order" card and place the gift on the magic carpet - each gift has a slot which fits nicely around the magic carpet driver. BTW, the addition of gifts make the carpet a bit more difficult to maneuver... a nice catch-up mechanic.

The first player to get all 5 gifts wins the game.

There is a variant with magic lamps included in the box that isn't essential but adds a nice twist to the game.

While kids age 5+ can play the game, you need to be 6-7 years old to have the coordination to carefully puff your carpet across the board instead of blowing it about as if you're in an Arabic remake of The Wizard of Oz.

A final word: my older son enjoys this game more than The Black Pirate, I think primarily because of the frenetic pace of each of the turns. I was surprised by this, as I thought that the pirate theme would beat the magic carpet theme - but evidently not. I'm good with either of them: Akaba if I'm up for high-charging silliness, The Black Pirate if I'm wanting more of a careful dexterity challenge.

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