SAMARKAND - Click on the photo to buy it from Funagain!SAMARKAND (aka BAZAAR II)

Bear with me now for a moment, because this is a bit confusing.  First there was a Sackson game called BAZAAR, which was published by 3M in 1968.  Then, in 1986, Schmidt published another Sackson game in Germany which, although it shares the trading theme, has nothing else in common with the original BAZAAR, but decided that the best name for this new game would be... yes, you guessed it, "BAZAAR."  To avoid confusion, this 1988 one is usually referred to as "BAZAAR II."  Click here for the rules to BAZAAR II, if you're curious.


Then, in 1998, an adaptation of BAZAAR II was published in Germany by Abacus in 1998 under the name of SAMARKAND, and is now widely available in the US from a terrific little company called RIO GRANDE GAMES, which has been going into partnership with German game publishers and replacing the German language-dependent components with those in English. Jay Tummelson, who runs RIO GRANDE, is doing a great service to American fans of European games (which, sadly, most of Sackson's recent games qualify as, even though the man lives in the Bronx!), and deserves to be encouraged and supported.


In SAMARKAND, there are 6 commodities represented by cards: Grain, Fruit, Copper, Carpets, Camels, and Jewels, with the Grain being the most common and the Jewels being the most rare.  Each player is dealt 7 cards to start, and wanders around the city buying, trading, and selling these items in an attempt to turn 200 Piasters into the 500 necessary to win. Take a look at the picture of the very cool board.  The arrows determine where you can go on your turn.  The yellow spaces are Nomad camps, in which trading can take place.  The green spaces are Oases, in which goods can be bought.  And the purple spaces are Cities, in which commodities can be sold.  Each commodity can only be sold in the proper city, as indicated by the symbols in the circles on the city squares.  And the more you have of any one commodity, the more you get for them, which is why you run around trying to get a lot of one thing before selling.  Those arrows make navigation a tricky procedure, but rather than just moving one square per turn, you always have the option of rolling the special six-sided die, which has a backwards one instead of a six.  However, once you commit to rolling the die, you must move that number of spaces.

It's a beautiful and engrossing game.  With three players, it's usually around 40 minutes, but with five it can take over an hour.  There is an expansion available for this game from Rio Grande, and apparently, it's based on a variant that Sackson himself included in his original rules.  Click here to get the ISFAHAN expansion for free from Funagain!

The main difference between SAMARKAND and the original BAZAAR II is that in BAZAAR II, you rolled a six-sided die and had to move the full amount each time.  This made getting around the board much faster, as opposed to the SAMARKAND way of being allowed one free movement space, or the ability to buy a roll of the die.  Also, BAZAAR II uses colored plastic chips instead of the nicely themed cards you get with SAMARKAND.  And it's so much easier to remember that jewels are more valuable and more scarce than wheat, than it is that blue chips are rarer than green ones.  I have no idea whether the adaptation from BAZAAR II into SAMARKAND was made by Sackson himself or by Abacus, but it's a good one.  For my money, you're much better off with SAMARKAND.  (Good thing, too, because BAZAAR II is fiendishly difficult to get ahold of!)

Click to see if Funagain Games has a copy of SAMARKAND for you...

Moving on to some of the Great Books of Sid Sackson...