Review – Safranito

2 to 4 Players, Aged 10 + with a 30+ minute playing time 
A review copy of Safranito (released in 2010), designed by Marco Teubner was kindly provided by the German publisher Zoch GmbH.

Players are cast in the role of top chefs from around India jostling around Rajive’s booth in the Mumbai spice market seeking to obtain the best spice blends and thus be the culinary trend setters. In order to buy or sell the spices players try to throw roasted bread chips into the desired spice bowls. Hoping their fellow chefs do not knock their bread chips out of the bowls when they come to throw!

Safranito is perhaps an unusual game to the British eye in that it requires a degree of dexterity blended with some tactics as players try to both buy and sell spices as they seek out the winning combinations. However to those that follow publishers like Zoch in particular this blend of:

• Quality components;

• a dexterity mechanism;

• a game that can be enjoyed as much by adults as children.

is unsurprising. Zoch is after all the maker of games like Villa Paletti (a Spiel des Jahres winner) and Bausack amongst others.

What follows is an overview of the game broken down into 5 sections: The Game ComponentsSetting Up The GameHow To Play The GameWhat Did We Think? and finally Who Do We Think Will Like It?. So if you don't want to read the whole review scan down to the heading that interests you.

Game Components
A game Board – This comes in two heavy lipped parts which are joined by 2 well fitting clamps. The board depicts 9 spice bowls (Curry, Ginger, Cardamom, Chilli, Garlic, Mint, Cumin, Saffron and Cinnamon) plus four Action Spaces.
24 Bread Chips – These are substantial resin chips, rather like gambling chips, in the 4 player colours (Green Red, Orange and Blue), each with a small hole in the middle. They are denominated in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 rupees.
54 Spice Cards – Each card depicting one of the aforementioned spices.
18 Spice Blend Cards – Depicting various combinations of three of the spices.
42 Money Bills – The paper money in denominations of 6x100, 12x50, 12x20 and 12x10 rupees.
1 Pepper Mill – Used to denote the 1st player or ‘Head Chef’.

A well illustrated set of rules

Setting Up The Game
Place the game board in the centre of the table.

Players choose a colour and take the six Bread Chips in the corresponding colour plus 200 rupees.

Place the remaining money by the side if the board as a bank.

Shuffle the respective decks of Spice Blend Cards and Spice Cards and then depending on the number of players:

• Turn over 2 or 3 Spice Blend Cards. Players will acquire these cards by handing over matching combinations of Spice Cards through the course of the game.

• Turn over 4, 5 or 6 individual Spice Cards and place them in their respective positions around the edge of the board.

• Players will use 3 or 4 Bread Chips during each game round, throwing them onto the game board and seeking to land them over the spice bowls; thereby gaining the opportunity to buy the available Spice Cards and in certain cases sell them.

As you might expect with a game about spices and cooking the Pepper Mill goes to the last person who cooked anything – it’s as good a system of determining the start player (Head Chef) as any other!

The winner of the game will be the first player to obtain 3 Spice Blend Cards

Playing The Game
The game is played over a series of rounds consisting of 4 phases, but it is the first phase that is the most important in this tactile game:

1. Throwing your bread chips – Starting with the Start Player each player selects one of their chips and throws it facedown onto the game board, aiming to get it onto the image they are trying to acquire (or later in the game sell). Typically this will be one of the 9 spice bowls but there are also 4 Action Spaces:
• Extra Throw - the player can throw an extra Bread chip this round.

• Additional Spice Card - the player gets to draw as many Spice Cards as are represented by the first digit on the Bread Chip that landed in this area, keeping one of them.

• Reserving Spice Blends - the player takes the top most Spice Blend card face down i.e. they have their own secret blend and the other players do not know what they need to collect to complete it.

• Head Chef - the player takes the Pepper Mill and immediately becomes the Head Chef.

Knocking another players chip out of a bowl or indeed of the board is entirely legal as is trying to use another player or player’s chips to help direct the direction of travel for your chip.

Players continue throwing Bread Chips to the limit set out in the rules. In planning what chips to use this round you need to have an eye to how many rupees you have and whether your intent is to sell a spice(s) you already have in order to raise additional rupees or to buy more spices? If your intent is to sell spices then you will look to use your highest value chips but when it comes to buying the chip you choose is likely to be determined by:

a. The amount of money you have available;

b. Whether other players are likely to want the same spice, as the highest value chip gets first choice;

c. The number of that type of spice cards sitting on the edge of the game board; if there is more than one card then you may get away with not having to pay as much.

So as you plan what to throw and indeed when to throw (early chip’s are frequently displaced) you will want to consider the placement of other player’s chips as well as the Spices they have already acquired and their relative importance given the face up Spice Blends Cards.

Importantly when throwing the Bread Chips, the player’s hand must not go over the outside the margin of the board.
This is not as easy, or at least it wasn’t for us, as it looks. We had chips flying of the board and definitely struggling to hit the target we were aiming at and as for aiming at an Action Space we felt this would take a practice as most of the time we struggled to hit the Spice Bowls! Some of us also struggled to keep our hands outside the margin of the board when throwing.

2. Evaluating Action Spaces – The Head Chef adjudicates if a Bread Chip is over an Action Space, to be over the target the target must be visible when looking through the hole in the centre of the chip.
If two chips are covering an Action Space then the player with the highest value chip receives the benefit.

If a player has managed to get one of their chips over the Head Chef Action Space then they immediately become the Head Chef for the remainder of this round.

3. Selling and buying spices - The Head Chef adjudicates if a Bread Chip is over a Spice Bowl, to be over the target the target must be visible when looking through the hole in the chip. Those that are not are returned to their owners whilst those that are are turned over revealing their values.

Having revealed all the chips the Head Chef now determines the order in which the spices will be first Sold and then Bought.

If the Head Chef decides to handle Garlic first then players that hold a Garlic Card are allowed to sell them irrespective of whether they have a chip in the Garlic bowl themselves. The price for selling Garlic is determined as the sum of the Bread Chips in that bowl.

If any of the sellers have Bread Chips in the Garlic Bowl they then remove their chips from the Bowl i.e. they cannot also buy spices they have sold.

Players with chips still in the Garlic bowl may now buy those Garlic Spice Cards that are displayed face up on the side of the board, commencing with the player with the highest value chip. They take the chip back into their hand and hand over the chip value in rupees, receiving the first or maybe the only Garlic Spice Card! If more spice cards are available to buy and there are more chips still in the bowl then the purchase is resolved in a similar fashion. If there are equal value Bread Chips and not enough Spice Cards to go around then the priority is determined by play position i.e. the Head Chef takes priority then proceeding in the order of play.

Play then proceeds in the order determined by the Head Chef resolving selling and then buying of spices until there are no more chips on the board.

4. Putting together spice blends – Starting with the Head Chef each player may hand over the Spice Cards shown on one of the face up Spice Blend cards receiving this card in return and placing it face up in front of you.
If anyone has the spices necessary to complete a reserved (secret) Spice Blend Card, acquired by landing on the relevant Action Space they may hand over the Spice Cards and turn up the Spice Blend Card in front of them.

If no player has won the game by completing 3 Spice Blends then a new round is started by:

a. Moving the Pepper Mill round to the next player in a clockwise direction.

b. If Spice Blends have been acquired in the last round the display is replenished by turning over new cards.

c. 4, 5 or 6 Spice Cards are turned over and added to the board as for the first round.

d. The players then continue with the 4 phases described above.

What Did We Think?
Safranito is a game that needs dexterity as the primary requirement and for most I would guess the early games will be littered with good and bad luck as players hit their bowls as much by chance as skill and or have their chips knocked into or out of bowls by their fellow players.
So whilst not a deep tactical game it will reward practice and familiarity as with so many euro games but in this case it rewards dexterity rather than tactical skill. Although it is also not just about throwing bread chips in that you need to manage your money and this will inevitably mean you need to sell spices at times and also keep track of what others are buying.

We liked Safranito and found it grew on us. The components are generally of a high quality with a substantial board and heavy Bread Chips. The cards are colourful and good quality and whilst first impression was that the money was a little flimsy the quality of the paper is good and will I think stand up to general wear and tear.
Will it get regular play? I suspect it may, I was cool on it initially because the game theme doesn’t particularly inspire me and I was fairly inept when it came to throwing the chips however, my wife immediately liked it and felt it was a welcome addition to our collection if for no other reason than that it is completely different to any of our other games. In the second and subsequent games my throwing ability improved to mediocre thus allowing my personal level of enjoyment to go up significantly and I also began to appreciate the tactics that can be employed. However we felt that with four players the playing time was more likely to be 45-60 mins, not 30 mins as indicated on the box.

Who Do We Think Will Like It?
I am absolutely sure that this will not work for some people (and it didn’t initially grab me) but I think it will prove to be popular with others. In particular it strikes me that for those people, young or old, whose skill is with their hands this may be an excellent game and whilst the box gives an age range of 10+ I think that most 8 year-olds I know would quickly pick this up (and enjoy the chip throwing) making this a good family game where a wide age range can complete equally.
If you find the theme or mechanism interesting then I suspect that the degree of skill will go up and luck down through regular play and so it will become a much more satisfying experience.

Also the ability to mess up other players as your skill level goes up will give the game an appeal all of its own for some!
So not a gamer’s game, but definitely a game for Social Gamers and families looking for something a little different.

If you liked this review then other games I have reviewed can be seen here

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