By Robert Florence on July 29th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.
Sidibaba sidibaba. Sidibaba sidibaba sidibaba. Sidibaba. Sidibaba sidibaba sidibaba. Now, I know this looks like I’m just trying to flesh out my word count by repeating gibberish, the way a writer on Buzzfeed might do. But no, Sidibaba is actually the name of a board game. And it’s a really enjoyable word to say. Try it yourself!
Yeah, I was going to talk about Kaosball this week, but I’m holding off a little bit longer so that I can give all the included teams a proper try-out. This gives me the opportunity to tell you freaks about Sidibaba, a board game about stealing treasure from a big old maze of a big old cave.
See, when I played Sidibaba for the first time, I thought to myself – “HEY! I need to tell the Rock Paper Shotgun readers about this one! Because it’s pretty much like all that old shit we used to play!” Sidibaba plays like an old-school turn-based first-person dungeon exploring game, like Wizardry or Might & Magic or Eye of the Beholder. You literally, quite literally, navigate the cave system by sight.
Okay, let me explain. One player is the Leader of the Thieves – the bad guy, pretty much. That player sits behind a big cardboard screen, with the cave map hidden from the other players. He places a little arrow on the map that represents the other players’ entry point. He then fills the map with chests and treasure, by placing tokens on the map. The other players need to get in, steal the big treasure, and then get back out again. Only one player will win – the one with the most loot.
Now, the other players can only see the cardboard screen. There’s a big illustration of the cave on it. The Leader of the Thieves places a NEW illustration in front of the screen. It depicts what the players can see from their entry point on the map. SO COOL.
You see, the map is divided into squares, and there are little numbers printed at every division.
These numbers correspond to an illustration of the POV of the explorers. If the players move to a junction, the arrow is moved by the Leader of the Thieves and then he checks the number the arrow is pointing to. He places THAT illustration in front of the screen, and everyone can see what lies in front of them.
Oh, it’s like THIS. Look!
Get it? How cool is that?
Here’s how it all works for the players. They enter the map and start navigating around the cave by going further and further in, through each new “screen”. The players have a number of lamps to light the way, and each lamp lasts only three minutes in REAL TIME. That’s why the sand-timer is there. So, the players decide which player will lead the way, that player will light a lamp, and then movement begins. The lead player, after discussion with the rest of the gang, will choose a direction to move – TURN LEFT, TURN AROUND, TURN RIGHT, MOVE FORWARD, MOVE FORWARD + LEFT or MOVE FORWARD + RIGHT. If the players come across a chest, the loot gets split, but the player in the front gets the first pick. Most loot has a point value, but bonus points can be awarded for collecting pairs, in good old board game “collect some pairs” fashion. Genie Wishes can be found too, and these can be used as special actions for the players. You can get some lamps back, maybe. Or seek guidance towards the treasure or the exit.
BAD GUY STUFF
Yeah, but the bad guy has cool stuff too. Every time a lamp burns out, a new event token is awarded to the bad guy. These tokens allow the Leader of the Thieves to do lots of horrible stuff, like pursue the team around the map (if he catches them , he steals treasure and extinguishes a lamp), or cause cave-ins, or have Scheherezade attempt to seduce them. I have no idea why she’s seducing all these thieves. No idea. But there it is.
That’s pretty much the game. If the goodies get out, one of them wins. If the lamps burn out before they escape, the baddie wins.
I’ve never played a board game anything like Sidibaba before. The first-person exploration is a really cool mechanic, and players seem to enjoy moving around the map. It’s really quite a difficult game, though, because it’s very easy to lose your bearings inside the cave. Luckily, when a treasure or a chest is opened it stays open, and these opened chests can act as a trail of breadcrumbs for the players – if they all stop squabbling enough to focus on where they’re going and where they’ve been.
Being the lead explorer is key to the game, because the lead explorer gets first pick from the loot. The explorers need to agree on who that lead explorer is, and this introduces a little bit of tension. Everyone has the same amount of lamps, but a new lead explorer could easily spend their lamp grabbing some loot and then running from the dungeon (assuming they have an idea of the way out). At the same time, you can see how the whole “one player wins” thing can have some of the players wanting to stay in longer to complete a set of treasure.
Hm! Yes. Quite a lot going on!
I really like this game. It looks beautiful and it features a really clever and unique (within board gaming) central mechanic. It evokes a lot of nostalgia for computer gamers, so it should be a real hit with that kind of group. I think it needs quite a rowdy, fun group too – there’s a danger that the game could slide into a dull “Forward, back, left, forward, right” procession with a more introverted bunch of players at the wheel. It also helps to have an experienced player, maybe even someone used to being a “gamesmaster”, running the game from behind the screen – it helps if they’re more concerned with creating a fun experience than “winning” too.
I think, if you’re a person with a LOT of board games, it’s always nice to have something a little bit different on your shelf. Sidibaba is one worth putting up there. It feels OLD and FRESH at the same time.
Try it yourself!