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The Khalif needs creative master builders


Asara – I should ask, is this a bio product or a wellness hotel? But I need not ask, I know about the game of towers since more than a year.

When I was told the first time about the new modular game of Wolfgang Kramer that was in the production process at Ravensburger, I immediately sat up in my mind, because each year we look for a gimmick to produce to give away in Essen. And what could be better than a modular game? During the Games Fair 2009 in Vienna I was able to play my first game of Asara and was convinced immediately – this is the game we will make the gimmick for, and we did: Asara The house of the Genie in a Bottle.


And what is ASARA now really about? ASARA is about building towers. His buyers acquire parts of towers for a player or build his towers for him. Only if you build lots of high towers you will score prestige points. Towers can be built in 6 different colours.

ASARA can be played on a lot of different levels of difficulty: Simply for fun, building as many towers as high as you can, but also as a very competitive game where each decision is important. Therefore it is important to know the conditions for scoring prestige points that are marked on a „Kramer track“. If you own most of those prestige points at the end of the game you win.

At the end of a year – there are four years in the game – a scoring of the year occurs, in each of these scorings prestige points are given out. Each tower you won earns you 1 point, regardless of its height. And then there are special bonus points. But take care: If you don’t use your tower parts in a tower before the end of the year you will lose prestige points.


At the end of the game an additional final scoring occurs. In all actions that you make you should always keep that goal in mind, to score as many points as you can in this final scoring. That this means that you need to keep an eye on what other s are doing results from how the highest towers are scored. In each of the 6 colours the owners of the highest and highest but one tower are determined and only these players score. In addition to that you score if you have the most or the second most number of towers or the highest or second highest towers of all.

These facts should be considered for every tower you build. Useless construction of towers does not score you points. So you need a strategy and you need to observe your competitors.


So, now we know what is important to play the game well and can start to explain the game:

A separate sheet of rules explains how to put together the board at the start of the game and how to lay out the other components. All over all the rules are full of explanatory images and very well structured. There is a square central part of the board with the building circle. At the four sides of the board 4 markets are placed. This formation results in four triangles which have special functions. Only two of these triangles are active in the basic game the others are used for inactive fountains.

The basic mechanisms of the game are the buyers. They come in the shape of 45 cards of 5 different colours, during one year of the game not all of these cards are in play. You never know which colors are used. In case of 4 players you have 7 cards, in case of 3 8 cards and in case of two players you old 9 cards for buyers.

These buyers are laid out on the board on special spaces and the actions connected to those spaces are enacted immediately. When all cards are used the year ends and the yearly scoring is done.

The game is started by the player who did last climb a tower. During the game the position of starting player immediately goes to the player who places a buyer on “Gunst des Kalifen” and thus starts the next year.


But first a few more notes on the towers, which are the core of the game. Each tower consists of a minimum of 2 parts, the basis and the spire – these parts can occur only once in a tower, and all parts of a tower must have the same colour. Between base and spire you can add more parts of the same color, these parts are middle parts and windows. So we have 4 segments on the board featuring those parts, randomly drawn but sorted into basis, spires, middle parts etc.

All these parts are available in six colors, the difference between colors is the price of the parts, brown parts are the cheapest with a price of 3; white parts cost 8 and are the most expensive ones. Each time when I can take a tower part by using a buyer I must pay the price according to color – once again a decision to make, do I buy cheap or expensive, is that what I want available – because, we know, each tower has only one color.


This is the moment to mention another basic mechanism of the game, the placement of the buyers. In each segment there is a limited amount of positions available for buyer cards. When all those positions are full, nothing more is possible in this segment. For example, the market segment “tower bases” has five positions for buyers.

In turn players position one or two cards until all have placed all their cards. If all positions in a segment are empty, a card of any color can be placed. When a card is placed, all other cards must be of the same color. Exception: If I place any two cards they are considered to be one card of the required colour. When all segments are taken, this market is closed.

Immediately after placing a card you take a tower part from this market, regardless which colour, and pay the price for the colour. Tower parts thus bought are immediately hidden behind your screen.

This takes us to money, which must be well administrated to have the necessary amount available. But there is always a money problem, so much to do with so little money!

At the beginning of the year you receive an income of 20 units, but in the first round the income is different for all players to balance the advantage of being start player. Money does not arrive from any source unless I send a buyer to the bank, but he can do nothing else then but bring me some money. Three chances can earn me +12, +10 or +8, after that he can only bring +5.

Other than the triangle “Bank” there is the triangle “Gunst des Kalifen” and “Haus der Spione “ and the counting track for the 4 years. Gunst has been mentioned already, what do I do when my buyer enters the „Haus der Spione“? He pays the amount of money stated and may take the tower part of his desire from the stock, just like that, simply by paying the price for the part.


So, now we know how to get parts for our towers, but at the moment they are still stacked behind our screens, hopefully lots of bases and spires of the same colour, because you can only build a tower of the color of base and spire is the same, all additional parts are optional, and additional.

To build a tower I must send a buyer into the Building Circle to acquire a building permit, only with such a permit a can build a tower or enlarge it with extra parts. I place a card in analogy to the market mechanism on a position - starting with the cost of 1 and rising to 7 gold - the advantage is I pay more money later, but can build one part for each money unit spent. If I want to build two towers with base and spire only, I need 4 gold, may build both towers and receive 4 prestige points, because when building you score prestige points, 1 per tower part built. IF the 4 is already taken, I must take 5, even if I have to leave one permit unused, as I cannot build 4 tower parts with 3 gold. Therefore building is essential, not only because of prestige points, but because of the suitable costs, but if I do not have the right parts, all else is moot. Take care! At the end of the year each tower counts, therefore building is important.


To send the buyers in the best possible order to the best possible positions is the secret of the game! What possibility must be chosen first, when is building the only thing that is important and when do I need to concentrate on collecting gold for next year?

Another source of additional prestige are tower parts with golden adornments, these have the same price than unadorned parts when buying them but score additional points in scoring.


This brings us the end of the basic game and we have reached our goal within the less than 60 minutes stipulated by the rules. The competition among players determines the competitive level of the game, all is possible, from a light family game to a tough expert game.


And yes, after a first go at the basic game one should try the version for experienced players. Wolfgang Kramer offers additional possibilities to place buyers for 2 of the triangles that were inactive fountains in the basic game, thus offering even more positions and more ways to make challenging decisions.


The triangle “Einkäufer rekrutieren” offers 3 positions. You pay (0, +2, +4) and may place one buyer on each position and take two new ones, hopefully getting a better color! And the first to do so can have that for free!


The triangle „Haus der leuchtenden Fenster“ also offers three positions and lets you buy illuminated windows. These may only be placed on already existing windows in a tower, which earns you additional prestige at the end of the year and assists in tie-breaking after the final scoring.


The triangle „Das Haus des Flaschengeistes“ can be used here as well and offers additional possibilities.


There are some small details featuring in the scoring that have not been mentioned here, but everything important you can find here. DO not forget anything that could score you points, always remember to build before the end of the ear and always watch what the other players are doing. In short, you will win with the right action at the right moment. And the element of chance in the game, which tower parts are available and what buyers am I dealt, results in a challenging mixture of planning and risk! I had fun with the game and it follows in the footsteps of other big titles!


What else can I say? A fine-tuned mechanism, not overburdened (it is, after all, by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling), attractive design (it is. after all, by Franz Vohwinkel), gut and sturdy material for the parts (it is, after all, by Ravensburger), simple an attractive addition to each game collection.


And finally, let me say, if you play ASARA in a game for two players it turns out to be even more strategic! You should try that, it ends in a real fight for every single tower, the game gets more challenging and money is scarcer still. And no third or fourth player around to put a spoke in the wheel!

And for good measure at the end a funny little story: When I asked Mr., or it might have been Mrs., Ravensburger what the meaning of Asara was, I got answered „Leopoldsdorf im Marchfelde“- which resulted in one of the very few occasions that have ever left me speechless.


In the end, is there anything that I would have changed? The stress in the game might be reduced if more than four years were played. Then you would have more time to acquire the highest towers with your buyers, but this would make the time to play much longer. You cannot have everything!


Ferdinand de Cassan


Spieler         : 2-4
Alter            : ages 9 and up
Dauer           : approx. 60 min

Autor           : Wolfgang Kramer + Michael Kiesling
Grafik          : Franz Vohwinkel
German title : identical

Preis            : ca. 33,00 Euro
Verlag          : Ravensburger 2010


Genre                    : resources management
Zielgruppe             : For families
Mechanismen         : build as many towers as you can as high as you can


Mechanisms goes well with the topic

A game with lots of atmosphere and suspense

Good mixture of chance and some tactics
A good family game despite its demanding mechanism


All games with worker placement, The Pillars of the Earth, Hansa Teutonica, Caylus and so on


Atmosphäre: 7


Ferdinand de Cassan

A fast game on building towers, where your buyers must be at the right place at the right time, unfortunately you do not have enough of them. You are rather busy to let your towers touch the sky.


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