As announced in the publisher's presentation by ION Game Design, there is now a detailed description and review here to Sammu-ramat. It is Besime Uynaik's first game. It is also the first purely cooperative game at ION. In this test, we show how well this double first time worked.
The vision in developing the game was to depict in detail the historical figure Sammu-ramat and the Assyrian Empire. While there is historical dispute as to what role Sammu-ramat really played, it is clear that she was an influential and powerful female leader.
With Sammu-ramat there is the first game by Besime Uyanik who is CEO of ION. This is also the first purely cooperative game at ION. For this test we received a prototype of the game. The components shown are therefore subject to change. For more information about ION Game Design there is here a detailed presentation of the publisher.
The players take on the role of advisors or sammu-ramat themselves and have to face a wide variety of challenges together.
Big game in a small box
The box that the game comes in is very compact and filled to the brim with game components. In addition to the large game board, which depicts the territory of the Assyrian Empire, there is a smaller game board on which the empire tokens are placed. These are Military, Supplies, Diviner, and Medicine. All Empire tokens are made of wood. The enemies and the Ishtar Gates are made of the same material.
Goods that can be used to pay for one of the 100 Ashur cards include textiles, iron, copper, gold and lapis lazuli (a deep blue, natural stone). Like the various effect and technology tokens, these are made of thick and sturdy cardboard.
At the beginning of each round you have to deal with one of the 63 event cards. The players face this task in the person of one of the 15 different characters. For each of these there is a cardboard figure with a foot and a character card. The task of each game is determined by the selected one of the 20 challenge cards. This also specifies the detailed structure of each round.
Highly variable game structure
The two boards are placed in the middle and all tokens are placed on the empire board according to their type so that all spaces are occupied. Depending on the selected challenge, the build-up will now be continued. The Challenge Map dictates how much and where to place military, supplies, diviners, and medicine. An Ishtar Gate is placed in the areas that contain at least one token of each type. The enemies are also placed according to the challenge map.
When the construction on the large game board is finished, all characters who come from one of the areas in which an Ishtar Gate is located are ready. All players choose a personal character for themselves. They place this character face up in front of them. This page offers stronger variants of individual character actions than the public page of characters not chosen by any person. All characters, whether personal or public, receive the resource printed on them. In a normal difficulty game, that would be three. An additional resource can be placed or a resource can be omitted for an easier or more difficult game.
Six random technology tokens are then placed in designated locations, and each receives three Ashur cards. Depending on the number of people, between eight and five event cards are placed. The game can now begin to resolve the first event card.
Face the challenges together
Each of the rounds, called months in the game, goes through seven phases. In the first phase, a new event card is revealed and its effect is resolved. If there is a plague or uprising token on the board, those effects spread within a region during that phase.
In the next phase, the enemies will attack and gradually move towards the capital city of Kahlu. When all attacks and movements have been completed, the monthly effect of the challenge card is triggered in phase three. This allows new enemies to be placed, for example, or a random effect token must be drawn from the effect bag and its effect applied. In the fourth phase, everyone draws an Ashur card and the regions with Ishtar Gates bring resources. A maximum of six resources can be collected in this way, which can be freely divided among all characters.
Phase five is now the phase in which the players plan their actions. Depending on the number of people, everyone can carry out between three and one action. To do this, the players place their advisory discs on an advisor or sammu-ramat. This can be your own character or one of the public ones. No Advisor may be activated more than once in a month. Once everyone has placed their advice discs, they carry out the actions one after the other.
You can choose from six different options. The selected character can move to an adjacent location. Any two empire tokens can be taken with this promotion. From the location where the consulted character is located, an army (sum of all military tokens in a location) can be moved to an adjacent location to attack enemies there. In this case, the character may follow. Attacks are resolved on a one-to-one basis. Each enemy destroys a military and vice versa. Another option on the turn is to play an Ashur card. To do this, the selected character must have the appropriate resources on their character card. Bartering can trade two resources for one supply token, or one supply token for two region resources. If a character is in the same location as a technology token, they can pick it up as one action. This token is then placed on the corresponding character card and immediately activated once if necessary. The last possible action are the special actions of the selected character.
Of the free actions, everyone may carry out up to five per turn. These allow one-to-one trading of cards or resources between characters who are in the same location. If this character is Sammu-ramat, all resources can be taken from her. At the market locations, resources can be traded at a ratio of two to one. In the individual areas, you can only exchange for the corresponding resource in the respective area. All goods can only be traded in Damascus.
In the sixth phase, various things are checked. The individual tokens must be balanced on the Empire board. High numbers of a certain token must first be unlocked by another token. For example, you can't have more than ten military on the field if you don't have more than five supplies. During a round you can place any number of tokens, but you may have to give them back at the end of this round.
The conditions for the Ishtar Gates are also checked in this phase. Losing one also renders the character residing in that region unavailable until the region receives another Ishtar Gate. If Sammu-ramat's character is outside of Assyria during this phase and has no military with him, a strike token is placed on his character card.
victory or defeat?
One of the defeat conditions was already mentioned in the last section. If there are three impact tokens on Sammu-ramat's character card, the game is lost. In the seventh phase of a round it is checked whether one of the victory conditions or one of the defeat conditions is fulfilled. The game is won if the victory condition of the chosen challenge card is met at the end of a round.
Defeat occurs when there are no more Empire tokens of one type left on the board. If the capital Kahlu is taken by enemies, the game is also lost. If a location where Sammu-ramat is located is taken by enemies, the game is also lost. If the victory condition has not been met by the end of the last month, the game ends in defeat.
Since this is a cooperative game, the rules for solo play aren't much different. Of course you can just as a single person control two characters like in a two person game. Alternatively, there are the solo rules. Here is the personal character Sammu-ramat, which offers way more special actions. The hand limit is now seven instead of five and two cards are drawn instead of one each round. You have seven laps to complete the goal solo. You get three advice discs and each chosen character can carry out two actions.
The game also features a campaign mode. For this, five challenges (one of each letter from A to E) are played one after the other. The intermediate statuses can be "saved" on the supplied block.
Number of players: 1 to 5
Age: from 14 years
Playing time: 60 to 90 minutes
Long-term motivation: very good
Genre: Expert game
Core mechanisms: cooperative play, point-to-point movement, variable construction and variable player skills
Author: Besime Uyanik
Illustrations: Madeleine Fjäll
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2022
Sammu-ramat is an excellent cooperative game and an absolute must-see for fans of complex games like Spirit Island. From the theme to the mechanical implementation, almost everything about this game is very successful. The setting may not be unique, but the person-centric, historically-inspired take on the theme ensures there's enough "own" here that makes the game stand out from the crowd. The illustrations and all components have been worked with great attention to detail. Where necessary, the liberty was of course taken to deal with certain aspects in a more relaxed manner. For example, historically there was only one Ishtar Gate, which was one of the city gates in Babylon. For the game, of course, it can be used as a "marker" for secured areas. In addition to small historical references, the rules also contain short background stories about the individual (fictitious) characters. There is also plenty of exciting background information on the Ashur and event cards that keeps the historical aspect of the game very present.
The components of the game are excellent for the most part. All cards are of outstanding quality. The tiles are made of sturdy cardboard and will survive many games without damage. The wooden components are also very well made. The military, the fortune tellers and the enemies are present as figures. Medicine and supplies come in cube form. Building the empire board takes a little while as all the tokens have to be placed on appropriate tracks. The figures of the characters are made of the same sturdy cardboard as the various tiles. They are a bit too big for the field. In general, it gets quite crowded in Assyria, but also in other areas. The clarity suffers a bit here. This can be a bit annoying, especially at the beginning, when you are not yet familiar with all the names of the places. Some places are also too small to accommodate more than one character with additional tokens.
The rulebook does a great job of showing all the intricacies of the game. In order to internalize the exact process, you have to look it up a few times at first. However, this is not a sign of a bad set of rules for games at this level of complexity. There are many smaller rules, especially with the effects, but it takes a little more time to internalize them. In the end, however, these are all logically structured and relate to the corresponding empire tokens. Sammu-ramat is an expert game with a corresponding range of rules. The symbols in the game are very well chosen. There is no confusing flood of symbols for all possible actions. A lot of work is done with text.
The gameplay is very fluid. With the exception of phase five, all game phases are dealt with quickly. The events are a random element. They tend to have a negative impact on the regions of the game. However, there are also enough positive effects or effects that, despite their penalty, also have their "good sides". For example, a plague can “help” that the enemies cannot advance any further for two turns. The special appeal of the events is solving the problems that they bring with them. Since the movements of the enemies are clear except for the events, planning can be very good with this. You know what effects are in the bag and you have to weigh up whether you are taking risks or playing on safety. Since everyone can consult every character except the personal characters of the other players, there are always "good" actions, even if your own character is out of the game.
The different challenges are all different enough that there is a very high level of replayability here. In some you have to conquer certain regions, collect certain raw materials or face other diverse challenges. Due to the events, every game is different. The choice of personal characters also changes the way you approach a task. Resources are scarce. It slightly adjusts the difficulty without requiring many additional rules. It makes a noticeable difference whether you can already play cards with a cost of four resources in the first round or whether you have to laboriously earn these resources first. Even if you don't have the resources you need, you can discard cards for many of the character's special actions.
The solo mode also adapts very well. The difficulty generally adapts well to different numbers of people. The playing time remains pleasantly "short" for an expert game. A game plays well in the given time. You can be sure that at the end of these 60 to 90 minutes your heads will be spinning.
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Last updated on 8.03.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API