I’ll Be Selling Tea Leaves and Silk in My Sleep: Thoughts on Asante

After my magnificent find of Rüdiger Dorn’s Jambo, I started reading that it’s a good thing to do to play it in conjunction with his sequel, of sorts, Asante. I read up on Asante a little, and it sounded like it was almost the same game, but people said it was such a good idea, so what was a girl to do? I picked it up with my shopping money in Arizona at that wonderful gaming store I found there, and never looked back. We decided to start by playing it alone, before combining the two games into one, big raucous marketplace.

On the surface, Asante is, in fact, almost the same game as Jambo. The mechanics are the same – you buy and sell wares through your market stand in order to earn profits. There are still People and Animal cards, though the People have asserted their individuality more to become Persons in Asante. Dorn has changed some of the key elements of the execution with Asante, however. One glaring change is that the small market stands I rhapsodized about in my session report of Jambo simply don’t exist in Asante. Gone. That hurt. I think their absence does raise the stakes, in terms of strategy, which is good, and makes it a tighter game, but I can’t help but miss them, and kind of wish there were some in there, even if there weren’t as many as Jambo has. Asante then adds, as if to soothe the wound, the Holy Places, which are slots for one’s Artifacts (once called Utilities, in Jambo), and which give some free actions when you use them. When you place an Artifact on one, the Holy Place goes to your opponent, and might give him/her a free action to do a 1:1 ware exchange, or draw a card, for example. Once you have filled your three slots this way, if you replace an Artifact with a fourth one, then you get to start keeping the Holy Places dislodged in this way.

Holy Places, with Artifacts

We found the People and Animal cards to be more appealing in Asante. This is an imprecise observation, and one I need to examine further, but that was our impression on first play. With Jambo, we kept finding ourselves reluctant to use a lot of the People and Animals. We found ourselves using them a lot more in Asante. To begin with, the language of the cards felt less stilted, and flowed more naturally. The mechanics are generally streamlined. And in general, they’re just interesting. The Haggler, who allows you to “haggle” in two transactions during one turn to either receive one extra ware in a purchase or sell one fewer ware in a sale, is one of my favorite Persons.

Persons, including my buddy the Haggler, and Animals

I don’t want to say I like one game more or less than the other, because they both have their merits, and because they turn out to be surprisingly different games, for all their similarities. I suspect that the best game is really going to be the combination of the two, which is the next step on this journey. I’m going to have to work on the best way of putting them together, and then we’re going to set ourselves up with one giant deck, and see what happens.

Lane has a little spy watching him – see how she’s winking at the camera?

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About Suzanna

Suzanna's passions are gaming, dogs, and writing. She also loves reading, travel, and cranberry juice. Above all else, she would have it be said that she is compassionate, funny, and too clever by half.
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