Dale Yu: Review of Sultaniya

 

Sultaniya

  • Designer: Charles Chevallier
  • Publisher: Bombyx/Asmodee
  • Ages: 8+
  • Players: 2-4
  • Time: 30-45 min
  • Times Played: 3 with review copy provided by Asmodee

Sultaniya is a Persian city founded in the 13th century that was once a capital of a Mongol dynasty.  In this game players are trying to build the most beautiful palace from the tiles in the game.  The castles will eventually be four levels tall, and points are awarded to the players for meeting certain criteria.

Each player starts with a player board which serves as the base of his palace.  At the bottom of this piece, you will find the unique scoring rubric for that player.  Each player can receive +1VP, +3VP or +6 VP for different types of palace features.  There are two different possibilities at each VP level, and the boards are set up so that all players have a different overall combination of VP producing features.  The fourth icon on the player board is shared by all players for soldiers.  Players also are dealt two secret objectives (from a deck of 10 possible) which provide each player with two other ways to score points.

sult1

The tiles are organized by color – each color corresponding to a different level in the palace.  They are shuffled and then each color is placed in a stack so that only the top tile can be seen.  On you turn, you only have 3 options: 1) Build, 2) Call on a Djinn, 3) pass.

Building – if you build, you may reveal tiles from any one stack.  You do not have to reveal any if you do not want.  You may reveal any number of tiles until there are three face up tiles in front of a stack.  After you have chosen to reveal tiles or not, you must then select a face up tile from the board – not necessarily from the stack which you revealed tiles from – and then place it into your palace.

When you place a tile, it must be adjacent to a previously built tile and all features on the tile must match.  Tiles on different levels are staggered from each other, and this arrangement must also be kept intact.  You may not build past the left and right edges the bonus tiles on your player board, and you may not fully enclose an empty hole in your palace structure.

A completed palace

A completed palace

Each tile is double sided – with mirror images on each side so that you have two options with each tile to get it to fit into your palace.  Once a tile is placed, check to see if there are any sapphire symbols on that tile, if there are – you collect that number of sapphires from the supply.

If you are unable to place any face up tile in a valid manner, you simply pass your turn (see Passing later on).

Call on a Djinn – As long as you have enough sapphires to hire the Djinn you want, you may choose to call on the power of any of the 4 Djinn in the game.  Note that any time you build a tile using a Djinn, you do not collect any sapphires from the tiles placed on that turn.

 

  1. Blue Djinn – 1 sapphire – you can clear the display of any one stack of tiles, placing those tiles on the bottom, then reveal 1 to 3 tiles from that same stack.  Afterwards, you may choose an exposed tile (from any stack).
  2. Red Djinn – 2 sapphires – you can move any one tile in your palace to another valid spot OR to the bottom of the corresponding supply pile.  You may then execute a normal build.
  3. Green Djinn – 2 sapphires – You can build twice on this turn.  Essentially you take two Build actions as outlined above.  You do not collect any sapphires for these tiles though.
  4. Yellow Djinn – 3 sapphires – you choose any pile and secretly look at all the tiles.  You then choose any one of those tiles and build it in your palace.  The other tiles are returned to the supply in the same order as they were found.

sult3

Passing – if you choose to pass (or are forced to pass as you could not legally build any tile), you simply collect 2 sapphires.

The game continues until one player has built his 5th (and final) rooftop tile.  At that point, all other players get one more turn and then the game ends.

Scoring

Each player scores points based on the rubric found on the bottom of their player  board

  • +1 VP for each window or domed tower
  • +3 VP for each cupola or palm tree
  • +6 VP for each complete gate or minaret
  • +9/3/6 VP for having the most/2nd/3rd guards on all tiles on your board

Each player then scores VPs for their two bonus tiles – these extra points are given for a specific feature in a particular row or column on your board, or for sapphires, or for Djinns.  The player with the most VPs wins the game.

the scoreboard

the scoreboard

My thoughts on the game

Sultaniya is a solid family game.  The rules are straightforward and easy to follow.  The game plays quickly, and there isn’t much downtime between turns as the options on any given turn are not that large.  Like any tile-laying game, luck of the draw plays a fairly large role in the game.   You’ll obviously do better if the tiles you need are available for building, either due to you being lucky and choosing the right stack to flip tiles up from or if the tiles are already available for you when your turn comes around.

There is an interesting risk/reward with flipping up the tiles.  There are times when it makes sense to take a good tile (but not an optimal tile) to reduce the chance that you flip up a tile that one of your opponents really needs. There is a Bruges like issue that clumsy fingers can accidentally dislodge the stacks and accidentally expose tiles further down in the stack giving players free extra information (which may cause or dissuade them from choosing that stack for flipping).  However, in a family style game such as this, it simply doesn’t turn out to be that big of an issue.

The player boards are well balanced, and if you follow the suggestion in the rules of using one of the proposed sets of player boards, it makes sure that you are competing with all of your opponents for at least one type of scoring feature.  The addition of the secret VP cards helps make each game feel a little different and might influence how you decide to choose tiles and place tiles in your palace.

My only quibble with the rules is that I wish that the costs and functions of the Djinn were somewhere on the scoring board or on a player reference.  The only place that you can find this information is on the back page of the rulebook, and in the three games that we’ve played, I have yet to memorize the costs  and actions of the Djinn.  As a result, we are constantly referring to the rules for this stuff – and it would have been easy (imo) to iconify this info on the scoreboard somewhere.

Sultaniya is a beautifully produced game.  The tiles and boards are solid and the components are well done.  The Djinn are custom molded and look quite nice.  The artwork is clean and helps make it easy to tell which tiles can fit in certain places.

I have enjoyed playing this game with the kids as well as with my local game group – though given its lower level of complexity, this will probably turn out to be more of a closer (when people are getting tired and are looking for something a little less chewy) or as an introductory sort of game.

The rules do suggest a variant where the secret objectives are actually in the open for the whole game, but I have not yet tried this.  I’ll admit that I like the hidden nature of these scoring tiles and I think that having this information be open would only make the game longer and detract from the simplicity of the game which I find to be nice.

Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers:

 

Dan Blum (2 plays): I agree with Dale’s take on the game. It’s a decent game at the lighter end of the scale; not a must-have, but worth getting if you often play with non-hardcode gamers or if just like this sort of tile-placement game (which I do). I also agree that a reference for the Djinni would be helpful, and if I get a copy of the game I will probably make some; the figures do have clues to their functions (the green one has its arms spread out to show “two,” the yellow one is peering into something, etc.), but they are fairly obscure and in any case don’t give any hints as to the costs.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Dan Blum, John P
  • Neutral
  • Not for me…
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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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