Trade Your Way to Wealth and Fame in ‘Hafid’s Grand Bazaar’

Hafid’s Grand Bazaar, a new game from Rather Dashing Games, allows players to trade and barter their way to success.

What Is Hafid’s Grand Bazaar?

In this game, players take on the role of merchants, who have come from far and wide to ply their wares at the great bazaar. Each player bids on arriving caravans to collect goods, which they can then trade with each other or merchants from the bazaar. At the end of the game, whomever has amassed the most wealth will become the greatest trader in the world.

The game is for 2-6 players. It is officially for ages 12 and up, but I think that has to do with the inclusion of some small pieces. The game is quite easy to learn and plays quickly, in about a half hour, so there’s nothing that I could see that would have led me to hesitate to introduce my younger kids to the game, if I still had younger kids.

The game is available from Amazon and other fine retailers for $34.99.

Note: I received a review copy of this game, but all opinions are my own.

Hafid’s Grand Bazaar Components

  • 1 Grand Bazaar game board
  • 1 Hafid marker
  • 36 bidding cubes in 6 colors
  • 125 merchant cards
  • 84 talents
The cards in the game, showing each of the item types. Image by Rob Huddleston

The components in Hafid’s Grand Bazaar are well designed and beautiful in their simplicity. The two-piece Hafid marker, which is used as the current player indicator (and so, as with most such items in games in my house, ends up quickly getting ignored) is made of thick cardboard. It comes in two pieces to be assembled. The bidding cubes are just that–wooden cubes. The talents, the money in the game, are a set of cardboard rectangles in 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 denominations.

The Grand Bazaar board. Image by Rob Huddleston

The two primary elements of the game are the board and the merchant cards. The board is shaped as a hexagon, and the designers here managed to pack a whole lot of information into a pretty small place. Each edge of the board represents an area in or around the Middle East–Rome, Egypt, Arabia, Babylonia, the Orient, and Greece–and represent areas from which the trading caravans originated. But these are just for flavor, as during play the caravan locations are irrelevant. Three corners of the hexagon are occupied by one of the merchant types, while the other three are influence markers. A nice bit of design here is that each of these corner areas are fully explained on the board itself, so you won’t have to waste a lot of time flipping in and out of the rulebook to figure out what you’re supposed to do if you bid on one of them. The center of the board is the caravan bidding area.

The merchant cards, showing the identifying icons. Image by Rob Huddleston

The merchant cards are, like the other components in the game, simple yet informative. The cards are divided into five categories, with each category containing five items. The categories are color coded for easy identification, but then, in a particularly nice touch, all five items within the category are listed down the side, so that during play, if you’re trying to collect all five items, you don’t have to go back to a chart or something, but instead can simply look at the cards themselves. The backs of the cards are also different, which is an important element during play.

To borrow a term from my real job, the components in Hafid’s are designed with usability in mind. Too many games these days rely on icons to represent things, which is OK, except when you have to constantly reference the rules to figure out what each icon means. The designers of this game understood this and rely instead on nicely designed text. The only time you have to rely on icons are on the cards, but that’s OK because the icons represent themselves. It isn’t important to know that a particular thing is marble when all you care about is collecting three of that thing. Another nice touch: each denomination of talent is also a different size, which makes sorting them before the game easy, but also simplifies keeping track of them during play.

How to Play Hafid’s Grand Bazaar

Hafid’s Grand Bazaar sets up and plays very quickly.

Setup

The board set up, with merchant cards dealt to the caravans. Image by Rob Huddleston

To set up the game, you start by placing the board in the middle of the table. The first player gets the Hafid marker, and each player gets the six bidding cubes of their color. All of the talents are placed in a common pool near the board. All of the merchant cards are shuffled together, and then each player is dealt 10 cards. The keep the face of the cards secret, but all players can see how many of each particular category everyone else has. The remaining cards are placed in a face down draw pile. Then, two cards are dealt, face down, to each of the six bazaars around the board. These cards should be slightly offset so that players can see the categories available at each bazaar.

Play

The assembled Hafid marker. Image by Rob Huddleston

Each round is split into four phases: bidding, caravan, trading, and selling.

Bidding Phase

The bidding cubes. Image by Rob Huddleston

The first player begins the bidding phase placing one of her bidding cubes  in one of the twelve spaces available on the board: one of the six caravans, or one of the three merchants, or one of the three influence areas.

The caravans are represented by the six circles in the center of the board. Winning a bid on a caravan allows you to take both of the cards from any one of the foreign markets. The player that wins the first caravan gets first pick, and so forth. Note that the location of the caravan on the outer edge of the board has no relation to the bidding number–the player that wins the first caravan can choose to take the cards from any outer market.

Players may only bid on a single caravan per turn, but they can bid more than one cube. Thus, the bidding: if you really, really want to take the first pick of the caravans, then you need to bid enough cubes to make sure that the players that follow you won’t outbid you. But, of course, there’s a trade-off, because you only have six cubes. So, it would be possible for a player to bid all six cubes on a single caravan, but then they will only get one action that turn, whereas players who bid only one cube might be able to take as many as six actions.

The influence areas allow you to gain special advantages on your turn. There’s an informant, where you can look at the cards in a particular caravan so that you know which one to take (assuming that you also big on a caravan). You also get to look through the discard pile and take a single card into your hand. The Negotiator allows you to trade with other players. This is the only way you can trade with other players. The player who wins the Negotiator is free to offer trades to any other player, but players cannot trade with anyone who is not the Negotiator. Also, trades are never forced, so it’s possible that you might bid here and then be unable to make any trades.

The Free Trader space lets you send a representative with a caravan, which is to say that when a player takes the cards from a caravan, you also get to draw two cards, but these come from the draw pile, so you don’t have as much control over what you get. The Free Trader space isn’t a bidding war like most other spots–in theory, all six players could place cubes here and they all get the right to use the trader.

Likewise, the three merchant spots are always available to all players. This is how you sell your goods, which is ultimately how you win the game. There are three different types of merchants. The Haggler pays for matching sets of cards–cards that are the exact same item. Each card in the deck has a number at the top that represents its value, and the Haggler will pay double that.

A set of cards, each from a different category. The Collector would pay 13 talents for this set: the sum of the values (1+3+1+2+1), plus 5 talents. Image by Rob Huddleston

The Collector pays for sets that include one of each category, regardless of the items themselves. So, to sell here, you need one each of the red, purple, brown, green and blue cards. The Collector pays the sum of the values of the cards, plus five talents.

Finally, the Guild Master pays for complete sets of items from one particular color. You get 30 talents for the set, regardless of the values of the cards.

The card backs, identifying the category, but not the specific item. Image by Rob Huddleston

You can sell as many times to each merchant as you want, so long as you bid on the merchant in the first place.

The different ways in which the merchants pay provides an interesting element of strategy in your bidding. If you are working on collecting a set to sell to the Haggler or the Guild Master, a caravan that has two cards of the same color might entice you to bid high on an early caravan to grab them. Or, you might spend on the Informant so that you can check those cards and make sure they are really what you want.

But, you also need to watch the values. If you have a bunch of low value cards, you’re better off holding them and trying to get cards from each color, since the Guild Master pays you 30, even if you only turn in five 1-point cards. But the reverse is true for the Haggler and Collector. Since they each pay based on the value, you’re better off trying to get sets of 2 and 3 point cards to sell.

Once the first player bids, play continues around the table. For each spot other than the merchants and Free Trader, you may play multiple cubes to outbid someone who is already there. But, you must outbid them, so you cannot play the same number of cubes as are already there. (For this reason, playing all six cubes at once automatically wins that space.)

Caravan Phase

Once all players have bid, those who bid on the caravans take their cards in order of the caravan they won. Remember that the physical locations don’t matter–whomever won the bid on the first caravan can take the cards from any of the ones around the board’s edge.

If someone won the bid on the Informant, they look at the cards from a caravan first, before anyone claims any of the caravans.

If you bid on the Free Trader, you can interject at any point when someone is claiming a caravan and draw you two free cards.

This continues until all of the caravans that got bids have been claimed.

Trading Phase

If a player bid on the Negotiator, they can now negotiate with the other players. There is no order here, and really only two rules: players may only trade with the Negotiator, and all trades must be honest. This phase continues for as long as the Negotiator can still make trades.

Selling Phase

Talents, the money of the game. Image by Rob Huddleston

Finally, all players who placed cubes on the merchants sell their goods in turn order. Each merchant can be used by each player more than once, so you can (and probably should) sell as many of your cards as possible. The order in which you sell to the merchants doesn’t matter.

Continuing

Once all players have sold their goods, the Hafid marker is passed to the left. Then, each caravan is restocked with two new cards, if needed.

In a 2 player game, you play for four rounds, so that each player is first twice. In a 3, 4, 5 or 6 player game, you play one round per player, so that everyone gets to go first once.

Victory

At the end of the game, everyone counts their talents, and the player with the most wins. This is another piece of brilliant simplicity. Too often, games like this have all kinds of accounting things going on: x points for each card in your hand, or bonuses for this or that. Not so here. Your money on hand counts. Nothing else.

Why You Should Play Hafid’s Grand Bazaar

Hafid’s Grand Bazaar is a nice, light strategy game that the whole family will likely enjoy. It doesn’t get bogged down in tons of rules, and as I mentioned above, the design of the game is such that it’s both quick to learn and easy to understand. The first time we played I consulted the rules a lot, because that’s a thing that I do, but I rather quickly discovered that basically everything you need to know is printed right on the board, so for subsequent plays the rulebook sat there, sad and alone, because we just didn’t need it anymore (sorry, rulebook).

Despite this simplicity, the game requires quite a bit of strategy. You’re constantly balancing the desire to do multiple things with the need to win a particular caravan. Because you have three choices of merchants, you’ll be constantly moving the cards around in your hand as you try to figure out the most profitable combination.

Hafid’s Grand Bazaar is definitely worth a look, and would make a good present for any gamer on your list. As a reminder, it is currently available on Amazon and should be available from your local game store.

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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

Rob is a geek with a 15-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. He teaches web and graphic design at the college level, watches a ridiculous number of movies, plays as many board games as he can, and loves the history of the technological age almost as much as he loves Firefly.