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Author: Reiner Knizia

Publisher: Goldsieber 2001



Africa, the Black Continent, in the 19th Century: Explore the wide unknown lands and meet nomads, search for undiscovered monuments and collect Goods, Gold and Gems.

Once again, Reiner Knizia has succeeded in creating a captivating strategy game for beginners and advanced players alike. In Africa, the players take up the roles of explorers who have embarked on an expedition to discover the secrets of Africa. At the beginning, all players (2-5) start the game with their explorer being positioned in a town at one of the African coasts, while the rest of the continent is totally undiscovered (represented by face down exploration chips which have been distributed over all the available land-spaces.

During his turn, a player has a number of different options. The easiest one is to travel to another part of the continent by simply picking up the playing piece and putting it onto another space anywhere on the map. However, this space must already have been discovered, i.e. the exploration chip must have been turned face up. This rule for travelling is used later in the game to get to areas where still good discoveries can be made, while at the same time the movement restrictions applied here prevent a player from simply placing his playing piece into the middle of an undiscovered terrain. The only option to get there is by exploration.

If a player does not travel, he can perform two actions of his choice from the following options:

  • Discover an exploration chip (i.e. turn it face up).
  • Move an animal.
  • Move Nomads
  • Erect a base-camp and evaluate it.
  • Erect a base-camp and collect Gold and Gems (Resources).

Since all of these actions are somehow connected to the exploration chips, it is easy to guess that these are the central component of the game. Exploration chips exist for Gold, Gems, different kinds of Goods, Nomads and different kinds of wild animals. Depending on the kind of the exploration chip turned over by a player, he will have to deal with the chip in different ways.

When a player discovers a Goods-chip, he may pick it up and place it with his stockpile. At the end of the game, a player will receive victory points for his goods, and the more Goods of the same kind he possesses the more valuable these will become. However, when a player finds a Goods-chip, he will also be allowed one trading action. At this instance, he may take all the Goods of one kind from another player if he can give him - in exchange - an equal number of goods of the kind which he just discovered. At the end of the game, a player for example will receive 12 victory points if he possesses 5 Goods of the same kind, but only 1 victory point if he possesses only one Good of a kind.

Upon discovering animals, a player may leave the chip which he has discovered where he found it, or he may move it to any other free space on the map, provided that there is at least one animal of the same race on adjacent spaces. When placing an animal, a player will receive 1 victory point for each animal of the same kind on adjacent spaces.

The discovery of Nomads works somewhat similar. They may also be left where they were found, or they may be moved to another free space on the map. The provision for scoring points is here that there are free spaces adjacent to the Nomads, and a player will receive 1 victory point for each free space adjacent to them.

Easier is the discovery of Gold or Gems. They are left where they are and the player who discovered them receives directly one or two victory points, depending on the size of his find.

The discovery of a Monument does not give a player an immediate benefit in victory points. It is simply left where it is found, but the player who has discovered it gains one additional base-camp from the stockpile.

However, certain exploration chips may not only be moved upon their discovery, but animals and Nomads may also be moved by a player occupying an adjacent space later during the game. Once again, the already outlined procedures are applied to the moves (i.e. animals may be moved next to other groups of the same animal, Nomads may be moved next to free spaces). However, a player now only scores points when the moved chip faces better conditions on the new space: this means that there must be more animals of the same kind or free spaces on adjacent spaces then there where on the initial space, and the player who has moved the chip only receives the difference between the initial and the new neighbouring beneficial spaces.

Furthermore, a player has the possibility to erect a base camp. If he does, he receives one victory point for each animal, Nomad and monument on adjacent spaces.Alternatively, he may ignore these chips and instead set up a base camp for mining, allowing him to collect all Gold and Gems from adjacent spaces.

The game instantly ends when a player discovers the 11th and final monument. This player receives a bonus of the victory points and then the final calculation is made. The Goods collected by the players are evaluated, and also each player has to count the Gold and Gems he has collected. The player who collected most Gold gains 10 victory points, the 2nd player gains 6 points. The points of Gems are distributed the same way. After all this, the player who scored most points during the game wins.

After playing some rounds of Africa, I would say that the game is a quite typical representative for a Reiner Knizia game. The most intricate part of the game is a clever placement and scoring mechanism, leaving the players several options to form a strategy and to influence their further process. By the discovery chips the somewhat strategic placement rules receive a good counterbalance on the luck-side, and in the end a quite balanced and well playable game has emerged. Quite nice is the outer appearance of the game and its design, and I would say that - after a few somewhat weaker games - Goldsieber has decided right to publish this game. It is a solid and good strategy game, which can be recommended to all gaming groups.

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Copyright © 2011 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany