Publisher: Rio Grande
Get your just deserts
Samarkand is an unassuming and simple game. While it is a trading and collecting game in the vein of Bohnanza, all the trading is done with the cards on the board rather than with other players. As a result, players who are adept at trading in games such as The Settlers of Catan or Res Publica won't streak ahead in Samarkand.
You are a trader, moving goods from oases to cities via nomad settlements (they're not very good nomads since they stay where they are the whole game). Collecting six different kinds of commodity cards, you hope to sell a large group of them when you reach a city, because large groups of the same commodity are worth significantly more than small groups. Every time you land on a nomad settlement you can trade with the cards the settlement holds, hopefully increasing the value of the cards in your hand.
And that's basically the whole game. Interaction between players is there, but more subtle than most trading games. The rules have been carefully designed to give the game a good balance, and the cards and board are beautifully rendered by the prolific Doris Matthäus.
Samarkand doesn't appear to be a great game on the shelf of your local (or Internet) game store, but it has a depth that is hard to appreciate without playing the game.