Africa has been the origin point of many ancient games, such as Mancala and its dozens of variants. These games made their way to the Near East and Europe and the Mancala mechanism can even be found in modern games like Space Walk, Trajan and Five Tribes. But there's more to African games than Mancala. Albastini, which I am reviewing today, is a classic Swahili trick-taking game originating in Tanzania, East Africa (where I coincidentally was traveling in January of this year). This newly updated version of Albastini adds four new suits for a total of eight.

How to Play

If you have played trick-taking games you will pick up Albastini quickly. The dealer shuffles the cards and deals five cards to each player. Players who didn't win the last hand now have a chance to bid and exchange a low-value card. The idea is to guess which of the eight suits in the game will be trump for the round. The dealer then reveals the top card of the deck, the suit which is revealed will be trump.

The game proceeds like most any trick-taking card game, first player leads a card (which determines which suit is in play) and players play cards in response. It's possible to trump by playing a trump card, and a successive play of a higher trump card can take the trick (winning a trick is called "kula" - Swahili for "eating").

After the deck has been played through, everyone counts up the points on the cards they took, and highest score wins!

What makes Albastini different?

What sets this game apart is its flexibility and variability. Look at all the ways you can customize your game:

  • 2 – 8 Players can play individually or in teams (2v2, 3v3, 2v2v2, 4v4, or 2v2v2v2) 
  • Playing in teams of 2 to makes the game competitive and unpredictable
  • Reduce playing time by removing some of the suits, if you have fewer people playing
  • Limiting bidding to those who didn't win the last hand, helps players catch up
  • There's even an accompanying app for your phone on which you can practice!

Who will enjoy this game?
  • Those who love strategic card games such as Spades, etc
  • Families (kids as young as 7 can play)
  • Anyone who is looking for a simple yet competitive game in a very portable package
Albastini is on Kickstarter now! I recommend taking a look, the video does a great job of showing the game.


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