Mike Richie has been developing games in the hobby industry for over a decade. His designs tend to walk the line between hobby and family. When not designing games, Mike can usually be found hiking with his wife and son.
The following interview is about Hafid’s Grand Bazaar, a board game he designed.
Jason (GameGobble): Hafid’s Grand Bazaar is a set-collection game that also has elements of bidding and negotiation. Players acquire, trade, and sell goods within a marketplace setting, trying to earn the most money by the end of the game. How did you come up with the initial idea?
Mike: The ancient world fascinates me. The idea of a Middle Eastern marketplace brimming with exotic goods from across the known world has always been something I wanted to incorporate into a game. I wanted to capture the smells of the spices and animals, the textures of the expensive fabrics and the myriad of clashing cultures in an accessible gaming experience. I had been setting out ideas for a while, but it took my artist Grant to suggest using cards with partial information on one side, and complete information on the back. That spring boarded my imagination and I dove headlong into it.
Jason: Players have lots to consider: what cards they need, the different options and likelihood of acquiring them, and the motivations of different opponents. Could you highlight some of the more interesting strategic decisions during gameplay?
Mike: There is a lot going on at any given time in the game. It’s not one where you can check your phone or go heat up some pizza and not miss something important.
I mentioned the double sided cards. Those are important. You will see the backs of the cards in your opponent’s hands. You will know that any particular card will belong to one of the five categories; food, finished goods, textiles, raw materials, or livestock. However, you won’t know which of the five foods a food card will be unless that player shows you, announces it, or gives some other hints in their trades and negotiations.
Some players try to simply amass as many cards as they can and make the best of whatever they get. Others will hunt for the few perfect high scoring sets by reading their players well and trading away a lot of their resources. Since there are four different ways to score each round, no particular strategy is perfect, and besting everyone else at the table is often done by reading the room, so to speak.
Jason: Negotiation in Hafid’s Grand Bazaar is pretty open-ended, as long as players honor all deals (no lying or stealing). Is truly everything else up for grabs? What are some of the more creative deals you’ve seen or heard brokered?
Mike: Trading is VERY open-ended. That said, don’t break the law and don’t damage relationships beyond the immediate game.
We’ve seen a lot of unconventional things thrown in for trading beyond the in-game cards, gold, abilities, etc. I think the most epic trade occurred at Gen Con. A teenager traded his gold to his father in return for an expensive steak dinner. He agreed and we reminded him that one of the rules is that you honor your deal. The next morning he stops by our booth with the dinner receipt and pictures of his son enjoying some choice filet mignon!
Beyond that we’ve seen pizza, limited edition sets of dice, dares, Uber coupons, and much more!
Jason: Talk about the overall gaming experience you were trying to create when developing Hafid’s Grand Bazaar.
Mike: We wanted the loud bustle of an open air market where you are talking over everybody else, in an anything goes effort to make good deals. Like all of the games we design, I wanted the social component to factor heavily and I think we did well with that. Hafid’s Grand Bazaar is not a quiet game by any means. Even the choice of going with an icon based system on the cards created an artificial language barrier with players, which led to a hilarious in-game culture as players are trading and negotiating as fast as they can.
Jason: What is one thing you want gamers to know about Hafid’s Grand Bazaar?
Mike: Well, its fun! Its light, but tactical, and is very approachable by hard line Euro gamers and more casual gamers alike. The learning curve seems steep, but it’s intuitive enough to understand after just one round. Watching other people play it has been very rewarding. Seeing them laugh and interact with each other was the way we designed the game.