So 2020 was a year with a lot of sitting at home and discovering new board games for us. We luckily also came across this gem from creators in India. This is their first board game and if you are a fan of history you will like this game a lot, since the designers tried to make it as much historically accurate as possible. In Bharata 600BC, you will rule over one of the 16 Mahajanapadas (translates to Great Kingdom). And in case you are wondering, yes, I still can’t pronounce Mahajana, Mapanaja, Mapadaja…. you know what i mean.
How to Play.
The set up for Bharata is very easy as the map indicates where the boxes with components have to be placed. Simply place the game board in the middle, the box with coins on ‘coins’ and the box with trade objects to ‘trade objects’. Then shuffle the recourse modifier, army cards and victory points condition cards and place them on the designated spaces.
Each player chooses a color and takes the components of that color along with a player tracker, and four tracker meeples. The bottom of the tracker will tell you where to start, place your two army tokens and one fort token on that capital city. The remaining fort tokens can be placed near your player tracker. Place the tracker meeple on four victory points, four iron, four wood and four food. Also choose a personality card, this will give you a benefit in the game, and take two army cards. Now you are ready to rule.
The game is played in turns, each turn is divided in three phases. At the beginning of your turn you will start in the resource management phase. Draw and play one resource card. You will and the other players in the game, will receive the amount of resources the card indicates. If the card tells you to gain two iron for example. You, and all the other players will move the iron tracker two spaces up unless the max amount is reached. After that, for the remaining tasks of the turn, the consequences will be for you only. you can choose to sell your resources in order to gain coins, you can also sell trade objects for coins (if you control an export harbor) and you can buy army cards for coins. You can choose to place the army cards in your army one, or army two. The cards in each army, displays what your army power is. Phase two is the action phase. You may perform up to two actions for free, if you would perform a third action, it will cost you one coin. You can move one of your army’s to a neighboring region or you can conquer a region. To conquer a region you have to pay in coins if it’s a province, or army cards if it’s a Mahajanapada. The amount you need to pay is equal to the number inside of the region. If you conquer a region, place one of your fort tokens on that region and gain victory points equal to that region’s number. You can also collect a region’s resources if you take control, like iron, wood, food, but also trade objects. This items you may gain, will be shown on the region.
Lastly you can battle. If you want to conquer a region where an opponents army is present. You have to battle once you enter it. To do this, each player will secretly draw an amount of army cards from one of their army’s. If two army’s are present, you may battle with both. Each player reveals their army cards simultaneously and add up the numbers. The defender who has control over the attacked region, also adds up the regions number to their total. the player with the highest number, wins the battle and gains or retains control over the region and also gains the victory points and items on the map. Beware as you can have many cards, but you still might have low power numbers on your cards. If your opponent has fewer cards, but higher army cards, he can still defeat you in battle. Phase three will only take place in an advanced game. Note that if you lose all of your battle cards from an army, you will lose that army pawn. It will then respawn to your capital city. If you have lost your capital city, you can still get your army back. In order to do this, you first need to take back control of your home capital. Your army pawn can then respawn once you gain new army cards.
The first player to reach 20 victory points (25 in a two player game), wins the game. The fastest way to gain victory points is to conquer regions, however, you can also achieve victory point conditions. If you achieve a victory point condition, you can choose a victory point condition price card and choose one of the two choices on the card. This will give you an extra advantage during your turn. Always read your choice out loud.
Bharata also has an advanced game mode, the rules of the base game remain the same, the advanced mode, it just adds more actions to take and more components. In order to play the advanced mode, simply place the event tokens and event cards on the board. Then place ten random hidden tokens facedown on the indicated spaces on the game board. Each player also chooses two ability cards. The ability cards have benefits you can use two times and give you immunity to certain events. Events will be drawn randomly in phase three of the game and they will be placed on a certain place on the map as the event card will show. The events are negative effects like flooding, disease or riots for example. If an event is placed on a region you rule over, you will have to pay the cost to get rid of the event. This will cost one action and an amount of resources. If you can’t pay those costs, you can’t take another action until it’s removed. The advanced game mode, adds a few extra actions to phase two you can take. One of those actions is pay to remove an event. You can also play an ability card to use one of the benefits. Don’t forget to place a completion token on the card once you have used an action to show how many actions of the card you have left. Lastly, you can reveal a hidden token on the map if your army is present in that region. Hidden tokens can contain victory points, trade objects, or even medicine, but beware as is also can contain empty tokens or events.
Don’t forget to refer to the quick-start reference cards as they contain most of the information you need to know in order to play. If you still need more details, be sure to check the rulebook as it is really well written.
Playtrough of the game.
I was interested to see how we would do with Bharata as I am strategically better most of the times, but Tomasz is better in conquer and control games. We are both highly competitive, and as we love each other very much, in a competitive game, we will absolutely destroy each other when we get the chance. So naturally, in one of our games where I decided to take a risk, leaving my home capital with one army defended to conquer uncontrolled regions while my destructive boyfriend was nearby (note that he had been hoarding army cards and he was moving to close for comfort near me). He found it was necessary to battle my home capital. After forcing him to reveal his army cards first (even though this is against the rules), I came to the conclusion that not only had he just taken control over my home capital, he also stole the last victory points from me that he needed in order to win the game. Needless to say, a lot of make up hugs and kisses were necessary after a move like that. This is just one of the scenarios we walked in to while playing this game because of the unique feature it has to steal victory points back from your opponents.
The designers from this game did a very good job in our opinion, especially since it’s their first game. We found that we rather play the advanced mode since this gives more depth and variety. But because of the easy basic mode, this is a very good game to start with if you don’t play many board games. The components are also high quality and you can tell that each small component, has been given it’s own thought and attention. But that’s not everything. The designers of Bharata chose to make every piece in India, using a technique from the 18th century. Everything is eco friendly as well and even in the simple, but practical insert, no plastic was used. This makes the game totally unique and it feels great by purchasing this game you can help the environment but you will also support local Indian people.
Bharata 600BC is an environmental strategy game with high quality components. With a basic mode that is easy to learn and an advanced mode which makes the game less based on cards and more on strategy. This is good to play with two only, but if you play with more people the game get’s more chaotic in the perfect way. You can even form teams since every player board comes with two army pawns so each person can control one army pawn. Bharata also has a really good value. The designers of this game did a great job in our opinion and we are still having a lot of fun playing this game.