Author: Dirk Henn


Awards: none



G@mebox author Marco Klasmeyer writes about the game:


Timbuktu - the legendary town at the border of the Sahara; the destination of numerous trading caravans, all laden with valuable wares.

On their way through the Sahara, the caravans travel from oasis to oasis, always in search of a safe place to rest for the night. However, the peace is deceptive for thieves are lying in wait at the oasis with an eye on the valuable wares.

As caravan leader, you must be shrewd in using the tips you are given to get as many of your wares as possible to Timbuktu.


The whole game board consists of several single board elements, namely the start field and the destination field at Timbuktu with two oases each. Additionally there are two extension boards with single oases. The usage depends on the number of players participating. Markers for 105 wares of five kinds (gold, coffee, pepper, salt and water) have to be transported safely to Timbuktu. Five caravan boards (one for each player) show the constitution of the players' caravans. Each player gets up to eight wooden camels (with letters A-H) and a camel card for each (also with letters A-H). The 15 theft cards give hints where the thieves at the oases will steal at night. Unless you are very good in memorizing the certain theft conditions it is recommended to write down the hints during the game. Two wooden markers are used for identifying the start player of a round and the start player for each stage of the travel.


The game consists of up to five stages corresponding to the number of oases (and players). Each stage starts with the distribution of the theft cards, then all players must move their camels to the next oasis. Finally the theft cards determine the location of the thefts at the end of each stage. Each camel has to be placed over night at the oasis in an own stable or kind of "parking place". The "camel parking" is divided into five rows (identified by symbols) and five stables for each row (identified by numbers). Due to the thefts, the players have to carefully select the proper stable to keep their transported wares. At the beginning of the game all players have to load the wares depicted on their caravan board onto their camels. In the extended rules set the players can decide on their own how to load the camels, there is only the global restriction of loading at least three different wares onto the same camel.

  1. The distribution of the theft cards:
    By distributing the theft cards a new stage starts. The stage marker moves clockwise to the stage start player. The theft cards are separated into three piles, each pile determines a detail of the theft to take place. One pile reveals the symbol for the row of the "camel parking". The second pile shows the exact parking places (stables) within a row. There are always two stables of a row involved in a theft. The third pile reveals the items and wares the thieves are interested in. Now each pile is shuffled separately and five combinations (one of each pile) are distributed among the players. If there are less than five players, then some theft combinations have to be placed between two players. At the end of each stage these five thefts will always take place. Now each player can look at his three theft cards and remember the hint for the theft (parking row, stable numbers and involved wares). He is allowed to look at any time at his own theft cards, but not at the others. There are certain situations in the course of the games, where every player has to pass his current theft cards to his neighbour. By passing around the theft cards clockwise, the players get more knowledge about some other thefts, but not all of them.

  2. The movement of the camels:
    Each player has an amount of camels loaded with wares representing his caravan. He possesses a camel card for each camel. A camel can move from the current parking row to the camel parking of the next oasis, where it has to line up with the other camels already standing there. A row in the camel parking has to be filled from place number 1 to place number 5 without any gaps. Two arrows connect one parking row with two rows of the next oasis. If the player moves along these arrows the travel is for free. If he deviates from the proposed way, he has to pay a penalty of one transported item of this camel. This extra charge of wares is placed next to the game board.

    The movement phase is separated into several turns in which a player can move one of his camels. Each turn has a start player (wooden marker) and the start player changes clockwise on the next turn. During each turn every player decides which camel he wants to move and takes the appropriate camel card. All players place the camel card face down in front of them and flip them over after all players have made their choice. The turn's start player begins with the movement. These movement turns are repeated until all camels have been moved. Camels without wares must also be moved, but they do not have to pay any deviation charge of course (which might be an advantage in some cases).

    In each oasis there are two special parking fields with a card symbol on it. Whenever a player places a camel onto such a field, all players have to pass their theft cards to their neighbours clockwise. If there is a set of hidden theft cards between two players, then one player takes the hidden pile instead and the other player puts his theft cards face down onto that place. Now all players have a new set of theft cards and they know another theft to happen at the end of this stage.

  3. The nightly theft phase:
    After all camels have been moved the night begins and the thieves come out. Now all five hidden theft card sets are revealed. Each theft is treated separately although no overlaps are possible. If a camel is in a stable where a theft takes place (row symbol and stable numbers), it looses all wares which are involved in this theft. If it does not have these wares the thieves cannot steal anything. The stolen wares are collected next to the game board.

  4. When all three phases have been played, the theft cards are collected and the stage marker moves clockwise to the next player who starts with the distribution of the theft cards in the first phase again.

End of the game: When the last stage at Timbuktu has been reached and the last thefts have been committed the final evaluation takes place. Now the remaining wares of the caravans can be sold at Timbuktu. The price of each kind of wares is determined by the number of lost wares during the travel. Thus all wares next to game board (which have been either stolen or have been extra charges for movements) are sorted according to their kind (salt, pepper, gold, water, coffee). So the number of lost items is the price for the remaining wares which are now sold by each player. The player with the highest revenue wins the game. There are no extra points.



Timbuktu is a nice memory like planning game with an interesting look-ahead-mechanism. So you will spend most of the time of your moves on thinking about the theft hints and how to avoid them. You even might have more fun in finding a way to let the thieves steal the wares of your opponents, because you know something your opponent does not know (yet). On the other hand it may happen though that you have to move onto a parking place you do not want to, because you know a theft will take place there. You can either decide to move to another stable and pay one item of the laden wares or you have to make that move and accept the theft. All these considerations do not really simplify the decision to make a good move.

Another point to consider in the advanced course of the game is the value of the transported wares. At the beginning they are all of equal value. But the more wares get lost either by theft or extra charge, the higher the value of the remaining wares becomes. So keep an eye on your most precious wares and cleverly pay extra charges with "cheaper" goods. Finally, when playing Timbuktu, the options and considerations for moving your camels can become quite complex, but whatever possibilities there are, sometimes the easiest way is the best. Avoiding the thieves should always be your guiding rule.

The design of Timbuktu fits well into the series of Queen Games. There are lots of wooden pieces and paper tokens. A lot of tokens can be moved on the nicely designed board. Only one point of criticism regarding design: the camels are separated into several colours by adhesive labels, but already during the first few sessions these labels become loose. So they won't stick for long. Last to mention, the rules are fairly good structured and explained.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Trier, Germany