Ali Baba

Game by Ian Livingstone.

Translated by John Webley.

A fantasy-filled game family game from the 1001 Nights for from two to six players.

Once upon a time, Scheherazade was called, as so oft before, to the Sultan's chambers, that the long hours of the night might swiftly pass. But this time, instead of a story, she brought with her a game to entertain the Sultan. It was set in Basra, the home of Ali Baba. Many years after his great triumph over the Forty Thieves, their descendents revived the gang, and stole back Ali Baba's treasure, and that of the town of Basra. But Ali Baba had lost none of his cunning, and he soon realised what was happening. So it wasn't long before the thieves lost the chance to enjoy their ill gotten gains, and instead, had to answer to the Caliph for their crimes.

The player with the largest fortune after two rounds wins the game.

Game Idea

Players move by using movement cards to move the Ali Baba figure through the streets of Basra. Depending on what type of square Ali Baba lands on, more treasure may be found, Ali can catch thieves, or a chance card is drawn. If Ali catches a player, then Destiny, in the form of a dice roll, decides which bandits will be brought to justice, and so lose their booty.



  1. Lay the game board in the centre of the table.
  2. The Ali Baba figure is put on the large Start space.
  3. One player is chosen as Banker. They look after the Bank, and give each player, including themselves 2,500 Piastre
  4. The 64 Bandit cards are sorted into their 4 gangs: Each gang is well shuffled and layed face down by the board. The uppermost card from each pile is then turned over and put on top of the pile.
  5. The Movement cards are well shuffled and dealt to the players. With 5 players the Banker gets one card less than the other players.
  6. The Player to the left of the Banker starts the game. Play proceeds in a clockwise direction.

The Board

The large game board shows Ali Baba's hometown of Basra. It is divided by town walls into 4 quarters, each with 13 spaces in it, There are 3 spaces where Ali Baba has a choice of routes.

There are 4 types of space on the board.

  1. The large Start/Finish space.
  2. Empty spaces, where treasure may be found.
  3. Spaces containing one or more of the four coloured symbols:
  4. Chance spaces, with a drawn "Grafitti" symbol

The Town walls divide the 4 town quarters, in each quarter there is a table showing the value of the various treasures in that quarter.

In the middle of the board, there stands the Destiny Table, which may lead to the bandit's downfall, or perhaps not.

The Bandit Cards

The Basra Underworld is ruled by four gangs. Each gang is further made up of four groups.

  1. Swindlers (Schwindler) Yellow,
  2. Thieves (Diebe) Green,
  3. Defrauders (Betrger) Blue
  4. Robbers (R„uber) Red,

    The Treasure value of each gang is set and lies between 20 and 160. The actual value for each member is printed on their card. The risk of being caught by Ali Baba is related to the value of the card, ie the higher the value of the card, the more likely that bandit is to be caught.

    The card is as shown, uppermost is the name of the gang, in the same colour as that gang's treasure symbol on the board.

    Next, directly below is the name of the group within the gang to which the bandit belongs, plus a small symbol representing that group.

    The number above the table is the treasure value of that card.

    Finally comes the personal Destiny Table for that bandit.

    The four members of a group are particularly strong when they are all together, if a player possesses all four of a group then they gain double the Treasure value for that group, but also run a greater risk of being caught by Ali Baba.

    There are 24 Movement cards, which allow the players to move Ali Baba. They are divided equally amongst the players. The cards are divided as follows:

    The player whose turn it is must always play a Movement card and move Ali Baba the set number of spaces. The total of all the cards is 52 spaces, and this constitutes one complete round around Basra.

    Course of Play

    The Player whose turn it is can or must carry out the following three actions in this order:
    1. Disposal of Bandits.
    2. Movement of Ali Baba.
    3. Carry out the action of the space moved to.

    1) Disposal of Bandits: At the start of each turn a player may dispose of as many of their bandits as they wish. This means that they sell the bandit's treasure for the going rate in the town quarter that Ali Baba is in, as shown on the board. The cards are returned to the bottom of the relevant pack. and the money is taken from the Banker. The value printed on the card has no bearing on this sale, and there are no bonuses for complete sets.

    2) Movement of Ali Baba: Ali Baba must be moved each turn. The player plays a Movement card and moves Ali Baba forward by the number of spaces shown on the card. If this involves Ali Baba moving over one of the three junctions on the board, then the player may decide which route he takes. Ali Baba always moves clockwise. The total of all the Movement cards brings him back to his starting place. If therefore, all the cards have been played and he doesn't move to the Start/Finish space, there has been a mistake, and he should be moved to the Start/Finish space whatever the number on the card.

    3) Carry out the action of the space moved to Empty Spaces. The player may draw up to three Bandit cards from the packs by the board. He may choose between any of the four currently visible cards. Once he has chosen a card the next card in that pack is turned over before he draws again, ie he may draw all three cards from one pack or from three different packs as long as sufficient bandits are available. The cost of the bandits is the cost of their treasure in that quarter as shown on the board. When Ali Baba moves to a new quarter, the price changes accordingly. The cost is payed to the Banker. Example: Ali Baba is in the third quarter. A Player chooses 2 Defrauders (Betrger), and 1 Robber (R„uber), and so must pay the Banker 160 Piastres.

    Players may own as many Bandits as they wish. The Bandit cards are placed, face up, in front of the player, where they can be seen by all the other players.

    Chance Spaces

    The Actions of the various Chance Spaces can be found at the end of the Rules, The Player must always carry out the Action shown, even if it is not helpful to them.

    The Start/Finish Space

    This marks the end of a Round. Treasure is reckoned up at this point, more about this under "End of a Round".

    Spaces with the coloured Gang Symbols (Crystal Ball, Money Bag, Banknotes and Precious Stone)

    If Ali Baba lands on a space containing one or more of these symbols, then he has caught up with the gang or gangs shown. All members of the gang or gangs are in danger of capture. The next section explains the consequences of this, and the means by which the Bandits can try to save themselves.

    1) Throwing Treasure Away. The players can first if they wish throw away any of their cards. To do this they must first pay 20 Piastres per card to the Banker. The cards are then returned to the bottom of the relevant pack. Cards may also be sold to other players for any mutually agreeable price. Swapping cards however, runs right against the Bandits' most treasured traditions and is therefore banned.

    2) Ali Baba Extends his Feelers: The player whose turn it is rolls the Black die and puts it onto the space on the Destiny Table showing the same number.

    3) Last Chance To Throw Treasure Away: The players can now see how close Ali Baba is to catching their Bandits, All the cards bearing the numbers in the row next to the black die are now in grave danger. The Players have a last chance to throw their treasure away as before, but this time they must pay 100 Piastres per card to the Banker.

    4) Destiny Takes its Turn: The Player whose turn it is now rolls the White Die. This is put onto the space on the Destiny Table showing the same number as rolled.

    5) Ali Baba Catches The Gangs: The crossing point between the two dice gives a number. All bandit cards showing the same symbol as on Ali Baba's square, and the same number as has been decided by the dice roll, are caught, and dragged before the Caliph for trial. Example. The Black Die shows a 4, and the White a 3. Checking the Destiny Table, these two lines cross on the number 15: All Bandit cards with the symbol on Ali Baba's square, and the number 15 on their personal Destiny Tables on the card, are taken off to the Caliph.

    6) Releasing Bandits: Each player must now attempt to free all their Captured Bandits from the Caliph. The player pays 200 piastres for every card that comes before the Caliph. If they are unable to pay then they must look at the "Bankruptcy" section.

    Special spaces with Coloured Gang Symbols

    There are three spaces which show all four gang symbols:

    The space with the four symbols and a question mark means that the player who has move Ali Baba onto this space may decide which of the four gangs has been discovered by our hero. The player chooses one symbol to be affected, naturally enough it is likely to be a symbol which they themselves have few or none of.

    The space with the four gang symbols and a dice: Here, the player who has moved Ali Baba onto the space must roll a die. On a roll of 1 or 2 the Swindlers (Schwindler) are affected, on a 3 or a 4 the Thieves (Diebe), on a 5, the Defrauders, (Betrger) and on a 6, the Robbers (R„uber). The rest follows exactly as for a normal symbol space.

    The space with all four symbols on is the point where Ali Baba hits the jackpot. Here, all four gangs are affected, and every single card is in jeopardy.

    End of a Round

    When Ali Baba ends a Round, and so stands on the Start/Finish space, then the Bandits have a brief breathing space when they are in no danger. This gives them the chance to get rid of their booty at top price.

    1. Each player receives the value printed on the card from the Banker in Piastres.
    2. If a player has all four members of a group, they get double the value of the cards, example, a player with all 4 Smuggler (Schmuggler) cards does not receive 320 Piastres, (4 x 80), but rather 640 Piastres.
    3. Every player gets 100 Piastres from the Banker whatever cards they may or may not have.
    4. The players retain their Bandit Cards.
    5. The player who now has the least Piastres, now decides who should start the second round. At the end of the second round, once all payments have been made, the game is over.


    Sometimes, Ali Baba is so successful that a player has insufficient cash to release all their Bandits from the Caliph's clutches. In this case they must first dispose of all their Bandit cards. They receive the going rate for that quarter for each card. This cash they must use to release their Bandits. If the cash is still insufficient, then the Caliph is merciful, and excuses them their outstanding debts. Or perhaps not so merciful, after all, if they carry on, he has the chance to make even more money out of them!

    End of the Game

    Once Ali Baba has completed his second Round of the town, there is a final paying out as at the end of the first round. The game is then over, and the player who has the most Piastres has won.


    Normally a player must choose between the four open Bandit cards. If the players prefer however, one can play that the players may choose between any of the cards in the packs, open or turned over.

    Chance Spaces:

    Distributed by Mike Siggins from The Sumo Rules Bank

    The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell