How to Play
To begin each round all of the cards are dealt out. If there are not enough cards to give everyone the same number of cards, the extra cards are not used in the current round. All of the players look at their hand and they choose three cards to give to the player to their right. In the second round the cards are passed to the left. In the third round no cards are passed. After the third round the same pattern is repeated.
The object of the game is to score the least amount of points as possible. Points are scored based on the number of horns that appear on the cards.
The player to the right of the dealer starts the first hand by playing any card they would like. All of the other players (in order) need to play a card of the same color as the card played by the first player. If a player does not have a card of the same color, they can play a card of any color. After all of the players have played a card, the player who played the highest card of the color that the hand started with needs to take all of the cards played and puts them in a pile by them.
The player who had to take the cards ends up starting the next hand. Play continues like this until all of the cards have been played. Players receive one point for each horn on the cards that they had to take during the round. A new round is then started. After a player has reached 100 points the game ends. The player with the least number of points ends up winning the game.
I don’t know if it is just me but it seems like there is like a hundred different games that claim they were created by the makers of UNO. I like UNO and I usually find these games for cheap so I like to give them a chance. The most recent of these games that I have tried is the 1989 International Games Inc game Baha. Overall I thought Baha was a solid but unspectacular game that like so many other card games relies too heavily on luck.
The best way to describe Baha is to call it a trick taking game. A lot of people compare it to the game of Hearts. I have never played Hearts so I can’t confirm or deny that comparison. The game is quite easy to learn and play. It probably takes a couple minutes to learn the game and it should be easy to teach the game to other players.
Despite relying heavily on luck there is some strategy to the game. Since there is only one of every number/color combination in the game, you can employ some deduction in order to figure out which cards have already been played. This can actually help out quite a bit especially towards the end of a round. If you know a higher card remains in a color you could play one of your point cards and not have to take the points since another player may only have higher cards of that color in their hand.
After playing several rounds it became pretty clear that the best strategy to utilize during the game is to try and eliminate all of your cards of one particular color. This seems like the best strategy since you want to take advantage of the rule that you can play any card you want if you don’t have the color that started the hand. If you get rid of all of your cards of a particular color you will get to take advantage of this rule every time another player plays the color that you don’t have any of. This gives you the prime opportunity to get rid of your point cards since you can’t lose a hand where you play a different color than the starting color. If you end up getting rid of a color that another player has a lot of you could easily end up losing no hands in a round.
One final piece of strategy I found in the game was to strategically “lose hands” where no points will be scored. Early on in the round you might actually benefit from playing an eight or seven card since they don’t score any points themselves. If you play the cards early enough it is likely that every player will have at least one card of that color. Therefore if all of the players play a lower valued card, you will need to take the cards but they aren’t worth any points so they won’t hurt you. In addition you also get to start the next hand which you can use to your advantage to try and get rid of one of the colors from your hand. If one of the other players end up having to play a higher card, they will take all of the cards which will have to have some point cards since the card they played is higher than the card you played.
While there is some strategy in the game, the eventual winner pretty much comes down to which player is the luckiest. Luck factors into the game in several different ways.
The most obvious is the luck of the draw. If you start with a lot of high cards and/or are given a lot of high cards when the cards are traded, you can’t win the round. For example in one game I had four 13s and two 12s. There was no way I was going to escape that round without a ton of points since I owned the highest card in every color and the second highest in half of the colors. Therefore I was pretty much guaranteed to take cards on at least five hands no matter how well I played my cards since I would have the highest card in five of the hands.
Getting bad cards can also lead you into a “trap” where you are pretty much guaranteed to take the cards for several hands in a row. Towards the end of the round if one player only has high cards remaining they will keep losing hands. When you lose a hand you end up having to start the next hand. You end up having to play another high card which means you will have to take the cards again and start another hand. A player could very easily lose the last four or five hands of a round.
This problem of getting “trapped” leads to another big problem with the game. At least during the rounds that I played, it seems that at least one player gets a ton of points every round. Essentially every round that I played boiled down to one player getting little to no points, two players getting a small to moderate amount of points, and the last player got a ton of points (generally at least 30+). Due to this inequity of point distribution, if you are unlucky and get one of the terrible rounds you are pretty much eliminated from the game. Since only one player needs to reach 100 points to end the game, you usually don’t have to play many rounds in order to have one player reach 100 points. If you are lucky and don’t have to endure one of the terrible rounds you are very likely to win the game.
In addition to cards in your hand, turn order is very important. In the early rounds it is beneficial to be the first player to play a card. Otherwise the best position is to play last. This is the most beneficial position since you can always see what all of the other players have already played. In this position you have options on what card to play since you know what everyone else has played. If someone else has played a higher scoring card than a card you have you can play yours without having to take the points. If you have two low cards you can see if you can use the higher card and still not lose the hand.
Finally this reliance on luck at times gives the feeling that your outcome in the game is more reliant on what the other players do than what you do yourself. For example in one of the games I played, I ended up having to start a game stuck with a lot of the same color while the other players ended up not having much of that color. Eventually I ended up having to go first and I had to play the color I had a lot of since that was pretty much all I had. Since no other players had any of that color left they were able to keep throwing points at me and there was nothing that I could do about it. It is just weird that it feels like your strategy impacts the other players more than it impacts your own game.
Before ending the review I would like to quickly address the components. First the card tray that comes with the game is pretty pointless. It is made of such thin plastic that it is pretty much guaranteed that the tray will quickly develop some tears/cracks. In addition to the card tray, the cards are just boring. The cards do a good job making the numbers stand out but otherwise they fail. The game could also have chosen better colors that were easier to differentiate. I didn’t have trouble differentiating between the red and orange colors but a couple players I played with did.
Overall Baha is a very average game. The game is easy and quick to play. There is some strategy to the game and you can get some enjoyment out of the game. Unfortunately the game relies too heavily on luck which makes the game nothing more than an average game.
If you like trick taking games that have quite a bit of luck to them, I think you will enjoy Baha. If you either don’t like trick taking games or don’t like games that rely too heavily on luck, Baha is not the game for you.