Sunday, July 03, 2011

Two original themes (Troyes, Tribune)

I purchased Troyes a little while back with a gift certificate, and received Tribune in a recent math trade, so we played a couple of new games tonight. Both feature particularly unoriginal themes, and the kind of abstraction that demands excellent gameplay to be fun (or else it's just another bland, dry and generic euro). Let's see how they did on our first try:


Troyes is a game about the struggle between three factions (military, clergy and trade), all the while faced with external threats of various types, in medieval France. The actual gameplay has little do do with this, however. Players get a number of dice in three colours according to their presence in the three main "buildings". Dice are rolled, and these become the pool from which all actions will be activated. Over the course of the game, a number of cards are turned up showing possible actions and on their turn players will choose 1-3 of the available dice and assign them to one of those actions. The actions will generate money, influence, VPs or future bonuses.... But most of them amount to micro moves and the game is won by accumulating many small rewards over the course of the game.

There are a number of unique things going on. Number 1, dice can be selected from any player, not just your own pool. It costs money to do this, but often it's worth it and it obviously it takes away from what that player can do later. Number 2, the actions work by totaling the number(s) on the selected dice and dividing them by whatever is on the card... For example it might say you get 2VPs for each multiple of 3 you had totaled. Number 3, a player gathers "influence" which allows modifications to the values rolled (re-roll dice, flip dice, etc). Number 4, the city of Troyes is perpetually under attack and/or suffering internal unrest of some kind and this is represented by event cards which turn up at the start of each round. These must be defended against and if left un-countered will continue to impose a nasty effect every round. This means that depending on what comes up, or where you are in turn order, it may be necessary to re-prioritize and dedicate resources to quash the event. Lastly, each player gets a secret goal but at the end of the game every player gets to score points from each secret goal (in other words, if the goal was to get X influence for 6VPs all players who have that much influence get the VPs). This is interesting because it means you must pay attention to what other players are concentrating on to try to guess what the bonus condition they have is and try to earn it as well.

Between selecting yours or another player's dice, the ability to modify your roll, and the various items worth pursuing there is a lot more control than you'd expect from a dice game. Commensurate with this, there is a lot more to think about. With the wrong players, this could be an AP nightmare. otherwise, it's an interesting and challenging game, but I think it might take another play or two before it starts to reveal it's true colours. In our first game, the amount of options is large enough that it's hard to see how one choice is better than the other. About half-way in I started seeing how things worked together a bit better. The dice selection mechanic and the way the available actions change each game is quite interesting and should provide a different experience each game. I am reminded of Macao, and the way that the dice and available cards drive the game... A combination I really enjoyed.

I liked it. I didn't love it, but my gut tells me this one is worth investing a few more plays in. It's definitely a VP hunt, it's pretty mathy, and quite abstract but I think the sum is more than it's parts. We'll see.

Kozure won the game, having accumulated a large stack of VPs even before the endgame had been scored. He had gone after many of the events while I was focussing more on end game bonuses. Shemp was unfortunately saddled with a starting position that gave him little income, a problem since his secret goal was money (my fault, I hadn't explained that part). Scores where close, though!


For our second un-original theme, we have a game set in ancient Rome. This one is about controlling different factions in order to satisfy a number of victory conditions before the other players. It's worker placement, but the rewards for each space is always a choice of cards (face up cards! Face down cards! 5 face down cards!, etc) and after reading the rules I was skeptical that it would be much fun at all.

Turns out it's pretty good. The cards are collected to try to control factions, and control is established by playing a set of cards. Control is kept until someone else plays a better set (higher total value or more cards). There is a bonus given for simply taking over, and another for being in control. Going after the factions means more than just accumulating the number required to satisfy a victory condition... You need to get them in the right order and at the right time so that the take-over bonus and control bonus helps you satisfy the other victory conditions at the same time. It's true that all the actions available are for gathering cards, but the thematic link (although tenuous) at least makes sense and since players are always trying to complete sets of cards the various ways of collecting them allows for different types of risk/reward.

It flows well, is fun to play and the interaction is interesting. Looking forward to trying this one again as well.

This was apparently Kozure's evening as he won this as well. Shemp thought he had a chance to achieve all the goals at the same time as Kozure but couldn't manage it. Meanwhile, I still had a few more to go.

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