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A series of devastating tornadoes, unleashed by enemy mages in the recent war has left all the king's castles in ruin. Only the foundations of these once magnificent monuments remain. He has charged his sons with rebuilding his castles and promised the throne to the one who can rebuild the tallest and largest castles.
Each prince has 6 knights to supervise the building. Two or more princes may work together on a castle with their knights competing to control the highest towers of the castle. Once each year, the king will tour the castles, to judge the progress of each son. After he finishes the third tour, he will choose his successor and the winner!
This edition of Torres has all new artwork.
Ok so I've played the Spiel des Jahres games from 1999 (Tikal), 2000 (Torres) and 2001 (Carcassonne). I currently own almost every incarnation of Carcassonne, plus all of it's various expansion sets, and I now own Torres. Soon I will get Tikal... and I'll be reviewing that game soon too. Plus I'm thinking I need to put together a shopping list here with all the Spiel des Jahres winners from 1978 to today.
I love games where you have lots of kewl pieces, and get to build things. Carcassonne is a neat builder game, but only in 2 dimensions, that is to say laterally (or flat) only. In Torres you get to build laterally and vertically. It's relatively simple to learn the mechanics, however getting down a decent strategy could take several games, or even several gaming sessions to find one that works best. Players are given a set number of castle segments based on how many players are in the game. There are several rounds per turn, and 3 turns per game. Players in turn use their action points to: place new castle segments, move an "in play" meeple, or to put "in play" a new meeple from their supply. It's best to place as many of your castle pieces as possible. Left over castle pieces are held over to the next stack and can be placed during the player's next turn. To put it mildly if you "hold over" too many castle pieces it makes it difficult for you to score more points, and build your own castles up. However! It is possible to "leech" points from another player's castle, so perhaps your strategy might be to move and position your meeples to steal (or leech) off your opponents hard work. But it's a lot harder to this than it is to build your own castles. And given the limited amount of action points you get per round, it's best to get as many castle pieces on the board as possible.
The king adds another layer where players who can get into the castle where the king is, and be on the same level as the king meeple, can score extra points. There are action cards which also add another dimension allowing players to jump over opponents meeples, and other special abilities allowing for more scoring opportunities. And there are a few optional scoring cards to add yet another layer of scoring for the more advanced player.
Overall, this is one hell of a game, it can be fast paced, depending on the number of players and their skill levels, but as you play it, the games will become faster and easier to finish. Not a very good travel game, there are far too many pieces to loose, and is certainly not recommended. Although it travels well to a friend's house for a game session, don't take it out on a hike. As befitting a Spiel des Jahres game... 5 stars.
Torres is a tactically challenging and very intelligent game by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling (Java, Australia and many more). The new edition, published by Rio Grande Games is gorgeous, this is one of the best looking games in my collection, and one of the most stimulating. The very clever movement of the Knights means that every game is bound to produce a move or two that takes the breath away from the other players, being responsible for one of those moves is one of the most satisfying game experiences you can have.
Watching the teetering towers grow and the knights move about makes for a very enjoyable game that is both intelligently challenging and aesthetically pleasing. There aren’t many games I have played where players are up and down in their seats all game (to better see what is going on), and where they are glued to what is happening on the board.
The theme in Torres is weak, but if you can put that aside and look at it for what it is you will find a very enjoyable game. In Torres players make use of an ‘action point system’, where players spend their allotted action points on the various actions available to them, all his means that every turn is an agonizing process of attempting to choose the most cost effective actions for you during your turn. Each turn in Torres is gripping and tough, because of the variety of actions available and the limited amount of action points you receive to spend every turn, you always want to be able to do more than you can when it is your turn, and this makes for a tense and challenging game. Torres is one of the best scaling games I own – meaning that it plays well with 2, 3 or 4; most games don’t scale anywhere near as well. The player aids are useful and informative and the action cards easy to use without reference once you have read their descriptions in the rulebook. One of the great sides to this game is the fact that it doesn’t take long to play, even with the full compliment of players, which means you get a full dose of rewarding play in quite a short time – which is great.
In Torres there is also a set of Master Cards – which provide a range of optional scoring rules for the game. These Master Cards mean that Torres has a huge amount of re-playability, you can play with none, or with as many as you like, and each inclusion alters the game just enough to provide a new challenge for the players. Torres is one of the cleverest and most thought-provoking games in my collection; it is a gorgeous production that looks so good you often want to leave all the little towers standing – especially if you built the largest! If you love thinking games, or abstract games like Chess or Go, then Torres is a game you will enjoy immensely, and that will reward repeat play.
I am an experienced gamer (20+ years) and I bought this game recently. My first time out, I said, nice game, big deal. Then I really tried the game again, delving into the strategy and gameplay. It is fantastic, it makes Settlers, Tikal, Mexica, Carcassone, all seem like child's play. The game is simple, but the strategy is beautiful. Very few board games work both on a 2 player and a 4 player model as beautiful as this game. There are traces of Acquire and Chess that blend together to offer almost zero chance (random cards give chance) and loads the game with pure strategy. I went against two players who thought they had me beat, they shut me down, but through some clever building, I won by 269 points, they came in at 268 and 267, they were amazed, it was an incredible comeback! How many games with a scoring table in the upper 200s allow for such tight and exciting play.
A description doesn't do justice and in all honesty the setting is irrelevant, but if you like the games I mentioned above, you must get this game! No joke! Give a few tries, since the rules and strategy must be well understood to truly appreciate the concept.
Good Gaming! -JDM
After we named it Game of the Year last year, Torres followed up that honor in July 2000 by being selected as Germany's Best! We are still madly in love with this towering achievement by the great Kramer-Kiesling team. You are a Spanish prince hoping to become heir to the throne by building the best castles in difficult but civilized competition with your siblings (the other players). Points are gained by multiplying the surface area of your castles by their height--a charming extension into the third dimension. The judicious use of Action Points for a rich array of choices is a fearfully complex challenge, and the Advanced Variant offers long-term profit for a randomly selected strategic objective. Familiarity will never stale the near perfection of this elegant beauty of a game.
This game appeared at the last minute, unexpectedly introduced at the 1999 Nuremberg Fair in Germany. It was also the last game from Rio Grande to reach us, and what a royal entrance it made! It was love at first sight, instantly eliminating any indecision we had over our choice for Game of the Year.
The Spanish King, weakened by the ravages of war and old age, will choose as his successor the son who can rebuild, in a spirit of peace and cooperation, the largest and tallest castles in the next three years. His sons (the players) may not attack each other or the castles under construction, but their Knights can work together on the same edifice and share the rewards. This is the touching theme of a game full of complex challenges, yet free from bitter battles.
Each player has five Knights, as well as Building Blocks allocated from a common supply at the start of each Year/Phase. Eight Blocks are placed as foundations on the marked spaces of the 8x8 territory. These will spread outward and upward, never getting any higher than their surface area and never combining with another castle. All Action cards are shuffled and everyone in turn puts a Knight on one of the foundations, with the last player placing the King: He must live somewhere, and may even reward the owner.
Five Action Points are spent per turn placing Blocks orthogonally adjacent to others, adding Knights, or acquiring Action Cards for free use on subsequent moves. If none of those options look useful, you can instead move along the scoring track for one Action Point. When the last Block of the year is played, scores are awarded to players for castles where they have at least one Knight. This is determined by multiplying the surface area by the level of the highest Knight; for instance, a Knight at level three of a castle five spaces in area would gain 15 points. Bonuses are also earned at the end of each year by players whose Knights occupy the Royal castle on an appropriate level. As this is a compassionate Kingdom, the contestant with the lowest score decides where His Majesty will spend the next year.
A variant allows each contestant to select from his own pile of Action Cards, so that all players have access to the same cards. Even more challenging, once you are familiar with the abundant blessings of the Actions, is the Master version. Here, players can freely use one of their Action Cards on a turn. One of eight special cards is also randomly drawn to describe an optional scoring opportunity for players such as getting 50 bonus points at the end if four of your Knights occupy the corners of a square. This adds a bewildering strategic temptation to an already difficult game.
We salute Jay Tummelson and Rio Grande for bringing us this gentle and splendid game.
My first opportunity to play this new Kramer/Kiesling design was at Alan Moon's Gathering of Friends in April 1999. Jay 'Rio Grande Games' Tummelson had just received confirmation that he would be releasing the game in English and was so excited he hastily assembled pieces from Terra Turrium (another Kramer design) and other sources. The board was taped together photo copy and the cards were cut and paste quality. Thus, the 'parakeet' in me (that's the part that squawks with delight at pretty pieces) was already disappointed. My initial response to the game was mediocre, but this was due in large part to rules ambiguities, less than stellar components and the pace of the game, which seemed to drag on and on.
Well, I took a chance and purchased a copy, figuring I owed the game another chance and boy, am I glad I did. With several more playings under my belt, and this time with the 'real' game, I can unabashedly claim that this is a fantastic game, one which will surely compete for 2000 Spiel des Jahres honors. It also certainly doesn't hurt playing with the 'real' pieces, which are nothing to get terribly excited about, but a marked improvement over the drab blocks as used in Terra Turrium.
Kramer has combined elements of several of his past games as well as borrowed from other designers titles, including the 3D design and movement mechanics of Terra Turrium, the limited action points of Tikal, the special action cards of El Grande and the 'leap-frog' scoring track mechanism as used in Doris & Frank's Ursuppe. There's no escaping the fact that the game still has a decidedly abstract feel to it and one gets the distinct impression that Kramer just wanted to continue to tinker with these various mechanics. The theme seems nothing more than an afterthought. Still, the game works. It is a tense, challenging matching of wits with the outcome in doubt until the very end.
The premise is simple enough. Players attempt to maneuver their knights into and up the larger castles, receiving points for each castle in which they they have one of their knights based on a simple mathematical formula: Level of the knight times surface area of the castle. Thus, if a castle has grown to occupy 8 surface squares and you have a knight on the 3rd level of the castle, you receive 24 points (8 x 3 = 24). So, the idea is to maneuver your knights to the higher levels of the larger castles.
The game is played in three scoring turns (called 'phases'), each comprising either 3 or 4 rounds, depending upon the number of players. Each round, a player has 5 action points which he can use to:
Each full turn, players receive 3 or 4 stacks of castle pieces, depending upon the number of players and the round being played. Each of these stacks contain 2 or 3 castle pieces. A player must select one of these stacks to use during each particular round of a turn, so the number of pieces he has available each round is sorely limited. This prevents a massive building campaign wherein players are adding 5 castle pieces per round. If a player opts not to use all of his pieces during a round, he can transfer the unused pieces to his remaining stacks provided no stack contains more than three pieces. So, one can 'hoard' pieces for future rounds of that turn or 'phase'. At the end of a turn (er, phase. Damn, I wish Kramer would have just called them turns!), however, all unused pieces are returned to the general supply.
As in many German style games, one is faced with wanting to do more on your turn than allowed by the limited number of action points available. Thus, each turn is one tough decision after another. I've made it no secret that I love this 'limited actions' mechanism in games and the agonizing decisions it forces upon the players. It is used to full effect in Torres.
Each turn/phase is played in 3 to 4 rounds and once a turn is completed, positions are scored. Players get points for the position of their knights (as described above) in addition to a bonus of 5, 10, or 15 points if they have a knight in the same castle as the king. However, the knight must be located in the proper position to earn this bonus: level one following turn one, level two following turn two and level three following turn three.
The Master version introduces special scoring cards which award copious points for achieving certain conditions. These include aligning your knights in a row following certain phases, positioning them on the edges, corners or diagonals of the board, maneuvering them onto different levels of castles, etc. The use of these Master cards adds even more spice and decision making to the game as players must now decide on whether to pursue the traditional scoring methods or seek to obtain these special bonuses. Again, more tough decisions. Delicious.
Scoring is marked on a track which surrounds the edge of the board. Yet another game is borrowed from in this regard, that being Ursuppe. No two scoring markers can occupy the same space, so if a player's marker was moved to a space which is occupied by an opponent, his marker leap-frogs ahead to the next available space. This mechanism does give an incentive to players to use an action point from time to time to move their marker ahead on the scoring track and take advantage of this 'leaping' feature.
At a turn's conclusion, the player currently in last place on the scoring track then has the opportunity to relocate the king to any castle. This is a superb 'equalizing' feature as it allows that player to position the king to a castle which is closer to his knights and further away from his opponents, giving him the edge on capturing the king's scoring bonus for that round. Clever and very effective.
Following the third turn/phase, final scores are tallied to determine the victor.
My games are tending to clock in at about an hour and a half, a bit less with three players, but there is considerable pondering before each move. If you are involved in a match with players who tend to slowly and carefully ponder each and every movement and placement possibility, Torres has the potential to bog down and create interminable 'dead time', a problem many have hurled at Tikal. I have found, however, as in Tikal, a simple advance warning to the players that this potential exists, along with an urging to them to keep things moving along, works quite well. If the problem persists, a timer is always an option.
Contrary to my high praise of the game, a few in our group were not as impressed. I queried them as to why and received several responses.
One claimed he had difficulty grasping the strategy. Admittedly, this is a game which rewards repeated playings, but I don't think that's a reason to dislike a game. The strategy in many, many games only becomes clearer with repeated playings. Heck, I've played many a game wherein I had no idea of what to do until the latter stages. That doesn't make it a bad game, just one in which your understanding and skills improve with further playings.
Another player felt that one's options become more and more limited as the game progresses. I can see that this is definitely the case in the final few rounds of the final turn/phase, but I don't see this as too constricting. Further, I don't think it is present at all in the first two turns. Use of the Master scoring cards, which provide more scoring opportunities and options, certainly helps alleviate this problem.
Is Torres perfect? Well, no... but it comes awfully close. Those who disdain luck in a game would be hard pressed to find fault with it if they opt for the Master version. This is certainly a matching of wits and optimizing the use of one's action points. Another big plus is that it plays splendidly with 3 or 4 players, and I've heard that it is equally enthralling as a 2 player game. One certainly can't argue with this versatility!
I must say that Torres is a big, big, BIG surprise for me. My initial impressions at the Gathering weren't very favorable, but I'll chalk that up to not having a full understanding of the rules and the fact that we were playing with hastily assembled pieces. I now consider this game to be fabulous and can't wait till I play again. Highly recommended.