Euphrat & Tigris
original German edition
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Ur... Nineveh... Babylon--the Bible describes these cities as the origin of mankind. Science agrees: in fertile Mesopotamia, between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, lay the cradle of civilization.
Around 3,000 B.C. the first large settlements developed along the rivers' embankments. Soon, however, farmers began to irrigate large parts of their lands, away from the rivers. An achievement with consequences. Transport problems arose. Without further ado, potters' wheels were turned on their sides and mounted onto rude carts. Much more food could henceforth be carried. This achievement had other repercussions. Traders now wanted to record their growing numbers of barters. This was done by scratching marks into their urns, thereby inventing writing--even before the Egyptians. Furthermore, there now sprang up a multitude of priests and administrators.
One thousand years later, the ancient and wealthy kingdom of Ur had been destroyed. Power was now in the hands of the Babylonian king, Hammurabi. New kingdoms arose. From the north permeated the Hittites. Between the two rivers, power was seized by the people of Assur, the Assyrians. The realm of their king Sargon was only surpassed, many years later, by the empire of Alexander the Great.
Over the centuries, one dynasty succeeded another. Only one thing remained constant: the advance of civilisation that went alongside the struggles for power. It was always exciting--even if not everyone could succeed. The game of Euphrates & Tigris lets you take part in the fascinating development of civilisation.
The aim of each player is to develop the four key spheres of civilisation: settlements, temples, farms and markets. To do this, players will position their leaders, create and extend kingdoms, build monuments and resolve conflicts, thereby gaining victory points in each of the four spheres. The winner is the player who develops civilisation a balanced way, without revealing a sphere of weakness.
After two years, this is still my favorite game. It is always different, very compelling, and cannot be 'figured out' in any way. The number of players affects the play of the game, adding another layer of variety. Once everyone gets the difference between the two kinds of conflicts (within kingdom, it's all about power and temples; between kingdoms, it's all about supporters), play is fantastic. New people usually play through the first time, and really sink their teeth in the second round. Game play is fairly quick with astonishing depth. I expect to play this for a long time. (Note: I personally prefer the german to the english version; components are thicker.)
Game immersion is what you make of it. All games can be reduced to simple (or complex) math. Remove all names, places, and pretty pictures. What makes the immersion work is when the strategies and tactics involved in the play relate somehow to the theme, so you can picture the situations really happening and make intuitive judgements.
Granted, E&T could be called Terraform 3000, and use robots with laser beams. Picking a place and time for your game to exist in, and making the pieces and the actions fit that idea is part of the fun. E&T does it well.
Let's break down some other favorites:
Risk: Move your dots from box to box that are connected by lines. When 2 different groups of dots meet, roll dice to determine which dots get removed.
Puerto Rico: Create dots by forming pairs of boxes with triangles on them. Place dots onto limited grids to increase your final score.
Monopoly: Move your dot randomly along a 40 element grid. Acquire triangles or lose triangles as indicated on the grid space. Try to force all other players to lose all their triangles by accumulating the most boxes.
See what I mean?