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Clocktowers is a game for 2-4 players in a competition to complete the most clocktowers in the city before time runs out. Players must complete the towers as cleanly as possible, making sure that mice and cats don't make the towers home. Of course there are other catches -- do you have the right height for the building and do you have the proper colored roof? Clocktowers plays in 20-30 minutes and can be played by ages 8 and up (although there's enough skill involved that kids shouldn't beat their parents too often!)
Jolly Roger Games
Jacob Elijah Walker
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 20 - 30 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
Est. time to learn: 5-10 minutes
Weight: 112 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English. This is a domestic item.
- 66 cards:
- 18 clocks
- 20 roofs
- 28 story cards
Average Rating: 3 in 1 review
I’m still a bit annoyed that Capitol, a game about building towers in ancient Rome, hasn’t been reprinted – and thus difficult to find. Not everyone enjoyed it, and more than a few complained about the scoring component; but I found it unique and very enjoyable. When I bemoaned the lack of availability, several people mentioned Clocktowers (Jolly Roger Games, 2004 – Alan Moon and Aaron Weissblum) as a game that was basically the card game version of Capitol. Well, I didn’t feel the need for a card game version (I’d almost always prefer a board game to a card game) but was interested, especially as I’ve noticed a noticeable jump in the quality of Jolly Roger games lately.
After playing the game, I won’t be converting over to the card version anytime soon, and many of the things I really enjoyed about the board game have been stripped from this game. At the same time, it’s very light and easy, and an enjoyable way to spend a short period of time (games take about twenty minutes). However, Clocktowers has the odd feeling that it’s much more involved than it really is, and players often are forced into choices that may make them feel as if the game is playing them. It’s certainly not a bad game, but it’s almost too light and allows players to really mess each other up during play.
The game consists of three decks of cards – a deck of roofs (four each of five different colors), a deck of clocks (nine of which have a mouse in them), and a deck of building stories (one or two floors – some with a mouse or a cat). Each player takes one story card with a cat on it, one story with a mouse, and one clock that contains a mouse. The rest of the cards are shuffled and placed face UP on the table in three separate decks – with five story cards and three roof cards secretly removed. One player is chosen to go first, and then play proceeds clockwise around the table.
On a player’s turn, they must play a card from their hand, then draw the top card of either deck. Players are playing cards face up in front of them, creating towers. Each tower must consist of at least one story, then a clock and roof. Players can continue adding stories, but once they place a clock, only a roof can go on top of that. When placing a colored roof, players must check any other completed building (if any) with the same colored roof already on the table. The first building of a color must be one or two stories tall. After that, each succeeding building must be exactly one story higher. Players cannot add a roof to any building that does not fit these requirements. A player can discard a card rather than playing one if necessary.
After all decks have been discarded, and all players have used all their cards, the game ends. Each player then scores for each completed tower, and incomplete towers are simply discarded. Scoring depends on cats and mice in towers; a tower with neither is worth five points. Cats only scores four points, and having both is worth three points. A tower with only mice is worth only two points. All the points are added, and the player with the most is the winner – with a tie going to the player with the highest mouse in one of their towers.
Some comments on the game…
- Components: Clocktowers is a small game with a box that can
easily slide into your pocket. The cards have tremendous artwork,
although they are a bit thin for my tastes. I’m also curious as to
why they don’t have different backings, which would make sorting them
out much easier. I suppose it’s to keep them anonymous when in a
player’s hand; but since you can see someone when they take them –
what’s the point? Still, everything looks nice when laid out on the
table, and the cards fit together well to form nice looking towers.
And it’s cheap and portable, which some may enjoy.
- Rules: The rules for the game are quite simple – play a card,
draw a card. The rules themselves are only two sides of a page and
are very easy to teach. The idea of building a tower is thematically
helpful when explaining the game, and people can pick it up fairly
- Choices: The game really revolves around what card to place, and
then which one to draw. The most coveted cards are the roof cards
that I’ve seen, and they are quickly snapped up near the beginning.
Cards without any animals are also yearned for, and cards with cats
almost as much. Unfortunately, a player often has to take a card with
a mouse on it, whether they want to or not. They can of course ignore
taking the card, and then complete no towers – which would be quite
unproductive. At the same time, it’s dreadfully annoying to watch the
player before you constantly take the cards you want. Some aspects of
this are interesting, as a player can build a taller tower in the
hopes that they can cap it with a roof later on in the game; but it
doesn’t really come down to forward planning as much as it does to
luck. The game SEEMS likes there is a decent amount of strategy, but
in reality, the player who gets the better draws often seems to win.
Now, I don’t discount the entire game – I didn’t mind playing, but I
was left with the nagging feeling that the game hadn’t given me as
many choices as I thought.
- Animals: The whole point of the game is to avoid mice; and if you
can’t, throw a cat in with ‘em! This is certainly thematic, but it’s
not as interesting as it sounds; because if you get lucky and build a
non-animal house, that’s as good as two and a half mice houses!
Again, animals in the towers seem to come down to luck – and I started
getting to the point where I put a lot less thought about them, since
I always seemed to end up with a handful of mouse sections, anyway.
- Fun Factor: The game was a fairly enjoyable way to pass twenty minutes – any more and I would have been annoyed; it would have gotten fairly tedious. And with two to four people (three may be best?), it’s a nice way to pass the time. But I would NEVER pick it over Capitol – not just because the components aren’t nearly as stunning, but because I felt that Capitol offered more meaningful choices. Clocktowers is fun for people who feel as if they are putting towers together, but the choices rarely offer any angst, and the entire affair is almost decided by card draws.
So my recommendation is mixed. If the theme sounds interesting, and you want a small, easy to setup and play card game, this is a jolly way to pass twenty minutes. But don’t expect much strategy, the game is an easy-going thematic card game, nothing else. While I’ll play it on occasion, I’m often looking for something that has a bit more tenseness to it – one where the choices matter a bit more.
“Real men play board games”