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Here you can show your qualities as a strategic clever architect on multiple levels! Through the thoughtful placement of your building pieces, you construct castles and bring your knights to the desired top positions -- because castles without knights are like measuring sticks without marks. In order to ascend to the throne, you must use your meager action points carefully. Whoever wants to reach the heights has to pay for it!
Players: 2 - 4
Time: 60 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Est. time to learn: 10-20 minutes
Weight: 1,110 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. An English translation of the rules is provided.
- 1 game board
- 92 tower blocks
- 24 knights
- 4 scoring markers
- 1 king
- 40 action cards
- 4 codex cards
- 3 phases cards
- 8 master cards
Average Rating: 4.3 in 26 reviews
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
I reviewed this game in April of 2001. After a year and a half and 100+ games later, here's an update. If you want a great 2 player strategy game with no luck involved, BUY THIS GAME! (I have no idea how this game plays with more than 2 since I've never tried it)
Here's how we play it.
Hand out all the action cards. You have to try to remember which ones your opponent has played and not played, and you really won't be any good until you're familiar with all 10 cards and know exactly what their potential is for helping you win.
We play a best of 7 game tournament using our 6 favorite Mastercards, and, if we're tied at 3-3 we flip a coin to decide who gets the choice of the tiebreaker Mastercard. The losing player decides who goes first. (we've discovered that going 2nd is a distinct advantage because of the ability to place the king and we alternate until or if we play a 7th game)
Use a chess clock. Try 30 to 40 minutes each. We've had some games decided by flag drops. It also just adds a lot of tension to the game.
Here's some of the games I like, so you'll know where I'm coming from...chess, go, Big Boggle, Oh Hell the card game, mit list und tucke. Here's a few I hate...Yahtzee, monopoly, or any game with 50000 small punchout cardboard pieces, cards and coins.
I was initially drawn to Torres by a snapshot picture of the board with its castles of varying heights and knights perched on top of them. Not only was it uniquely beautiful among the games Ive seen (how many board games develop skywards as well as across the board? Not too many and this one does it darn well), but it begged for an explanation how did the game board come to appear that way? I was hooked.
And then I was confounded. The instructions were extremely simple to grasp. Im an avid strategy games player, so a game like Villa Paletti isnt going to win my vote for SDJ. I didnt see much strategy to this game. I kept reading reviews. Then I decided I had to buy it. And it wasnt until I tried playing it that the strategy became evident.
With four players, one will see right from the start that each player takes off in different directions (I play by the version where everyone gets their own pile of action cards and each card must be bought for 1 AP no player may hold more than 3 cards in their hand at a time). One person may go on a building spree, one person may throw knights onto their board as fast as possible, one person may buy action cards early, one person may go for the balanced approach, etc. And the structures emerge.
I admit the building pieces dont really resembles bricks and the knights dont really look like knights, but this wont detract from the gameplay one bit.
The gameplay is impressively smooth, mainly due to the limitation of 5 AP per turn. Its enough to do damage, but not enough to complete your strategy in one shot. For such an intense game, the downtime is very quick (from what Ive seen) and the total playing time is a brisk 45-55 minutes. This game rolls along at a steady clip, so Im a little suspicious of the patience of those who say it takes too long between turns.
What I really appreciate about Torres is that as the game develops there is plenty of opportunity to play offensive and/or defensive. Youre always wary of surprise attacks, but then youre also planning some of your own. Its a thrill ride planning and executing a sneak attack.
If you like games that involve building and claiming territory, this ones got your name on it. These towers soar.
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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:
- Place a new knight on the board. A new knight must be placed adjacent to one of your existing knights at a level equal to or below the level of that existing knight. This costs 2 action points to execute, whereas all other actions cost 1 point. It is critical to get as many of your knights on the board as possible, though the timely placing of a knight at later stages of the game can spell the difference between victory and defeat. Since the number of knights per player is limited, the timing of their placement can be pivotal and is yet another tough decision to be made.
- Place a new castle piece. This must be placed next to an existing castle piece, or onto it. However, a castle cannot contain more levels than the surface level it occupies. Further, one cannot place a castle piece in such a fashion as to join two or more castles. Thus, certain spaces become 'dead' during the game, and placement can be used strategically to hinder the growth of an opposing castle.
- Pick an action card from the face-down stack. There are several variants for using these action cards, including the basic game wherein all players draw from a combined stack. My favorite method gives each player an identical deck, which is shuffled face down. A player selects three cards and chooses one, replacing the other two either on top or at the bottom of the deck. This method allows a greater degree of control in the use of the cards as a player can 'look ahead' and know which cards will be available on the next round. The Master version allows each player to hold all ten action cards in their hand and play them as they see fit.
- Move a knight. Each space moved costs 1 action point. Knights can jump up one level, but no more, and may descend any number of levels. Knights cannot be moved diagonally without the use of a special action card allowing this maneuver.
- Gain one victory point for each AP spent for this purpose.
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.