Thank you for checking review #43 by Cardboard Clash. My aim is to focus on reviewing board games and how they play for two people and, on occasion, how they play for one person. Because my wife is my primary gaming partner, a lot of consideration goes into finding those games that play well with 2 players, and we typically prefer to find those games that do not require a variant (official or otherwise) in order to play it with just the two of us.
**Note: A copy of the game was provided in exchange for an honest review. The below opinions remain our own based upon our impressions and reactions to the game.
An Overview of Torres
Torres is a game designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling and was published by IDW Games. The box states that it can play 2-4 players and has a 60 minute play time.
Torres is an abstract game of resource management and tactical pawn movement. Players are attempting to build up castles and position their knights to score the most points each turn. Players have a limited supply of knights and action cards that allow special actions to be taken. Efficient use of pieces and cards, along with a thoughtful awareness of future possibilities, is the heart of this game.
Torres is considered by many to be an informal member of what is referred to as the Mask Trilogy.
Setup and gameplay for 2 Players
There is a Year Card for each player count showing how many Castle building blocks a player receives at the start of a year (round). In a 2-player game, both players will get 4 stacks, each containing 3 blocks on there, at the beginning of all three years. Also in a 2-player game, each year has 4 seasons (turns) instead of 3 that are given in games with a higher count.
Gameplay remains the same with each turn granting 5 action points to spend to:
Place a knight (2 AP)
Move a knight (1 AP)
Expand a castle (1 AP per block)
Buy an action card (1 AP per card)
Play an action card (0 AP)
Move your scoring-track knight 1 space (1 AP per space)
Players are trying to position their knights on the castles being constructed by the players. Castles cannot be joined together, and they can never go higher in levels (# of blocks high on a stack) than the size of its base. The higher your knight is on a tower, the more points will be scored (the level of the tower your knight is on is multiplied by the base of the castle). You can only score each castle once per player, so having several knights on the same castle provides no benefit. There is also a king figure who remains immobile during each year. You are awarded bonus points for having a knight on the proper level of the king’s castle (this changes each year, and he also gets repositioned each year by the person who is in last place).
After three years, the person with the highest score is the winner. Within the simplicity of the game’s concept comes a lot of depth and strategy.
I really enjoy the action point system, where you have 5 AP to spend every turn and you need to manage it wisely. This is a nice system that I don’t really see in too many games. It is different enough from having X workers to place, yet similar in a sense to a worker allocation concept. It works nicely in this one to provide some tension as to what actions to use because you’ll want to get out more knights, spread them around, and place castle pieces. But you’ll never be able to do as many of those as you’d like.
The gameplay itself makes a visually appealing presence, much like The Climbers. You’re building 3-D structures on a flat board, which is going to command attention if you take this along to a game day. If you aren’t a fan of wooden discs and oodles of cardboard, this is a game that will really appeal to you. The production on this one is really well done.
The height requirement of a castle being tied to the base size is a really neat thing. It prevents a person from making a really, really tall structure that is only 2-4 squares along the base. Add in the inability to connect the castles to each other and you have a really solid set of confines in which to build in this game. Without those two limitations, this game would likely fall very flat. So while there will be times when those limits frustrate your plans, you can respect their importance in the design.
The action cards are an interesting concept. Many of them are powerful because they allow you to break the rules of the game. It costs a point to draw cards and choose one of them. Playing the card after that is free. But you don’t get to hand-pick the card you need, but you also don’t necessarily need to use the card right away. I’ll revisit the cards a little later on a different point, but I do like that there is a cost to gaining the cards. It makes it so there is some risk to trying to get them, but they usually pay off eventually. But it also reduces the amount of things you can do that turn.
It sounds crazy to weigh this as a positive option in the game, but the ability to spend an AP to gain a point is interesting to me. This ensures you never have to waste a turn or use it in a way that only benefits the other players. Satisfied with your current board state? Take some points! There isn’t a lot of scoring to be found this way, but that is the point. It isn’t a winning strategy, but rather a situational option.
Those wonderful structures you are building over the course of the game? Fiddly is the word. I forgot just how easy it is to bump things in just the wrong way. The castle pieces interlock well in theory, but they have a hard time remaining perfectly solid on the table. And those tiny knights? They fall so easily. One of this game’s best assets, the 3-D play area, can be a huge source of frustration. Especially for a player who likes things to be aligned perfectly.
One thing that is interesting in the game is that you can carry-over some leftover castle pieces from year to year…unless you’re playing a 2-player game. Your stacks are already maxed out, making it so you have to use all the pieces in your stack or lose them at the end of the year. And you use a different stack per turn, so really if you want to maximize the placement of pieces you will have to dedicate 3 of your 5 AP every turn to placing castle pieces.
There comes a point where language independence on cards can be a barrier to entry, and this game has an example of that. This card above shows the ability, and once you understand the ability it makes sense. You move in a “door” on a lower level and come out a “door” on a higher level of the castle. That higher level you come out onto has to be orthogonally adjacent to the spot where you started. Simple in theory, but this one really gave us fits. My wife cursed at me every time she tried to play this card because every time she moved with it, she did it wrong. Because it isn’t as simple to execute as it seems. Some words on the card could have gone a long way toward helping her understand it better. Or, at the very least, having four player aids rather than one where the cards are described. Passing that one sheet back and forth can be annoying.
I’m okay with games that have little player interaction. Lots of worker placement games have that sandbox feel where each person can play in their own corner and pursue their own strategy. The problem with the 2-player game is that you feel very isolated from the other player. It is not uncommon to each be building your own structures and spreading your knights to those structures for a good portion of the game. Yes, you’ll want to get onto the opposing main structure to poach some of that hard work, but really that is all it amounts to in this game for interaction. The game feels repetitive and it never feels like there are more interesting strategies to pursue. You want to build tall structures and have exactly one knight on the structure, positioned at the tallest spot. You want to have one knight on the right level of the king’s structure. Build castles, spread your knights, and get those points. Granted, it might be due to not being a fan of abstracts to begin with, but this game simply doesn’t seem to have a lot of avenues to pursue in a 2-player game. With more players, it becomes a lot “smaller” of a map and makes it more tense and exciting even if it is still the same sets of actions.
This is a game that I was really excited about when it arrived. Castles are my thing, and so the theme hooked me. My wife is usually on board for that theme as well. However, it completely fell flat for my wife which made it hard to have the game hit our table. The frustration with the action cards, which she struggled to understand that one card’s effect every time we played, ruined any enjoyment she might have otherwise had with the game. And I can’t fault her on that one; it took me repeated tries to fully grasp what that card intended and its limitations. And I still tried playing it wrong myself when executing the card.
The action point system makes for an interesting set of decisions. You essentially get 15 points per round to spend (some action cards can increase that), making 45 overall. Which means you need to plan ahead and use that resource wisely. You need to get guys out and spread them among the castles being built, but you also need to build your own castles. You want to position yourself as high as possible on each castle, except the King’s castle, which changes every round. Castles can’t touch, limiting how far they can grow. All of these are great and interesting.
This game does so many awesome things. We don’t usually play abstract games, but this is one I could really envision myself enjoying. Unfortunately, the game is far more interesting with more than 2 players. While it still provides a fun experience with 2, it pales when compared to having a full 4-player game going. Early rounds are spent on opposite sides of the board, building your own couple of castles. There might be a little invasion when a castle grows big enough to make it worthwhile, but the early turns are played in your own sandbox. There is enough room for everyone to build and expand and score without trying to compete. Except on the king’s castle.
Fans of abstract games should really enjoy this one regardless of player count, and those who often can hit that 3-4 count might really like having this in their collection. While it didn’t build enough interest to win us over to the game, I can see and appreciate the design. It is a good game. Really good for the right gamers. If this one still sounds interesting to you, I definitely recommend checking it out.
Check out more of our reviews at the following Geeklist and be sure to let me know what you thought of this game.