Game Buzz: Troyes

When I was a kid, I had a friend who told me a joke called “The Secret of Twah.”  It was a joke with a really long set up and a punchline I can’t tell you because you’re not a monk.  In the years since, it has become my favorite joke to torment my companions with when we’re spending lots of time together.  So the first time I heard the name of the game I’m talking about this time, I could only think of that joke.  That’s right – Troyes is pronounced “Twah.”

Troyes - image by BGG user taiwanite

Twah (I mean Troyes) was designed by Sébastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges, and Alain Orban.  The game was first published by Pearl Games, a Belgian company, and Z-Man will be producing the English version.  The game is for 2-4 players, takes 90 minutes, and is for ages 12 and up.  In the game, you will be recreating four hundred years of history in France, attempting to gain the most fame by influencing the military, clergy, and peasants.  This is probably the most Euro-ish game I’ve covered on this blog…scratch that, this IS the most Euro-ish game I’ve covered on this blog.  This theme just screams Eurogame in its blandness, but people are raving about the gameplay (which features dice), so let’s take a look.

In the game, you get a board that shows the city.  There are 56 meeples, aka citizens, with 12 in each of the four player colors and 8 gray neutral meeps.  There are 90 cubes, 20 in each player color and 10 gray.  There are 8 wooden dics, 2 in each player color.  There are deniers (money) in denominations of 1, 5, and 10.  There are VP tokens in denominations of 1, 3, 5, and 10.  There are 27 activity cards, including 9 military (red), 9 religious (white), and 9 civil (yellow).  They are number 1-3 to indicate when they enter the game (as in Notre Dame).  There are 16 event cards, with 8 red, 4 white, and 4 yellow.  There are 6 character cards, 1 start player card, and 6 player aid cards.  And there are 24 dice, six each in four different colors: red (military), white (religious), yellow (civil), and black (enemies).

Board - image by BGG user sebduj

Each player chooses a color and takes the corresponding bits: 1 disc as a District marker, which you place on one of the regions of the board, claiming it as your own (just choose the one closest to where you’re sitting; 1 disc as an Influence marker, which you place on the fourth space of the Influence track at the top of the board; 5 deniers; a number of meeples based on how many people are playing (4 with 4 players, 5 with 3, 6 with 2), leaving the rest in a supply; a randomly selected character card that you keep secret (take 2 with 2 players); and 20 cubes.

Set up involves laying out the board and sorting cards.  You’ll sort the activity cards by color and by number, choosing one of each each color/number combination and placing them on the board.  So, you’ll have nine activity cards, with the rest discarded sight unseen.  You’ll form three stacks of event cards, sorted by color.  With four players, the red deck will have six cards; with three, it will have five; with two, four.  This is your timer for the game.  One district that is unclaimed gets a gray disc, marking it as the neutral district.  The player who last read a history book receives the start player card.

The first thing that happens in the game is an initial placement of your meeples.  There are three principle buildings on the board – the palace, the bishopric (I have NEVER heard that word before), and the city hall.  All you do is take a meeple and place it in a space.  You place in a snaking order: first the start player, then go clockwise.  After the last player places, he will place again and placement will occur in a counterclockwise order.  This snaking continues until all players have placed all meeples.  Neutral meeples go in the empty spaces.

Now it’s time to begin regular game play.  The game lasts a certain number of rounds based on the number of players – six with four, five with three, and four with two.  The first three rounds consist of six phases, and every subsequent round consists of only five.

First, you reveal activity cards.  Flip up the red, yellow, and white cards that correspond to the round number.  If they’re gone (which they will be after round three), you skip this step.  I like that they called it Phase 0 in the rules.

Next, time for income and salaries.  Each player receives 10 deniers, then must pay their citizens in the various buildings – meeples in the bishopric cost one denier, and meeples in the palace cost two.  Meeples in the city hall cost nothing.

The next phase is assembling the workforce.  You can roll one yellow die per meeple you have in the city hall, one white die per meeple you have in the bishopric, and one red die per meeple you have in the palace.  You then gather your dice into your district.  The start player rolls for the gray meeples, and places them in the neutral district.

Next is the event phase.  Each turn, you’ll get two new events.  Draw the top card of the red deck, and that will tell you whether to draw a card from the white or yellow deck.  The red deck card goes in the first empty space on the event queue at the bottom of the board, and the other goes at the end of the line.  The events take place from left to right, beginning with Marauding (which is printed on the board).  There are two types of events, military and various.  And I have to interject here that I think that this is really funny.  It’s like the saying, “There are only two types of people in the world…those who use ‘quotation fingers’ and those who don’t.'”  Or some variation.  This is essentially saying “There are two types of events…military events and events that are not military events.”

I digress.  With military events, the start player will take the number of black dice indicated.  Various events must be executed fully, or you lose 2 VPs.  After reolution, the start player rolls all black dice that have accumulated and must combat the highest number with dice from his/her district.  This is done by discarding one or more dice that total more than or equal to the black die.  The next player will have to combat the next highest dice roll, and so on.  If you can’t combat the die, you can discard the black die and lose 2 VPs.  There are some rules of combat: red dice are doubled against black dice; you can use different colored dice; you can combat as many black dice as you want as long as the highest one left is among them; you gain one point of influence per black die you counter; and you may want to use influence before combat.

Action time!  Beginning with the start player, each person takes one action.  Use 1-3 dice from ANY of the five districts.  Your dice cost you nothing, but you must purchase dice from other player districts, or from the bank in the case of the gray district.  If you’re only using one die, you pay 2 deniers.  If you’re using two, each die that came from another district costs four deniers.  If you’re using three, each will cost you six.  The possible actions are:

  • Activate an activity card.  Yellow dice allow you to use a civil card, white dice allow you to use a religion card, and red dice allow you to activate a military card.  You’ll need to have a tradesman on the card to take advantage of the effects, but then you’ll use a group of dice to use the card a certain number of times.  Effects can be immediate or delayed.
  • Construct the cathedral.  You’ll need to use white dice for this action.  Each die allows you to place one of your cubes on the same-numbered construction site of the cathedral.  Placing a cube gets you one VP plus one influence point for spaces 1-3, and one VP plus two influence points for spaces 4-6.
  • Combat the events.  Spend 1-3 dice to combat the event.  The cards will show what type of dice you need, as well as the values needed to place a cube on the card.  Once the card is full, the first and second place players take VPs and the card is removed, taken by the player who placed the most cubes.
  • Place a citizen on a principal building.  You’ll use one die to place a citizen from your personal supply onto a building.  The value for each position is shown on the board.  At the City Hall and Bishopric, you’ll place your meeple in the first space, shifting the line to the right.  If a meeple gets shoved off a space, it is laid down in the building as an expelled citizen.  In the Palace, each die value only has one space, so you’ll replace a meeple by placing the old in the building as an expelled citizen.  If you already have a meeple lying down in a building, no one can expel you.
  • Use agriculture.  Gain money based on the total of dice divided by two (rounded down).
  • Pass.  You receive 2 deniers, placed in your district.  You can’t play again this round, but each time the turn comes to you, you get another denier.

Influence can be used in several ways.  You can spend one point of influence to reroll one of YOUR dice.  You can spend two to hire a citizen from the general supply to add it to your personal supply.  You can spend four to turn over 1-3 dice from your district.  This means that you can change a one to a six, a five to a two, etc.  The sum of the sides will always equal seven.

After everyone has passed or after all dice have been used, players retrieve their deniers and return expelled citizens to their personal supplies.  The game ends after the round with the final red card.  You get VPs throughout the game, plus you can get one for a presence on an uncountered event card.  You can get more for citizens on activity cards.  You lose two for each of the three levels of the cathedral on which you have no cubes.  You also gain VPs based on how well you completed your mission.  The player with the most VPs wins.

Now I know that there’s no way to really understand how this game works without actually playing it.  It’s been a while since I’ve seriously looked at a true Euro.  I must say that I am enjoying the trend of using dice in Eurogames, mitigating the luck by adding unique mechanics.  The concept of using dice as influence is not new, but the ability to use other players’ dice is not something I’m familiar with in other games.  The theme still seems kind of bland to me, and I don’t quite understand how it works with the game, but the theme is not important.  This game is not trying to be a huge thematic historical experience, it’s simply trying to provide a context for what you’re doing.  I know that irritates people, but I don’t mind.

I’m looking forward to giving this game a shot, though I doubt it’s something I’m going to buy for myself.  Who knows, maybe I’ll love it.  If you are interested in finding out more, check out BGG.  I have no idea of the pricing since Z-Man doesn’t even have it on their schedule yet, but I’m guessing it will be in the $50-60 range.

Thanks for reading, and insert clever tagline here.

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