Posted by: gschloesser | August 12, 2011

Tyrus

Designed by:  Laurent Escoffier & David Franck
Published by:  EuroGames
2 Players, 20 minutes
Reviewed by:  Greg J. Schloesser

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This review first appeared in Counter Magazine #26

Euro Games is back with two new titles in their line of 2-player games:  Tyrus and Atlas & Zeus.  The former is characterized by blind bluffing, while the latter is laden with chaos.

In Tyrus, two players vie for political control in a Middle Eastern city.  A series of elections are held in the citadels, markets and temples, with players allocating their soldiers, merchants and priests in attempts to sway the votes in their favor.  They can also send these forces to help nullify the efforts of their opponent.  The player winning the most elections or three elections in a row gains control of the city.

The first comment is reserved for the components, particularly the playing pieces.  Each player receives 30 chunky wooden pieces representing their three forces, three sets valued at 1 – 10 each.   These are solid, attractive pieces and quite impressive.  The board pales in comparison, depicting the six locations where elections will be held, three on each side of the board.  A track to tally the results of each election is along the right side, while two small player aids are printed directly on the corners.  Overall, the board is very functional, but uninspiring.

Nine elections will be held, three in each area.  Players do not know the order in which the elections will be held, the order being determined by nine election tiles, which are shuffled and revealed one per turn.  Completing the components are nine corresponding representative tokens, which are earned when players win elections and placed on their side of the election track.

Players each mix their 30 tiles face-down, then choose an initial starting hand of nine, keeping their identities hidden from their opponent.

The order of play is quite simple:

1)      Reveal an Election Tile.  This tile indicates the location of the current election, either a citadel, market or temple.

2)      Placing Electorate Tiles.  One at a time, each player places three of their tiles into one or more of the six buildings on the board.  Pieces are placed so that only the owner can view its’ identify, so a player’s opponent does not know which piece was placed.  Bluffing and guessing play HUGE roles in this game.  For me, that is NOT a good thing.

3)      Tallying the votes.  The tiles present in the two buildings of the current election are revealed and their values tallied to determine which player has captured the election.  The winner places the corresponding election token on his side of the election track.

4)      Discarding and choosing new Electorate Tiles.  All tiles involved in the just completed election are discarded, and each player takes three more tiles from his supply.  A new round is then held.

The placement of the tiles onto the board during each election is the key element of the game system.  As mentioned, each player has 30 tiles divided into three sets:  generals, merchants and high priests.  The ten tiles in each set have values of 1 – 10 and correspond with a particular building on the board:

Generals —  Citadels

Merchants — Markets

High Priests —  Temples

When an election is held in a particular building, only the corresponding type of tiles are tallied to determine the results of that election.  For example, if an election is being held in a market, then only the merchants present in the market buildings are tallied.  Thus, when placing tiles during a round, it is important to place the appropriate tiles into the building type where an election is currently being held.  That is, of course, assuming the player wishes to contest the current election.

Normally, a player will place most of his tiles onto buildings on his side of the board.  However, a player can attempt to reduce the strength of his opponent’s pieces by placing certain tiles into buildings on his opponent’s side of the board.  Each force has the ability to counteract the strength of a different force, according to the following chart:

Merchants —  Generals

High Priests — Merchants

Generals —  Priests

An example will illustrate this concept a bit more clearly.  An election is being held in a temple.  Players will play High Priests into the temple on their respective side of the board in attempts to having the most votes.  However, players may also wish to place Generals in their opponent’s temple to offset some of the votes the player will get from any High Priests placed there.  So, when the tiles are revealed, if Tom has 15 points of High Priests in his temple, but Keith placed a General tile with a value of “6” in his temple, Tom’s total is a “9”.

Players are free to place tiles into any buildings during a round, even if an election is not currently being held there.  These tiles remain from round-to-round until an election is actually held in their location.  Using this tactic, a player can prepare for a future election.  This usually means, however, that the player will not be competing strongly for the election in the current round.  Making this decision will usually be based on the composition of the nine tiles a player currently has in front of him.  If a player is weak in a force that is needed to compete in a current election, it may be wise to instead place pieces in other buildings in preparation for future elections.

Likewise, players can place tiles into an opponent’s building even if the tile is not the appropriate type that will nullify the votes of the opponent’s forces.  Why would one want to do this?  Bluffing.  A player will get worried when you place a tile into one of his buildings, and will often commit more tiles to that building to overcome the perceived threat.

There is no way to know which tile your opponent is actually placing in a building.  It is guesswork, pure and simple.  As the round progresses, if a player memorizes the tiles that an opponent has already played, then the player will be able to make more educated guesses.  But for me, such counting is not fun.  I might try to remember if a player has played his higher valued tiles in the various categories, but not much more.  As such, for me, the exercise is little more than guesswork with some bluffing.

After the results of an election are determined, the victor takes a token matching the building where the election was just completed and places it on his side of the track.  The token is placed on the number matching the current election (1 – 9).  If a player wins three elections in a row, he is victorious and the game ends immediately.  Otherwise, the player who has won the most elections after nine rounds is victorious.  If both players tie for the most elections won, each player adds the value of his remaining three tiles and the player with the greatest total claims the victory.

Wait a minute – how can players tie if there are nine elections?  Well, it is possible for players to tie in a specific election.  In this case, the appropriate token is placed in the middle of the scoring track, with no player receiving credit for it.

I don’t want to hammer the game too much.  In fact, for what it is, I am sure it is just fine.  However, as I have mentioned, I am NOT a fan of games that rely heavily on guessing and bluffing, and those aspects are at the heart of Tyrus.  There simply is not much control here.  The game is pleasant enough, but there is not enough here to grab me or give me that let’s play again feeling.  It’s short playing time of 20 minutes, though, means that it will likely appeal to some folks who are seeking a quick, easy game to play as a filler or with their spouse.  For me, though, that was not enough to overcome my distaste for the game’s central mechanism of blind bluffing.

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