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Subject: Initial impressions of Troyes - Gameplay heavy rss

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Jonatan Lind
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This is my first attempt at a review, so please bear with me. I've played the game once, with four players, but seeing that there is no review up yet, I decided to make one.

Introduction

Troyes is a game set in medieval France by the designers Sébastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges and Alain Orban.
Each player represent a rich family from the Champagne region of France, using their influence to recruit and supervise individuals from the three prominent domains: military (associated with the color red in every aspect of the game), religious (white), and civil (yellow).

Components
It's a classic euro game. You have standard meeples, cubes, cards, a board, money, victory chits and some discs. All familiar and comfy.


Setup and rules
Now, how does Troyes work then?
To explain this you need to know that the main mechanic in the game is centred around dice. Each player get to roll a dice for each citizen they have in one of the three buildings of influence, the palace (red), the bishopric (white) and the city hall (yellow).

Before the game starts each player draws a secret character card (more on this later).
There is also an initial placement when players place some citizens in the main buildings (4 each in a 4 player game). These citizens are placed "Settlers of Catan style". In other words, when all players have placed one citizen going clockwise, the last player places his second citizen and everyone else, going counterclockwise places the second citizen. This is repeated with the third and fourth citizen.
Since there are 6 spots for citizens in each of the main buildings, there will be 2 spots free after this initial placement (with four players). These are filled with neutral citizens (gray meeples).

Each player also gets some money (deniers) and some influence points that are tracked on the board.

Now the players are all set up to start the game. The amount of rounds varies depending on how many players are in the game, but for four players its 6 rounds.

A normal round


Phase 0 - Reveal the Activity cards
In the first three rounds an activity card is turned over for each of the three prominent domains. These represent actions the player can access, more on these later.
This means that the amount of available actions grows during the game. The cards that can be turned over in round one and two seems to be focused on enhancing efficiency and the cards that can be turned over in round three seems to be focused on victory point scoring.

Phase 1 - Income and salaries
Each player recieves 10 deniers and then have to pay their citizens in the palace (2 deniers each)
and the bishopric (1 denier each). The citizens in the city hall are free.

Phase 2 - Activation of workforce
For each citizen a player has in the main buildings, that player recieves a dice of the corresponding colour. In the first round after the initial placement each player has 4 dice (in a four player game). These dice are rolled and placed in the players corresponding city districts (the one closest to the player on the board. The start player then rolls the dice that the neutral citizens are eligible for and places these in a neutral city district.

Phase 3 - Events
In each round the start player draws a red event card and a yellow or white event card (the red card tells you what colour to draw. These event cards tells you to do different stuff, but most cards tells you to roll one or two black dice. There is also an event card that never leaves the board that tells you to roll a black die.
The start player sums up all the black dice on the event cards and rolls them. In turn order the players have to cancel these dice with their own dice.
The active player always have to counter the highest black die and you have to cancel at least one. For each pip on their own dice they can counter a pip on the black dice. The pips on the red dice are counted double though, so a red 5 can counter a black six and a black 4. For each black die countered, the active player gets 1 influence point. Since there can be fewer black dice than number of players and a player can counter more dice than one (more than one is optional though) it's often the case that only the start player and the player after counter these dice.

Phase 4 - Actions

In player order the players puts together groups of 1-3 dice to execute different actions. You can buy dice from the other players (even the neutral dice) so you are not limited to your own dice either. The more dice you use, the more they cost, using this scale:
Group of one die: 2 denier/die
Group of two dice: 4 denier/die
Group of three dice: 6 denier/die
Your own dice are free.
This means that buying three dice from other players costs 18 deniers.

After using a group of dice for an action it's the next player's turn. This goes round and round until there are no more dice left or all have passed. The city districts are formed like a rondel so it's easy to see whose turn it is.
Now, what actions can a player do?

1- Activate one Activity card from the city
This means you activate one of the activity cards that are turned up after phase 0 of the first three rounds. To activate it you have to put a citizen on it for a cost of deniers stated on the card. You also need to have a citizen in your pool to place there (you can add citizens to your pool for 2 influence points).
When you have put a citizen there, or if you allready have one there from a previous turn, you can activate the cost. Most costs are stated like (Group of dice/X), which means you divide the value of your group of dice with X and execute the card that many times.


For example there's a card that gives you a victory point and 2 deniers for each execution and the cost is (yellow dice/4), which means that if your group of yellow dice have a value of 12 you execute the card three times for 3 victory points and 6 deniers.
The first one or two citizens present on an activity card gives victory points at the end of the game.
Some activity cards have an hour glass icon on them. For each execution of these cards you put a cube of your colour on it. You can then remove a cube from this card and execute it's ability to enhance another action later on.

2- Construct the Cathedral
Here you can use a group of white dice to help build the cathedral. The cathedral has three floors and each floor has 6 rooms (one of each value). Say you are the first to build there and use a white two, three and a five to build there. You then put a cube of your colour on the corresponding rooms on the first floor. Putting cubes here gives you influence points and victory points.

3- Combat the Events
The event cards are countered when the slots on them are filled. The event cards have a cost, just like the activity cards (group of dice/X). For each execution on an event card you put a cube on it (you get an influence point for each cube placed as well). The player with most (and second most) cubes on an event card when it's filled gets victory points according to the card. The winner also takes the card (one of the secret characters can give bonus victory points at the end of the game for these cards)

4- Place a citizen on a main building
Using a single die of a colour, you can replace a citizen in the corresponding main building. The different buildings have different rules of replacement. For example, the palace has a position for each value and if you use a red 3 to replace there, you replace the citizen on the red 3. The bishopric has two rows, one with even numbers, one with odd numbers. If you replace there with a white 3 you put your citizen on the first spot on the odd row and push away the last citizen on that row. The city hall has three rows: (1,6), (2,5) and (3,4). If you use a yellow tree to replace here you put your citizen on the first spot on the (3,4) row and push away the last citizen on that row.
If your citizen has been evicted this round you are immune to more replacements in that building during this round.

5- Use agriculture
Using a group of yellow dice you can convert these to deniers.

6- Pass
If there are dice left in the city but you decide there's nothing left for you to do, you pass and put 2 deniers in your city district. If you get another turn after this you add another denier to your city district.

When there's no more dice or all the players have passed this phase is over and the players that may have passed early take their money from their district.

Phase 5 - End of round
Each player takes his evicted citizens and puts them in front of him.
The next player clockwise form the start player is the new start player of the next round.


Using influence
A player can use their influence in addition to another action to do the following things:
Reroll one of their dice for 1 influence.
Add a citizen to their pool for 2 influence
Turn over 1-3 of their dice of any colour for 4 influence. A one is turned over to a six, a two is turned over to a five etcetera.

Game end
The game ends after six rounds (in a four player game).
In addition to the victory points you have allready earned from event cards, activity cards and building the cathedral, you get victory points for the first two citizens (some cards only the first though) on an activity card, any event cards still active you have cubes on and the secret character cards.


These secret character cards are turned over at the end of the game and all the players gets points from them. These cards can be for example: 1 point if you have 6-11 deniers left, 3 points if you have 12-17 deniers and 6 points if you have 18 or more deniers.
The secret character cards adds a bit on unknown score criteria to the game, but you might be able to guess what character cards the other players have so you can plan accordingly, and since everyone score for them they work pretty well.
The players also get -2 points for each floor of the cathedral they didn't contribute to.

Replayability
Since the activity cards and event cards are randomized I suspect that the game has good replayability value. Some of the cards can interract with other cards in interesting ways. The activity cards that come up in round three have a high impact on how you can score as well. For example, if a card that let you convert denier to victory points come up, a denier focused strategy is stronger. But all ways to score are visible at the beginning of round three (except for the secret character cards), and in a 4-player this means only a third of the game has passed.
The way that the players have to counter the black dice also impacts on what dice are available for the main action phase.
I also guess that it's easy to add expansions to Troyes by adding more activity cards or event cards. The secret character cards also add a nice twist to the game by hiding some of the ways you can score from.

Opinion
I've only played once, and we played some minor rules wrong, so it wasn't entirely a correct game either. But I felt that it was a very interesting game. The semi-shared dice mechanic worked very well and you had lots of options to diversify from the other players.
I have a suspicion that it's a better game with three players though, since a turn where everyone uses several dice each in a four player game empties the dice pool really quick. If you allready have lost some dice to counter the black dice, it means you might not have that many options for your second action turn since there's only 18 dice available each round.
We played with too much money added to the game though so this might have had an impact on the players' option to buy dice from other players.

Some thoughts on randomness
Gaaah, dice! you might say. I never felt as if it impacted the game that much though. You can use influence to turn your dice upside down, so three ones can be turned over to three sixes. You can have good use of a single low die as well, so it never felt that there was too much randomness in the game. We rolled high when we rolled the black dice though so we often lost some red dice countering these which meant we couldn't finish off the events and we often needed to roll 6 black dice which hurt us some, but it hurt all of us so it evened out.

Rating
I rate it a 9 after my initial play.
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Alain Orban
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Very nice !!!!thumbsuplaugh
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Marcus E.-L.
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Thank you! Nice review.
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Mary Weisbeck
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Very good review. The addition of pictures and the rules review make it very helpful. This is at the top of my wishlist!
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Thanks for the review. I will be crossing this off my list as I have decided that I won't be buying cards with hidden victory conditions anymore. I realize that most people don't have an issue with them, but there is so much out there to buy and I've really been disappointed with some of the games with this mechanic.
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Rich P
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jschlickbernd wrote:
Thanks for the review. I will be crossing this off my list as I have decided that I won't be buying cards with hidden victory conditions anymore. I realize that most people don't have an issue with them, but there is so much out there to buy and I've really been disappointed with some of the games with this mechanic.


I came to the opposite realisation the other day. I actually really like hidden victory conditions. I enjoy the feeling of being sneaky about where I'm getting my VPs, even if it's probably obvious to the other players what my secret card is! That's just another reason why I'm really looking forward to Troyes.
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Kurt R
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jschlickbernd wrote:
Thanks for the review. I will be crossing this off my list as I have decided that I won't be buying cards with hidden victory conditions anymore. I realize that most people don't have an issue with them, but there is so much out there to buy and I've really been disappointed with some of the games with this mechanic.

I don't like that mechanic either, but I believe here everyone scores, kinda like the bonus cards in Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization. That mitigates things for me.
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Jesse Dean
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Absolutely. It is sort of like Container in the respect that actively finding out what other people's cards are will help you more effectively win. In Container's case it is so that you can put together good sets that other people like. In Troyes' case, it allows you to score off of other people's hiden bonus scoring cards. I think it sounds neat.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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So it's not a Jack in a box kind of thing where you think you're winning until the hidden cards come out and then you find out you're last?

(You guys are supposed to be talking me OUT of this game, not into it I'm already having to sell off games just to afford what I've already ordered!!).
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Richard Dewsbery
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No, not really. If player A holds a particular "mission" card, he will score bonus points at the end of the game for fulfilling his mission - but everyone else will *also* score bonus points if they fulfil player A's mission too. So it's quite possible for *everyone* to score the bonus points indicated on one player's cards. You just have to correctly guess which of the 6 or 8 (I forget how many) VP cards are in play, which can often be deduced from how the players are playing(someone builds a lot of cathedral? It's a pretty good bet that they have that as their VP card, and it's time for you to do the same to get some of that bonus for yourself). I thought that this was a much better idea than the usual "hidden objective" mechanic.
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Jennifer Schlickbernd
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Hmm, that sounds more interesting. (Looks in wallet. Sees no money ). I'm probably going to have to wait until an American publisher picks it up. I emailed one of the Italian retailers selling it and it would cost nearly $100 to be shipped airmail to me and that's just too much. It would be $75 surface but who knows when it would get here and that's still a lot of money.

Thanks everyone and thanks for the review!

meeple
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Andrew Foerster
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Additionally, from my understanding of the rules, it seems like you could exclude the character cards without disrupting the gameplay otherwise.
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Derek Carver
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Quote:
I will be crossing this off my list as I have decided that I won't be buying cards with hidden victory conditions anymore.


I can well understand your point Jennifer - I usually share your objection to these cards. But don't miss a good game for such a small point. Often these are put in to keep players intersted until the end - not knowing precisely who is winning. Simply omit the objective cards. The game won't suffer in the slightest. I gave our players the option to do this. (I have to say that my highly critical group very much enjoyed it)
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Kurt R
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jschlickbernd wrote:
So it's not a Jack in a box kind of thing where you think you're winning until the hidden cards come out and then you find out you're last?

(You guys are supposed to be talking me OUT of this game, not into it I'm already having to sell off games just to afford what I've already ordered!!).

That describes my play of Egizia precisely.
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A. B. West
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Awesome review, thanks! Well done going through the game in some detail - really appreciated that. I think I actually understand the game now and it sounds pretty great.
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Carl Johan Ragnarsson
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jschlickbernd wrote:
So it's not a Jack in a box kind of thing where you think you're winning until the hidden cards come out and then you find out you're last?

(You guys are supposed to be talking me OUT of this game, not into it I'm already having to sell off games just to afford what I've already ordered!!).


First of all, it definitely is not. It's just a few extra points (up to 6 per card) out of perhaps 30-50.

But, more importantly, the cards almost feel like an afterthought, as they are not very much connected to the base mechanics of the game. Therefore, playing with one (or several) open goals, hidden goals or no goals at all does not affect or change the game all that much.
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Jonatan Lind
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Thank you all for your kind words.
The review is a bit rule heavy, but I think that might be in order since it's a new game and there are no other reviews yet.
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Derek Carver
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I'm probably going to have to wait until an American publisher picks it up. I emailed one of the Italian retailers selling it and it would cost nearly $100 to be shipped airmail to me and that's just too much. It would be $75 surface but who knows when it would get here and that's still a lot of money.


I know we're veering right off-topic Jennifer but I don't know where your Italian retailer is getting his prices from. Perhaps he doesn't want your order (it is, after all, a French game I assume).

The game weighs (on our kitchen scales) 1134g. To send airmail to the US from the UK would cost $22.16 and by surface $7.98. But, of course, it would need to be put into a protective outer carton. Assuming this weighs 400g it would add about $8 to the airmail charge and about $5 to the surface.

I suggest you contact a UK supplier - and would propose Boardgameguru.co.uk He hasn't got the games in yet but I'm sure will be having them.

- Derek
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Jonatan Lind
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I think I read in the forums that one of the designers said that Z-man will distribute this in the US.
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Jesse Dean
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That is absolutely correct.
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Geoff Burkman
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I just got the chance to play this baby 3-player last night, and it will absolutely be going on my wish list. It struck me as a fine, fine game.

Very nice review, too, btw!
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