Reviewer Chris Globus
Designers Michael Kiesling, Wolfgang Kramer
“Have fun storming the castle!” – Miracle Max
There are certain games that are their own thing, the kind of game that when you are asked what it’s like, you can’t compare it to “Risk on steroids” or “Monopoly, but balanced”. Torres is one of those games. I went from being completely unaware of this games existence to a huge fan in the space of a weekend.
Torres is a game of expanding Castles. You start the game with eight Castles on predetermined locations, and each player places one of their Knights on one of the Castles, one per. The player who last places their Knight also places the King, who can provide bonus points.
Players also have a deck of Action cards, used to do things in addition to normal play, as well as a number of Towers composed of Castle Building blocks.
On a given turn, a player has five action points, that can be spent to perform a variety of action. You can spend an AP to move a Knight one space, or use two to create a new Knight. You can buy an Action card for one AP, or play one for zero AP. You can use an AP to expand any Castle by one block, whether that means expanding its base or increasing its height.
And here is where things start to take off. A Castle may not be taller than its base. At the start, all Castles are one by one, one base by one height. Want to add a block to the height? You first must add to the base, so for two AP, you can add the first to the base, then the second to on top of an existing block, and the Castle will be two by two. In this way, you will increase your points at the end of the round, or Year. You want to do this, followed by moving your Knight up the Castle, because your points are equal to the height that the Knight is on, times the base size. In our example, once you have moved your Knight onto the second level, you would receive four points at the end of the Year, two times two.
Each Year is divided into Seasons, tracked by the Towers you have in front of you. In a four player game, you start with four Towers with two blocks each, and the first Year has four seasons (Later Years have three Seasons). In any given Season, you may only play the blocks from the current Season (Any blocks remaining at the end of your turn must be redistributed to your remaining Towers). Using our previous example, two AP were used to add to a Castle, and we’ll use one more to move the Knight up. We could then place a new Knight, or buy two Action cards (You may not use Action cards in the same Season they are purchased, so you’ll save those for a later turn. Once used, an Action card will not be available for the rest of the game. Plan accordingly).
Still with me? This game has many moving parts, and while they may not feel immediately intuitive, and we made a couple mistakes that required restarting our game, but by the end we all had a firm grasp.
There are a variety of strategy elements. A Castle may not touch another Castle, except diagonally, so expanding your base in a particular direction can block another player’s building plan. However, any Knight can occupy any unoccupied space, allowing other players to leech off your Castle (No player actually owns any Castle, but you will get possessive, as only one of each player’s Knights can score in each Castle, and you will be putting in the work to expand where you believe it’s most profitable).
No pawn can move through another pawn, whether that be the Knights or the King. Will you place your Knight in a blocking position, or will you try to score?
The rulebook has excellent examples of all the elements. I won’t get into all the details, but movement has a variety of factors that are clearly illustrated, and the Action cards have a player aid to explain what each card does. The mistakes we made are purely our fault, as rereading the relevant sections clarified everything. There are also some interesting variant rules.
Imagine, if you will, an abstract Renaissance era game, with carved stone or wood pieces, played on a lacquered board. Now, render that in plastic. It’s attractive, and I have no complaints. I can see someone creating a deluxe model, or painting the pieces, as they have clear detail.
There’s a bit of a dexterity game here, that may put some people off. The blocks are light, and while they lock together well, getting them in place as the board fills can be awkward. The Knights have a small base in relation to their height, making them prone to tipping. All of this can be mitigated by having your players with the nimblest fingers place the pieces.
The box lid was very tight on my copy. I had to flex it a bit. This may cease to be an issue over time, but it’s there.
This is absolutely a Buy. This game has all the elements to make it a classic. If it gains enough traction, I can see this on the shelves of standard retailers, and could get to be associated with Risk or other games non-gamers will have on their shelves.
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