Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tumbling through Troyes

[I'm on vacation, so I scheduled this post on my early impressions of Troyes to publish while I'm away.]

I put Troyes (designers Sebastien Dujardin, Xavier Georges, and Alain Orban; artist Alexandre Roche; publisher Z-man Games) on my Christmas wish list based largely on Ender Wiggins' description as "perhaps the best medium-weight game for Euro gamers that emerged in 2010."  So far I've only had three sessions, all of them two-player with my wife.  We only got through one or two rounds the first time, and I don't think we finished the second time either, but one recent evening we got all the way to the end, despite ourselves.

I can see the appeal of this game to the Euro crowd.  Players are dealing in dice in three colors, influence points, deniers (money), meeples, and victory points.  Actions involve frequent exchanges among the different elements - spending influence to modify dice, using dice to obtain influence, using dice to acquire money, spending money to obtain dice, spending influence to obtain meeples, spending money to move meeples to take actions ... The astute reader will have caught on by now that Troyes is steeped in the Euro practice of resource optimization among disparate parameters.  As a dice placement game, Troyes adds dice luck to the mix.

The activity cards in three categories - clerical, military, and civil - provide the primary engines for converting dice (the workforce) into money, points, influence, or even modifications to other dice, with varying degrees of efficiency.  We are still new to the game and trying to grasp the activity card symbols relative to their actual functions; as it is, we refer to the Appendix page every time a new card is turned up to be sure we understand how it works.
My orange meeples executing my strong military strategy - three in the castle plus the Diplomat and Troubadour

One source of confusion to us early on is the pricing for purchasing dice from other players or from the neutral district to use in your own activity.  The important thing to remember before buying any dice is that for any given action, a player may opt to use one, two, or three dice.
  • If one die will be used, the price of buying a die is two deniers.  
  • If two dice will be used in the action, the price for each die purchased will be four deniers.  Note that purchased dice may be combined with a player's own dice to complete an action.
    So for example, if I want to use two dice to conduct an action - one of my own, and one that I purchase from a neutral district - then I have to pay four deniers for the die that I purchase.  (That one die would only have cost two deniers if it was the only die that I used in my action, but the fact that I am using it as part of an action involving two dice means that the price for the purchased die is four deniers.)
    If I want to purchase two dice to perform an action, the price of each die is four deniers, and so the total cost is eight deniers.
  • If three dice will be used in the action, the price for each die purchased is six deniers.
    If I'm only buying one die and combining it with two of my own to complete a three-die action, then the cost of the die that I buy is six deniers.
    If I'm using one of my own dice and buying two more, the price of each is six deniers, and so the total cost to me is 12 deniers.
    If I'm buying three dice to use in a three-die action, then the total cost is 18 deniers.
An aspect of Troyes that I've really come to appreciate even in the few games that I've played is the great potential for replayability.  In any given game, there are nine actions available by the third round - three clerical, three military, and three civil.  But the first, second, and third actions in each category can be very different from one game to the next, so the combinations of options (and the interplay among the options) make for many different possible decision spaces.  Unlike Agricola, in which you can anticipate the same 14 action spaces to come out in roughly the same sequence every game, Troyes offers the numerous possibilities of multiple combinations.  That random configuration makes for a game requiring fluid strategy and flexible approach to make the most of available options.

So while my wife has developed something of a dislike for dice-placement games (another being Roma), I'm hoping to get an opportunity to explore Troyes further and understand how it comes together.

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