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{Voice of Incompetence} Tigris & Euphrates: Lazy Man's Chess based on 15-20 plays (REPOST)


Game Facts

Box Cover



Tigris & Euphrates is an incredibly well known game currently ranked 15th overall in the BGG rankings, though only... 18th ... in the strategic rankings but given that it is now coming up to its 15th birthday, I think its testament to its long term value and overall excellence that it still rides in the charts over here, and indeed is well thought of on several other board game related websites ninja.

13705 people have deigned to rate it (not including me, but assume I am giving it an "11"), with a BGG weighted average of 7.88 out of 10. 1790 people rate this a perfect ten (and 38 very stupid people rate it a 1 would you believe)

Its listed with a weight rating of 3.5 which I think is fair, but its a gam where the depth is real, and not padded by extraneous rules overhead and complexity. This is closer to chess with a handful of rules that combine to create a world with emergent gameplay created entirely by the combatants.

Despite its incredible popularity, and indeed, its rumored role in bringing together the founders of this site, it's a game that a lot of people don't care for, and there are a number of common complaints about its lack of theme, its dryness, its difficulty and complexity, its reliance on randomly drawn red tiles... all things that I just can't see how it's possible to believe if you've actually given the game a fair shot. OK, I'm biased because although I had preconceptions that kept me away from this for too long, at least I could see on my first play that this game was one that was going to get its hooks .. real deep, and it did. I think about this game a lot, and I always want to play it. I rate it an 11, fools.

Here's what our founders have to say about the game in their comments, obviously alongside a rating of 10.0

Derk
Probably the only game that I can unreservedly give a rating of 10, without any thoughts of it dropping.
Aldie
Quote:
Best game I own. I love playing it every single time.


I thought I'd contrast this with the current lowest rating, no names named, but I love that this guy has used the incredibly precise 1.4013 e-45, so obviously it had something going for it to avoid the big -infinity. Sir, you are a fool with an axe to grind and you've missed out on a great experience by giving up after only half a play. I particularly liked the insightful comment that went with it

Quote:
Avoid this game. Unless you like unusual game mechanics (which is the only reason I bought it, a quirky flaw in my nature). The rich get richer and the poor stay poor.


Well, prepare yourselves for the weird and wonderful world of unusual game mechanics such as laying colored tiles on a grid, because this one's a doozy my friends!

P.S: It received a nomination for Spiel des Jahres in 1998 but it was beaten by Elfenland. shake yuk


Blurb courtesy of BGG
Quote:
Regarded by many as Reiner Knizia's masterpiece, the game is set in the ancient fertile crescent with players building civilizations through tile placement. Players are given four different leaders: farming, trading, religion, and government. The leaders are used to collect victory points in these same categories. However, your score at the end of the game is the number of points in your weakest category, which encourages players not to get overly specialized. Conflict arises when civilizations connect on the board, i.e., external conflicts, with only one leader of each type surviving such a conflict. Leaders can also be replaced within a civilization through internal conflicts.
NOTE: More recent editions of the game by Mayfair and Pegasus (possibly among other publishers) contain a double sided board and extra components for playing the advanced version of the game.
Part of what is considered Reiner Knizia's tile-laying trilogy.
The Hans im Glück version states it is for 2-4 players; the Mayfair Games version states it is for 3-4 players.


PLEASE NOTE: This is a LONG review, over 20,000 words long and has become somewhat of a manic labour of love at the last minute since I wrote it between 4pm and 3am on Sunday 27th and 10am and 5 pm on Monday 28th, the best part of a whole day, I just hope it was time well spent. For those who want to skip right to the meat, I suggest scrolling down to the two large sections picked out in quotes, for those with nothing better to do, keep reading.....


Introduction


As I mentioned in one of the geek lists displaying the entries in this competition, I am a bit uncomfortable with the implication of "voice of experience", both from the aspect of the sub context that somehow this review should be expected to be 'a little bit higher quality than the norm', but mainly from the assumption that 10 plays is enough to provide a more worthy opinion than just a single play. It might be true to some extent that a good handful of plays gets you past the rules errors, or blatantly obvious strategic or tactical boo boos, but as I pointed out there, I would not be rushing to the front of the queue to buy tickets to listen to a Voice of Experience review on Chess after 10 plays. I think I'd probably sigh, and then chuckle a bit. I daresay there are many experienced and expert gamers here who could present a much better overview of this wonderful game (Editor: what? you're half a paragraph in before actually mentioning the subject of the review!) based on even a single play, or even a reading of the rules, so I feel very uncomfortable with the expectation of a higher quality review. Please don't mistake this as a faux modesty trying to garner extra votes or appreciation, I mean simply this. There are some games that ask you, in fact, demand you play many, many, many times before you can really speak from a "voice of experience". In general, for my own part, I'm finding that these kinds of games are the ones I'm gravitating towards, games that flash their knickers at you and leave you thinking about them, but always keeping you at arms length as you struggle to unravel the wonderful mesh of mechanics, theme and interaction that's driven by the players, and a simple set of rules (I think the word the pro´s use is "Elegant"). Tigris & Euphrates is one such game, and while I've completely fallen in love with it (such that if I had to choose, I would pick it as the one game to save from my collection and take to a desert island), and even though I've quickly spotted some of the tactics, strategies and dynamics that drive it, I just don't know if I can do this game justice.

So, with that in mind, why should I even bother? Well, there are a lot of things about this hobby, I guess not exclusive to board gaming that I find a bit… troublesome, the OCD like behavior that seems to drive many, this obsession with churning through new games, a new game every time you sit to the table, thousands of games on the shelf, hundreds unplayed, games tossed to one side after a play before you even get to the point of understanding it, having 50 games that all do the same thing but have a different shaped meeple. I have been guilty of many of this, I've bought the whole set of expansions for games I never even got round to playing, I've bought games based on fantastical hypothetical situations where imaginary gaming group friends that I don't have come round and "might like to try a Pirate Memory Game" (sorry to those of you who don't get the Little Britain reference), in short I've gone through all these kinds of phases which the more I reflect upon them, the more I realize is really not what I want out of the hobby, and not what I think is healthy both in terms of the games themselves but on a personal and moral level. I do not say this to criticize anyone else's choices, only to illustrate my own feelings, and to try to illustrate how, over the past 2 years I guess, which I call my "BGG" phase, I've really changed drastically in terms of what I like out of games, what I want out of games, and what I understand about myself. I think it's important to go through this yourself, and not let anyone else tell you "you're doing it wrong".

And this is hopefully where I get to some kind of point. It's incredibly easy to fall into the trap of reading reviews and reports here, and be sucked into thinking this or that game is completely awesome and you should get it, likewise, it's incredibly easy to read some comments that are quite negative and be carried along in a self fulfilling prejudgement about what this or that game is. Maybe I am more susceptible than others, but I've found that many times I feel that I have incredibly strong feelings about games that I've NEVER played, based purely on what I've read other people say. The problem with that comes when a game you expect to be one thing turns out not to live up to it and you are disappointed, even if that game might have been great for you if you'd discovered it in a better way. Worst of all is when you lack the filtering skills to avoid being put off by labels and keywords that need reinforcing only a few times before you accept them as fact. Agricola is fiddly and the rulebook is terrible, get the game, open the box, scatter the 15,000 components on the table, see some of the fine print rules at the back and think, shit, they were right, I can't be bothered with this. Result, trade away unplayed. Thankfully, in no small part to Ryan Sturm's How to Play podcast I realized it wasn't at all difficult or unintuitive, and 125+plays later it remains one of our very favorite games. This kind of thing has happened to me so many times, and it's actually quite terrifying. What if I'd not bothered with these games, sure, I wouldn't necessarily know what I was missing, but I've had so much fun from my games it's a bit painful to think that many of them might never have been given a fair run.

And now, (Editor: finally, sheesh) this is where Tigris & Euphrates comes in the door. Of course its reputation is massive, and it remains well liked and well appreciated, but there are a number of 'red herrings' that can and did serve as warning flags for a long time. As a result, the copy of T&E I have on my shelf is AT LEAST the 4th or 5th copy I have actually owned, the rest have been bought (usually after tussling with reading the positive reviews, thinking, well it MUST be a worthwhile game to try) and then sold or traded, because "the rules are very complicated", "the theme is totally tacked on, boring and dry", "it's way too random and all about getting red tiles", "it sucks for 2 players". Well, thank goodness that somehow I managed to finally just sit the hell down and open this one up, because I can tell you that after our very first play of this game which I can only really describe with the very uncritical and very unscientific term we know as "WHOAH". I should take the time to thank UvulaBob a.k.a Paul Springer for his wonderful Flash Based Review thingy (and let's fact it, someone should have thrown some money at this guy to keep making his game review videos, which to me still represent the perfect presentation I've ever seen in any review), which like Ryan's podcast got me to thinking, hang on, this doesn't look at all bad, in fact, I bet this could be pretty freaking awesome. And it was! And it is! And more! I should also like to thank some of my fellow GCL Meatball members, in particular Martin Griffiths (aka competition boss, aka, it never hurts to name drop in a competition, right!), Nate Straight for their support of this game and for their part in encouraging to find my own agreement with them, and I'll say again, that after racking up several hundred board games, even if I didn't play them all, and after a rapid rise from the beginnings of games like Pandemic, Lost Cities, Stone Age through to Splotter, Winsome, Wallace in pretty good order, this currently ranks as my very favorite game (again, I know there is no critical value in this statement, but damn I wanted to say it loud and proud). I'm blessed with a beautiful and kind hearted Swedish wife (who wouldn't want one of those), and while she enjoyed our first few plaays, it was only when we tried out the iOS port that she also had her own "WHOAH" moment, that is, she saw what I saw, that this game is a game that will be a regular part of our gaming lives from this point forth, and it will take a very special title to displace this from the top of our list.

For such a simple set of rules, and such a limited set of options on each turn, the game just throws the players together and steps back out of the way to let you get on with it (I stole that line from someone on BGG, but can't remember who, apologies if it was you). Other one liners include something that we felt, but Nate probably said best which paraphrased was that the genius of this game (and Knizia in general if I'm honest) is that there's no obfuscation in the game, it's clear what you can do, it might even be clear what you should do, but somehow you can't quite do everything you want to do, and somehow each game manages to have a different feel, each game the board develops and changes in different ways, despite it basically being "put a couple of tiles down in 4 colors and get points from it".

In the review (Editor: what, you've not even STARTED yet!) I'll try to explain why I think T&E is like The Holy Trinity of board gaming because it's a Euro game, it's an abstract game, and yeah, it's a full in your face Thematic Trashy Wargame. It stands head and shoulders above this frankly tiresome procession of games that equate "rules complexity, exception complexity, pointless thematic integration of mechanics that don't suit it" with "deep" and "meritorious". It's unashamedly simple in how it works, yet incredibly complex in how it develops, and while there are games that might sit alongside it for this or that reason, there's no game really quite like it, and it absolutely is a "lifestyle" game that you can play repeatedly. For ever. And that's a mighty long time. And there's something else. The afterworld. What some people might see as a flaw (the randomness in the tile draw), I think actually gives it a quality which in fact improves the replayability, and increases its claim to be the real "chess killer" of our times, in board game clothing. I'll get back to that!


Who am I?

You only need to look at my game collection here to realize I'm, arm, impulsive, to say the least. I doubt there are many more people with a higher degree of churn than me, and when you factor in that many of the games I own or have owned before actually came in and out of my collection many times, the reality is probably closer to something like 1000 previously owned items, and now I own about 25. I play primarily with 2 players, my wonderful wife being the lucky recipient of both my company, and my incredible gameplay buffoonery. Its always nice to be the one in the family who spends countless hours on BGG (at least before our son arrived), reading, researching, discussing, then sets the game up and generally gets crushed the first few times we play before I even get a sniff of how to play properly. We came to "BGG" quite late on, and probably we are about 2 years in, again, pretty freaky if you match that alongside my collection churn. While Petra is pretty happy to play more or less anything with me (even if she has her favorites), it's me that's undergone a pretty steep change in which games I enjoy, and understanding what I enjoy (and it's not as easy as it should be!), so I've gone from the usual middleweight gateway games and family euros to more complex, deep and involved weighty euros, and finally realizing that a lot of those games are impostors and are actually just overwrought abstractions that disguise what's going on with smoke and mirrors hoping you won't notice and will instead marvel at just how clever they are.

So now I've come to a point where I like games that have a light overhead in terms of rules and exceptions "low fiddle factor" but have "emergent gameplay", i.e. it's not the rules steering what happens, it's what the players do to each other. I'm getting more and more of an affinity for what I call "classic" or "golden age" euros, the games that came after Settlers of Catan, but when it was still "OK" to base a game around 1 or 2 mechanics or ideas (thanks Sid Sackson), and let the players define the game, strange that in my opinion games got more and more away from this ideal, and in general, it feels like far too few designers are bold enough to come up with simple concepts, and instead prefer to stuff thousands of cards, huge rulebooks, ginormous available action trees, obfuscated mechanics and it seems to be a recursive spiral as games tend to follow on from what went before. I think somewhere it went wrong, and now the bulk of the hobby is filled with pointless wastes of time that don't hold a candle to the clean, surgical, brutal simplicity of a game like Tigris. (Editor: oooh, now you're a fan, you can start to use abbreviated labels for it!) I don't know if its this horrendous Cult of the New syndrome that, alongside the explosion in board game output, has created an entire philosophy of gaming that treats designs as play once and cast aside, oo, that was a cool theme, oo, that was a nice "twist" on that mechanic. Bah humbug. Grow some balls. Find a theme, or a mechanic, boil it down to its essentials and don't be ashamed to let the players drive the show. I've had goodness knows how many run ins with the one known as "clear claw", but I'll credit him with saying this long ago when a discussion about Knizia's use of theme (I think in relation to Samurai). And to give him his druthers, it's one of the most insightful things I've read about board gaming, and it's a concept fulfilled in spades by Tigris.

I have a wide range of tastes, and for example have a huge affinity for stats based sports games featuring charts and tables, and card based lookups, I was an active component in continuing the development of Statis Pro Football when the product folded under the weight of greed from the NFL and Players agents, I'm keen on war-games, but since they're not as appealing to the wife, have not explored as fully as I would like to, and I have an interest in abstracts, though I'm constantly struggling with the problem of having games that don't feel trivial or pointless against games that require a lifetime of study and almost single handed pursuit to enjoy. I also enjoy the immersive experience of what might be called "ameritrash" games. "Dudes in a corridor" for example is a genre I've loved from afar, and am incredibly excited to play with my son when he's old enough (and hopefully willing enough). In other words, I have a pretty broad taste, but a somewhat jaded view of the hobby which has come in just the 2 years. Now I want games that fascinate me from the very first play, whether or not I grasp it, I want there to be a spark of "whoa" in there, I want to go away and be thinking about how good this game might be in the future, a game that I actively anticipate playing again and again and again. I don't want any part of Cult of the New, or Cult of the play and discard. I want games that don't batter me round the head with obstructions to getting in and playing it, have elegant, simple rules that allow the game itself to be created by the players, and I want it to poke its tongue out and say "oi! it's clever this isn't it, you don't get it do you? No, and you never will, so you'd better keep playing it then and hope you get a bit better, cos I'm even better than you realize!". I think I have a pretty good eye for this now, and again, you need to "walk the walk" first before you get to that point. I've played a couple of games recently (names hidden to protect the innocent), quite pleasant, cute theme, probably could be a bit cheeky with a full table of players, but totally lacking in anything that made you think wow, I can't wait to get this to the table again and start working it out. Perhaps more than any other game in my collection, Tigris is that game (even though I have high hopes for several other titles on my shelf too).

So, my perspective comes from a mainly 2P environment, somewhat experienced in terms of exposure to the hobby, not by any means an accomplished gamer, and despite us both doing a very intellectual and technical job, are not the types that have the patience nor inclination to seek gaming experiences that require hours of reflection in near silence to grasp the concepts. I feel like I've found a pretty comfortable slot exploring classic, elegantly designed games that have high replay value, and although the wife is quite happy to turtle in games and let us "do our stuff" on the other side of the board, I'm constantly looking for games that allow you to go head to head and "play mean" but not in a way that feels petty (someone wrote here once, probably one of the Eclipse GCL guys, or was it Richard Ham, that his wife took umbrage to direct conflict meanness in games where you're "building shit" because it was just deflating to spend time and effort to create something and then see it torn down. The bad news about Tigris is that you're really not playing the game if you're in turtle mode (and just to be clear, we're quite happy to play what might be called "multiplayer solitaire" games), but the good news is the kind of conflict (Editor: ooh, is that foreshadowing?) in Tigris, and the dynamic way the "world" changes actually it makes sense to "get it on" and there's not really the same feeling of spending ages to build that awesome thing and losing it, it's more like the players are constantly expanding, moving, changing, adapting, attacking, defending, resculpturing the landscape each and every turn.

I've played this game around 15 times, with recent games played on the iPhone (and in about a week, on the iPad). I'm still fascinated by it, I still love it, I still think about it a lot, and still want to play it all the time. And I'm lucky to have a wonderful wife who feels the same.



Who are you?

Well, here's an important thing for me, especially in the context of my proviso's early on. Those of you who have played this great game many times, and have a vast body of experience about games in general may very well not find anything new here, but hopefully will not find it completely useless, and please feel free to comment. Nor will this probably be enough to draw in those of you that just dropped in from your last game and are on your way to the next new one. Don't expect a single play of this game to give you any answers, or 10 for that matter, but I think many of you will see what I saw even after 1 play and realize that here is a game that truly deserves some long term loving and will pay you back in spades. If you're like me and have gone through "The Evolution", as in 2 to 3 years here on BGG, thrown yourself into it, bought and tried far too many games, but without realizing slowly and steadily come to the conclusion that you want to spend time learning to play a handful of games properly and finding ones worthy of your attention, then hopefully this will be for you. And most of all, perhaps, I want you to be someone who like me was curious about this highly rated game that also generates plenty of negative opinion, somewhat polarizing, and seems to engender discussion in all the big forum smack downs, theme: what is it, what has it, what does it mean, whats the point of it, interaction. what is it, who wants it, where is it, depth: what is it, how do you get it, what is it good for. Absolutely everything!

Since you can literally try and play this game for free, I really hope that I will be able to reach out to those of you who are put off by some of the nonsense written about the games complexity, dryness, lack of theme and randomness. It's a game for the ages, an absolute classic, something you can teach in a few minutes to friends who don't spend half their life on BGG, and equally good to break out with the meeple stuffed Imperial Emperors of Game Theory.

Oh, and I should emphasize, that you do know that you can go and play this game RIGHT NOW for FREE. Right here on BGG. Yes, if you click the "misc" tag across the top, and click "tigris" you can view games running, some of which are automatically generated, some created, which you can join, or you can create your own games, open or private, for any number of players and on the standard or Nile map (created to be a bit tighter in a 2P environment). Do yourself a favor and give it a try, post in the forum for T&E and I'm sure you will find plenty of people willing to run you through a teaching game. Me included.

P.S. The reason that the about me section is longer than the section about you is just because I know me a bit better than I know you and I wanted you to be able to see if anything I say about my own tastes and experiences resonates with you. I really only want to share my enthusiasm and love for this game, and most of all to encourage more people to try it, especially those who might never have considered it, or might be feeling that there's something a bit "missing" in this glut of new games coming out every year, and those who've been put off by the naysaying and false prophets. Please don't take it personally



What is this game?

OK, I guess I need to take a step back from the blathering and give you a round up of what's going on in this game without resorting to a full regurgitation of the rulebook. Amusingly, I probably could regurgitate the rulebook, because it's that damned simple! You can keep the rules on one hand, and the exceptions on the other and still have fingers free to actually play the game.

So, the game is set amidst the rise of ancient civilizations growing, expanding, clashing, shrinking, fracturing, disappearing, all along the banks of the rivers Tigris & Euphrates. Hence the name. I'm not sure if the civilizations are supposed to represent the key players in a specific period in history, but here in this house we like to call them "The Lions" (not those pesky Lannisters), "The Archers" (but NOT those little fellows that hide behind the skirting boards on Radio 4, "The Potters" (no relation to Harry's family as far as we know, and "The Ass". I realize the asses are supposed to be bulls, but they don't look very bullish on our pieces. Also, please do not be put off by the fact that one of the factions is represented by a stupid ass vase. They still kick Ass. Especially when I'm playing the Ass and Petra is playing the potters. Ha, see what I did there. In my version of the rules, it does say we're in about 3000 BC with Babylon, Nineveh and Ur (which I think is a civilization and not like the rulebook writer was having a beavis and butthead moment) in ancient Mesoptomia.




Anyhoo, the map shows the rich fertile deltas around the confluence of these two great rivers, some versions have a double sided map to give you a different challenge, and it's probably worth mentioning that there is a somewhat unofficial "Nile" expansion map that's specifically designed to increase the action in 2P games by reducing the available area and throwing you together a bit quicker. To be honest, I'm not sure it's that necessary since you'll soon realize when you play this game that you need to always be on the lookout for crashing your civilizations into the other guys or sneaking into theirs with a bit of political unrest, so if you do just stick to your own corners in a 2P game on the bigger boards, well, you will almost certainly get bored of the game and you'd be missing out on a great experience. Don't do it. I know she looks ever so cute on the other side of the table, and I know he looks ever so sweet on the other side of the table, but get in there and show no mercy!

So, the map consists of a gridded layout, rather pleasant art and design, at least in my version which is the newer Mayfair double scenario edition (I had not realized earlier versions didn't have the double sided map). The two rivers flow across the board, all squares with river running through it are considered to be river spaces. The board contains several spaces showing a Sphinx character, these identify the starting temple (red tiles) positions which also all contain treasures (yellow cubes if you're feeling cynical).

Board



In front of you, are your leaders. You have 4 in total, 1 in each of the four colors which represent different areas of development, production, influence in your civilizations, namely Red (Temples), Blue (Farmers), Green (Traders), Black (Soldiers). Your faction is identified by the symbol on the wooden leader discs, so if you are "The Lion" you will have a red, blue, green and black Lion token (so you don't for example have all the green leaders for one player etc). These leaders you use to control and influence different kingdoms on the map, their strength in political revolts and wars determined quite simply in 2 different ways (which we'll get to). You also have a couple of disaster tiles that are openly displayed, and can be used at any time to "nuke" (use your imagination) a single square on the board. These can be used in wonderful ways I promise you. Your leaders by the way, we can call "The King" (black leader), "The Priest" (Red leader), "The Merchant" (green leader) and "The Farmer" (blue leader)
Leaders



On your tile rack (a la Scrabble) are your square tiles, that you draw from the bag, up to 6, refreshing at the end of each turn so you have 6 again (and one of the options you have in the game is to exchange all your tiles on your rack, an undervalued option particularly to new players), These are secret from everyone else, and will obviously be a combination of the four colors, red, blue, green, and black

Tiles



You'll also have some weird wooden blocks in the four colors that the observant among you will notice allows you create different combinations of "monuments". We'll discuss those later, but when you set them up, you need to make sure each one is a unique combo, the rulebook shows you the combos to make, which ensure that for each color, there is a monument including each of the other 3 colors.

Monuments



Finally, your scores are tracked by colored cubes in the four colors, the goal of the game to get the most complete SETS of the four colors, i.e. 1 red, 1 blue, 1 green and 1 black counts as exactly 1 point. Some folk get in a bit of a tizz with the knizia scoring method (seen in other games, e.g Samurai, Ingenious) where they tell you the color you have the worst score in is your final score, and it can be unintuitive to non gamers, but think of it in terms of sets and it makes a lot more sense. In the case of a tie, you just move to sets of 3 colors being equal to 1 point, and if tied, sets of 2 etc. Or maybe you just like it as they say in the rules. YOur lowest score counts first, in the case of ties, move to the next lowest score you have.

Cubes



The upshot is it's no good at all to have 100 red points if you have 0 blue points. Your score will be 0 and will be mocked for centuries, You need to build up evenly, or should I say, you need to plan to end up evenly, because it's certainly possible to plod up in each of the colors, OR surge ahead in 1 or 2 colors, use that advantage while you can and then get to work on your bad colors. Points can be gained one at a time or in clumps and while you might have problems with runaway leaders in your early games if you play someone who knows the game well, in general against similar level opponents, you should always be in with a chance of turning the game on its head with alarming speed. You also have a player screen to hide your VP cubes if you want to (the rulebook tells you to do this)


open and closed scoring
Now, it's worth making a tangent here, before we discuss how the game actually plays, how you actually get points to bring up an issue which is itself somewhat controversial in board gaming, that of hidden and open scoring, and in particular, when it's related to trackable information. Some players think that if you could in theory write down the scores as they change, then the game should display this openly, since not doing so only adds an unnecessary reliance on memory, and more importantly clouds the decisions being made in the game because you don't know exactly what the game state is. Others think that the spirit of these games is intended to provide exactly this "fog of war" and make it so that you need to pay attention to overall trends in scoring but without knowing exactly what the score is, leading to surprise results, often ill advised moves, and perhaps most importantly a lack of analysis paralysis (for those that don't know, meaning encouraging players to sit and mull for long periods over every move because they are calculating the permutations of perfect information). Hidden scoring advocates also like the aspect of having a feel for timing the end game push without perfect information (e.g. in Puerto Rico). I think that instead of there being a hard rule as proponents on both side like to loudly advocate, it depends ENTIRELY on the game in question, and the players in question. Some players prefer one or the other, some games pull off hidden scoring better (because the information is not easy to track quickly). Whether you or your group would tolerate someone saying "but I COULD write it down, so maybe I will stop the game each round and ask you all again what you scored and I will write it down" is up to you, to me it seems beyond ridiculous to state this as some kind of authoritative fact. I'm in the group of people who would NOT want to sit down with such a person in the first place. However, over time, I've come over more and more to the side of "if it's trackable, then show it" (e.g. El Grande castillo),

So how does it work with Tigris? Well, I would recommend you try it both ways and see which you prefer. With open scoring (which we tend to use on the iphone/ipad) then you're constantly aware of how strong or weak you and your opponent are in each area, and you can use that information to try and influence that in your favor whether you need to catch up, or prevent the other one from catching up. It definitely produces more focussed interaction because the scoring mechanic tells you right there and then what every player needs to try to do. On the other side (which we tend to play when we get the cardboard out) it's definitely a different feeling to try to keep a rough idea of where you are weak or strong compared to your opponents, but not sitting between turns reciting in your head all the scores…. I think you can have a good idea of where the opponents are strong and you can see where you yourself are weak, and the monuments (see later) as the point droppers also tend to identify strong points, it can be fun to do the final reveal and realize you've won, or indeed lost. I will say that because of the format of the game with random tile draws, there is an argument that perfect information is not really needed, since you can't guarantee getting the tiles you need, on the other hand, some might feel that the very fact you draw tiles randomly and might have to suck it up and deal with a bad hand means you should at least have the scoring open so the moves you do make have a chance of being somewhat controlled and optimal. To be honest, I think we prefer open scoring, quite a bit, but I would not turn down a game with hidden scoring either. As I said, you can easily try both and decide yourselves. (conflict avoiding couples might try closed scoring just to tone down the very directed confrontation borne out of scores being open). I will say that it can be quite tricky to keep track of scores even in 2P unless you're spending time doing it, and with more it's a real pain.
You want me to pick one, play with open scores, you want my advice? decide for yourself


Playing the Game aka "The Rules"

OK, now you know what's in the box, you know about the factions, the leaders and the four different colors which make up the different aspects of a growing civilization. You know you have 2 "nuke" tiles in hand, and you know that you are constantly drawing back to 6 tiles and these tiles and leaders go on this grid board featuring the rivers that give rise to the game's name.

In Game Shot



Here are the rules, boiled down to their essentials

You get 2 actions per turn, which can be the same action or 2 different ones, the actions being
Play a tile to the board
Play a leader to the board (or move a leader from a spot on the board to another)
Refresh your hand of tiles by setting aside your hand and drawing new tiles
so ….. Play a tile, Position a Leader, Change your tiles

Here are the restrictions:
Blue tiles can only go on river spaces. Nothing else can go on river spaces
Leaders must be placed adjacent to a red temple tile
Leaders of the same color cannot be in the same kingdom (a region of tiles containing 1 or more leaders)
Leaders cannot be placed on a space that joins 2 kingdoms, only tiles can join 2 kingdoms

Here are the exceptions:
monuments - if you place a tile to complete a 2 x 2 block in the same color (4 tiles), you can choose to build a monument that includes the color of the block of 4 (e.g. you can't build a blue-green monument from a block of 4 red tiles). The 4 tiles are placed face down (or removed if you like) and the monument placed there instead. These monuments are valuable point scoring engines but will attract the attention of greedy rival civilizations
treasures - at the end of a turn if there are any kingdoms containing more than 1 treasure and a "Merchant" (a green leader), the owner of that merchant takes all but 1 treasure from that kingdom, these treasures which are natural colored cubes count as wild card points and are thus incredibly valuable, not to mention being one of the key "timing triggers" for the game end
disasters - these can be played on any tile except on top of a treasure, leader or monument and basically "nuke" it - permanently, this tile can not be removed or overbuilt, and can be used to split kingdoms up, isolate leaders etc, remember all players have 2 so prepare for reprisals (or you may choose to play the random catastrophe variant, see below)

Conflicts: this is the meat and potatoes of the game, which I will come back to after describing scoring. Conflicts occur at any point when multiple leaders end up in the same kingdom and come in two different flavors.

and here's how you score:

Whenever you place a tile in a kingdom (which just means a leader is present, otherwise groups of tiles are called regions), a cube of the color of the tile will be awarded to the leader in that color in that kingdom, i.e. think of your leaders as "point sinks". With your red leader in a kingdom, if you place another red tile into the kingdom, a red cube is awarded to your red leader (i.e. you!). The same principle applies in all colors, but "The King" has a special bonus power (because he's the king and that, and he has all the soldiers so you do as he says). If a tile is placed and there is no leader of that color in the kingdom, it will still go to the black leader (King) in that kingdom, so he sucks up black cubes PLUS any colored cubes that don't have a leader there to grab them. If there is no matching leader in that kingdom, no VP cube is awarded.

At the end of a turn, monuments (two colors remember) kick out a VP cube in each of their 2 colors, to the leaders in that kingdom matching, which may be owned by the same player, 2 different players. Unfortunately for The King, he does not vacuum up colored cubes that don't have a leader to go to, so a blue and red monument gives a blue and red cube ONLY to the red and blue leader in that kingdom, and if those leaders are not present, no cubes are awarded, even if black leader is sat there. Because you can end up with multiple monuments in kingdoms, these can be huge point generators that supply VP cubes each turn, but at the same time, are obviously attractive targets for raiding civilizations. Another neat aspect of this (which you won't understand yet) is that the removal of those 4 tiles to make the monument also reduces the "war power" of the leader in that color in that kingdom (again, we'll get to conflicts shortly)

Whenever you claim treasures, these count towards your weakest color, i.e. they are a wild card color, so are used to boost the score of your weakest color. So they're worth a point each but more importantly, a point of whatever color you want (decided at game end, you don't need to nominate up front what they are - note to self: interesting variant idea?)

The final (and most important) way to score points is through conflicts, which is where leaders of the same color come into contact in the same kingdom either internally (game term: internal conflict, slightly more descriptive term: Political Revolt) or externally (game term: external conflict, slightly more descriptive term: War!). Revolts come about when a player places a leader directly into a kingdom containing a leader of the same color. Wars come about when some bugger puts a tile down which links two kingdoms (you can't place a tile that links 3 or 4 kingdoms) and as a result, the joined kingdom contains one or more leaders of the same color. Revolts actually only award red victory points, and usually only a handful, Wars can award victory points in all colors, and can often result in spectacular points windfalls.


GAME END
the game ends immediately when any player cannot refresh their hands up to the full 6 tiles, or there are 2 or less treasures left on the board


I think this illustrates that the rules and gameplay are incredibly simple, so why this reputation for difficult rules, and all this confusion about conflicts? The basic ideas are incredibly simple. Play a tile, send a cube of that color to the appropriate leader (or king) if present. Monuments send out a cube in each of their 2 colors at the end of each players turn. Treasures are wild card points and are collected by making kingdoms which have more than 1 treasure in them, and all but 1 of the treasures goes to the Merchant. Leaders need to be adjacent to temples (red tiles) presumably to receive the support of the influential priests in these ancient times. Disasters sometimes lay waste to an area of the world. Leaders of the same type can fight for power within a single kingdom (revolt), or they can fight for power between two rival kingdoms suddenly joined and these can lead to huge point swings, massive changes across the landscape of "the world".

One confusing thing is the leaders / colors. You are a civilization represented by an animal (or a vase, haha), colors represent elements within a civilization. Another slightly confusing thing is the black leader being called "The King" when that might be confusing since you have 4 leaders, yeah I know the king should be the one with the soldiers, but you could call him "The General" if you prefer to think of your leaders as all being Kings (honestly I know people who prefer this), but these are not reasons people get in a tizz, in my opinion..

Another concept that's a bit different is this idea that although you're placing tiles in kingdoms, they're not really "your" kingdoms, unless you have your leader in them, and you may have all your leaders in one kingdom, or you may have them in different kingdoms. "You" are the leaders, a family if you prefer to think of it like that, with political and military branches concerned with success in agriculture, religion, military and trading. You don't own the kingdoms, you see them grow, fracture, and fall, it's up to you to move your leaders around to best take advantage of the resources and progress provided by different kingdoms at different times

But I'll tell you why people really get in a tizz, I think its the incredibly badly chosen terms "External Conflict" and "Internal Conflict". Even though these terms make complete sense, I think "Revolt" and "War" would have been a much wiser choice because they are evocative of whats happening and in particular have a unique name, in the rulebook both are "conflicts" and I think this confuses, particularly because each works differently, and I know myself, I've been a cropper of mixing the two up when playing online after a long break from my last play (when I was on 2 or 3 plays total). So get it in your head that "Revolts" and "Wars" are the descriptive terms, and then this is how they work

CONFLICTS

"Fight on the Tigris" (ancient conflict song by Rocky Babylon)

Risin' up, by the Euphrates
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance now I'm back on my feet
Just a king and his will to survive

So many times it happens too fast
You trade your red tiles for glory
Don't lose your grip on your nice monuments
You must fight just to keep them alive

It's the fight of the tigris, it's the thrill of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival (the potter, haha)
And the last known survivor drops his tiles in the night
And he's watchin' us all while we fiiiiight.... on the Tigris

(instrumental harp solo)

Face to face, out in the heat
Hangin' tough, stayin' hungry
They stack the blue tiles, while we're facing defeat
For the kill with the skill to survive

It's the fight for the tigris, it's the thrill of the fight
Risin' up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor grabs his cubes in the night
And he's watchin' us all while we fiiiight... for the Tigris

(lute interlude)

The fight on the Tigris!
The fight on the Tigris!
The fight on the Tigris!
The fight on the Tigris!

In a "Revolt" two leaders of the same color have come into the same kingdom. Obviously this happens as a result of someone placing a leader into a kingdom that already has that color leader, so this only ever involves a single color, and 2 players. Remember leaders are adjacent to temples, the priests are providing support to the leaders and allowing them to become influential in the kingdom, the more adjacent temples the stronger the leaders influence. Each adjacent temple (minimum 1, maximum 4) is the "influence" of that leader. Because you can only place a leader adjacent to a temple, then the minimum "influence" of an attacking leader (the one wading into someone else's back yard) is 1, but could in theory be 4 (only really dumb leaders would leave a hole surrounded by 4 red tiles for someone else to come and squat in). Now the attacker decides how much support he will call from supporters of that temple, e.g. how many red tiles from his rack he wants to throw in to the revolt. Add this number to the influence of the leader for a final total. The current incumbent (nothing to do with cucumbers by the way) leader now decides how many red tiles to commit (if any), as the defender he needs only to tie to prevail, the attacker needs a higher total to win. The defender need not commit tiles if does not want to, even if this means he loses, and whatever the result, these added tiles are thrown away (not put back in the bag), and in fact this is a commonly used way to recycle your hand if you have lots of red tiles you don't want in your hand, you can throw them all into an external conflict even if you didn't need to add that many, and even if you still lose. (note the English variant as suggested in the rules stops some of this shenanigans). The winning leader now receives 1 red VP cube for the losing leader (who is unceremoniously booted from the board and returned to its owner).

In a "War" things are a bit more complex (potentially), here a tile has been placed that now joins 2 kingdoms containing 2 leaders in 1 or more colors (it's impossible for there to be more than 2 because of the rule that a tile can't join more than 2 kingdoms). It could be that only 1 color is disputed, or it could be that all 4 are. It could be that the player who placed the joining tile (which by the way is covered up by that unification tile you have in your box as a marker, you can take it away once the wars are over) is involved in some, all or none of the conflicts. The active player who caused this war decides which conflict to resolve first, i,e. which color (This is important because tiles are removed during wars and the newly split kingdoms may not be at war any more) If he has a leader in that color he is the attacker. If not, go clockwise from that player until you reach one of the players who does have a leader involved, and they are the attacker (It's important to identify the attacker because defenders win ties as in the revolts). Unlike revolts, wars are determined by "strength", which comes from the colored tiles matching the leader. Each tile is worth 1 strength, and again, the attacker can throw in tiles of that color (not red, unless its a war between 2 red leaders), to increase his strength and again the defender wins ties, and can add tiles from his rack to match the attack if needed. (and again, unless the English variant is in play, you can also use this to recycle tiles you might not want). Here the results are more devastating for the loser. Not only does he have to take back his leader in that color, but also every single tile of that color on their side of the war. The winner receives 1 VP cube in that color for the removed leader PLUS EACH removed tile, obviously this can be quite a large number when big kingdoms collide. The only exception here is with red leader wars. In this case, the loser does not remove red tiles with treasures on them, or red tiles adjacent to any other leaders. Clearly the Wars can result in big point awards, and noteworthy is the order of resolution is important and clever, because the removed tiles can cause splits in the kingdoms, sometimes a war that previously had 3 leaders going at it, the huge mess caused by the 1st war means that the other 2 wars are "cancelled" (those leaders are now no longer connected).


note: adjacency
please note "adjacency" in this game means edge to edge only, two tiles or two regions or two kingdoms that connect only with corner to corner junctions are not considered to be connected, and leaders adjacency to red tiles also means edge to edge, you can't place a leader such that only a corner of it joins to the corner of 1 or more red tiles. The first statement here will probably cause you problems early on as once the board gets busy, you might mistakenly think certain kingdoms are joined when in fact they only touch at corners, and so are independent, many a bloody and terrible war has been declared because of this in the Ambolt household. Another rules boo boo related to this is you can't place a leader to join two kingdoms, just be aware of this as it's easy to miss on a board, whereas the iOS app stops you doing it, as in sometimes you spot a lovely hole surrounded by red temples and want to drop a leader in there, but actually it then joins two kingdoms properly and leaders can't do that, remember!





OK, HERE's WHERE I TELL YOU HOW GREAT THIS GAME IS (Editor…. fell asleep 2000 words ago)

OK, I've still not really told you what's so great about this game and we're quite a way in, are you still with me. Good for you, go and get the kettle on for the rest of this lecture, and it is a lecture. (blatant Ricky Gervais reference, in a way). To do that, I'm going to break it down to a handful of key points


Quote:
Theme, and specifically I'm going to dispel your preconceptions and tell you how I realized that Tigris & Euphrates might be one of the most thematic games ever made, yep, I said it.


"Theme" in all its manifestations is always a hot topic with boardgames, it evokes passionate opinions, to the point where groups of level minded gamers often lose their temper and reason completely in their vehemence that their ideals are right. It's not just as simple as the tired "EuroSnoot" vs "Ameritrash" argument, because while it's certainly true that one genre features a plethora of floppy hatted twits in tights cavorting round Europe selling, oo, I don't know, cotton, in the middle ages, and the other one tends to feature Uzi toting Zombie Nazis on motorcycles ravaging the civilized world, the ethos behind these two movements at least as I see it is more about deeper concepts like playing time (euro games tending towards this 90 minute goal, thematic games pushing for the long haul), accessibility of rules (something modern euro games seem to be forgetting more often than not, but at least at one point the thematic rulebooks were heavier thicker and packed with atmospheric text), player elimination (often solved in Euro's by creating if not multiplayer solitaire, then at least many exclusive paths to victory points, whereas thematic games invite you to smack each others heads at every opportunity until one of you is dead). The best discussion I ever heard about theme in games, I believe came on the Boardgames to Go podcast that Mark Johnson and Greg Pettit did (Episode 104), where they discussed two different kinds of theme, nicely solving the old arguments that thematic gamers played overelaborate childish themes that were puerile and clichéd in nature, and strategic gamers liked to push cubes around drab colored boards with rules that made no sense.
Listen to the episode yourself first
http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamepodcastepisode/8301/bgtg-1...
I loved the way they described the theme as both "metaphor" and "narrative", which means that what an old school "ameritrash" gamer means by theme is the narrative version, i.e. it's clear the designer had an idea for some fantastical setting to capture players imaginations, all the rules and filler text serve to enable that setting to come to life through the immersion of the players (old joke: why do ameritrashers who so care about using their imagination and "living" the theme need to play games where the theme is so fully and completely laid out for them up front! P.S. this is no slight on the AT movement, of which I am a proud participant, even if my tastes are more often aligned with Euro games). These games are rich in every detail, the components are luxurious and highlight the richness of the theme, players often play the part of named factions, individuals or groups and smash against each other in epic conflict, where skillful play and cunning is also moderated by manning up to the luck of the dice. And this can be a fabulous, fabulous thing (just in case anyone is erroneously thinking I am implying one is better than the other). This is theme as narrative. The game, the setting, the story is all there in the game. You're living, breathing Gods in the cardboard world you have before you and you'll write your own history as you play.
On the other side, which is what they call theme as metaphor, it's more often that it seems (even if not always true) that the designer comes up with an idea for a neat mechanic or system, almost directly abstract and uses the "paint" of theme to tie together the game system cohesively and provide what I would call intuitive clues to how the mechanics fit together, e.g. put an orange disc on a grid space, in the future there will be two there => plant a carrot in a field, and at harvest time, you'll be able to pick out a bunch of carrots and leave the remains to continue to grow until next season. The result of this kind of thematic integration often results in some dissonance when the milieu (it sounds posher than environment) fails to react in a way you would expect given the theme. So if I have 2 sheep in a field, I get a baby lamb in the spring, cool, hang on, if I put 2000 sheep in a field, I only get 1 baby lamb as well? huh? (again please don't take the examples as a slight on our previous favorite game). You'd better believe a theme as narrative game about sheep breeding would have you almost smelling the shit on your hands as you work the fields, and by god if you managed to grow a 2000 strong crowd of sheep (probably radioactive and with fascist tendencies) they damn well better be knocking out approximately 1000 babies which you'll be sending to the next guys farm to annihilate his stupid little baby lamb all on its own.
Once you start to think about theme in those terms, first of all you see how silly it is to get hung up on which "camp" is doing it right, it's just different. And both can be good in their own right, obviously players relying on wearing the clothes of the barbarians they are in the game are going to want to see theme everywhere, background text, art, and the rules damned well better seem like someone tried to work out exactly how would it work if three giant breasted nazi troll dogs actually went to a bar together with an englishman, irishman and scotsman. And players tending towards the metaphorical theme don't understand at all why the other lot don't think their game is thematic when clearly all the actions and mechanics are easily understood by the way they act as cues to remind them how the game system works.

It was an eye opener to start thinking like this, and to then appreciate both models, and I think early on in my BGG life, I tended to be a bit dismissive of narrative themes, mainly because they seemed often very clichéd and aimed towards a younger market, and even though I often quote Darth Vader randomly, especially to my son, and would love nothing more than to stride through town in the real Darth Vader outfit telling everyone I am their father, actually I don't think there are any Star Wars themed games I am interested in or would be excited about, even if I got to play Darth Vader. So I don't think it's that I am a boring old fart. And while I tended to prefer the metaphorical theme of Euros, it does start to get a bit tiresome when you hit your 10th game featuring some miserable old git on a beige colored box almost warning you to put the box back on the shelf because you know this is only going to feature lots of colored cubes and a lot of nonsensical rules that totally don't make any sense at all.

So, where does Tigris fit in, especially since I opened with the teaser that it might be one of the most thematic games ever. Well, it fits in because it's incredibly thematic in both metaphor AND narrative, yep, that's right, it achieves a perfect synergy between the two that not many games manage to pull off. It's curious because one of the biggest complaints about this game is the lack of theme, the way the themes been painted on and could have been about anything, and that it feels nothing like a civilization game and is just a dull abstract. At one point I probably held a suspicion this was true and it certainly held me back from taking the plunge with this great game for far too long. I even argued with people who told me that Knizia himself said that he'd had the idea about the theme of the game (ancient civilizations clashing) and then fitted the mechanics of the game around that. Nonsense I thought, he would say that wouldn't he (remember, it's generally considered, erroneously I now believe, that the "pasting on" of themes is a very bad thing, and good designers do it the other way round, or at least good games start with an idea about what the game is about and then find mechanics to express it). I too believed that he'd slapped on some ancient trope on top of a colored set collecting tile layer and fooled everyone, but I think I was wrong (of course, only Herr Knizia himself knows), and in fact, I find it to be an impossibly huge coincidence if he had designed the game mechanics and then managed to fit the theme onto it so perfectly that pretty much every aspect fits perfectly, with no fat left over, it's truly civilization: the game without all the fiddly account keeping crap that should be done by a computer. It is, in the words of many who said it before me, and knew better, "genius"

Before I go on, it should be said that the metaphorical theme is also spot on. Leaders are "magnets" if you will to attract their matching colored points when a tile goes down in their kingdom, what could be more intuitive? Leaders of the same persuasion thrown together in a kingdom are involved in an internal struggle for power, an election of sorts. Kingdoms thrown together result in fights to the death between opposing leaders with the same interest. Blue tiles go on rivers, and nothing else does. The King (black) controls the armies and thus gets extra druthers by being able to mop up those unclaimed points when you expand a kingdom in a color without that leader. Monuments are built from a block of color, that color forming part of the monument. The monument itself in its 2 colors pushing out those 2 colors each round to the respective leader (the leaders of the active player that is). Whatever else you might think about the games rules and theme, it's just an outstanding distillation of elegance whichever way you look at it.

So, back to the "other" theme, the narrative theme, and I think, if I'm not mistaken the biggest problem for this game, since overwhelmingly the complaints about this (apart from the tile draw, we'll get to that) is that the theme is dry, dull, pasted on, makes no sense and that, to quote my good geek buddy John B "never feels like I'm in control of an ancient civilization". Actually there is one aspect of that complaint I'd like to highlight later because there's a grain of truth in it, but to be honest, I think you're failing to give the game the same respect and attention that might be garnered by a Radioactive Shark Nuclear War game, where by all means you'd be encouraged to "be" the leader shark swimming the high seas and nuking rival shark clans out of orbit. Why is it that this immersion, this active invocation of the imagination needs a thousand different visual, and written clues in the form of flavor text, art, plastic miniatures and photographic boards. Why do you need so much help, why can you not extend the same courtesy to this game, and instead of being disappointed that the tiles aren't hand crafted Games Workshop figurines and the board is some kind of 3D terrain model, the tiles aren't dice (hang on, crazy idea forming), invoke your highly trained sense of imagination to see the following (though I struggle to see how it's not obvious if you just get your head out of the sand)

- Civilisations start out small, controlled by a few priests manipulating popular opinion, and hoarding the kingdoms valuables (a red tile with a treasure cube on it)
- as civilizations increase in size (add tile), they attract the attention of powerful figures who wish to control aspects of the civilization (leaders)
- Successful civilizations cannot rely on only one aspect of ancient life, instead they must provide food, engage in trade, be able to fight and defend themselves, and appease the masses with spiritual guidance (blue, green, black, red tiles)
- as civilizations grow, they add capability in different areas, presumably based on the geography of their land, the drive of their citizens and choices of their leaders. Leaders gain more influence as their sphere of control increases (add a tile to a kingdom)
- Civilisations that successfully concentrate their success in a particular area of life will praise the gods for their success and fortune (build a monument), this in turn reinforces the influence of the appropriate leader (VP cube), but at the same time, decreases that leaders power relative to other kingdoms (strength), presumably because this great display of riches attracts unwarranted attention from jealous rivals who want to take it for themselves, in turn, the owning leader has to commit time, energy and forces to defending his great monument
- Power uprisings will periodically occur over time as ambitious and powerful figures want to assume leadership within a kingdom. Since the temples/priests have the widest reaching influence on the public masses, it's the backing of these priests that determines who wins the elections, leaders in close contact (adjacent) to more temples will in turn have more internal influence than others with less contact with the temples, but there are always ways and means to bribe or sway the support of these fickle priests (add red tiles from hand)
. As civilizations expand and become further reaching, they will eventually come close to other civilizations and eventually, either aggressively or simple due to a lack of room, these will clash and war will break out. The strength of leaders in each battle is determined by much support they have in their area of influence (strength) and can also be reinforced by using bribery, coercion and other methods to bolster the troops (adding colored tiles from hand).
- sometimes these wars will devastate the kingdoms, and they'll fracture again in to several unconnected pieces, the aftershock of this and recovery time needed for things to settle might mean wars which were coming are delayed, or postponed until another time (war splits kingdom, resolution order cancels a second or third war)
- Kingdoms with huge swathes of support in a particular area will envelop and swallow kingdoms with much smaller infrastructure in that area (big fish eats little fish) but its difficult to expand your civilizations so that they work efficiently in all areas, so a marauding army may plunder a massive victory between two kingdoms, but perhaps the weaker one had a huge network of traders and merchants who now control the flow of goods into and out of the newly conquered mega kingdom.
- Civilisations are ruthless and merciless, times are tough, and only the strongest will survive. Kingdoms winning wars will assimilate and/or exterminate the remains of the competitors resources that were the reason for the war (tiles removed from the board)
- Leaders can't join two kingdoms (this needs a larger scale geographical connection, i.e a tile).
- From time to time famine and other disasters strike which can cut off whole areas of a civilization particularly if its expansion has been rapid and careless without much thought to being able to keep a careful hold over its domain.
- Civilisations can build slowly and methodically, with leaders well buffered with public support and solid, evenly built competence in different areas, but they may often miss the boat compared to more aggressive neighbors expanding faster, on the other hand their leaders may be long reigning, and resistant to revolts, even if their civilization is taken over by a hostile force.
- Civilisations can build quickly and aggressively, snaking out expansion tendrils, sending out their merchants to trade with distant cities and claiming wondrous treasures and goods. They may grow quickly in a particular aspect, and be a powerful force in marauding across the world swallowing up smaller kingdoms in their wake. On the other hand, they may be weak in other areas allowing some of those supposedly weaker civilizations to become influential in other aspects of the civilization, or they may spread out too fast and carelessly that a war in a border region, or a sudden famine or earthquake cuts off a whole branch of them from their ruling metropolis
- The rise of civilizations is brutal as fast growing kingdoms, composed differently each time, with their own strengths and weaknesses, influences and susceptibilities crash into each other, sometimes with spectacular effect as huge, sprawling areas are shattered into fragments leaving behind only carnage and rubble, but not for long as the next wave of ambitious figures see their opportunity to stake a claim in the newly evolving landscape

I mean, you honestly would struggle to find ANY game that more accurately distills down its theme than this, pretty much every single thing that happens is the personification of chubby, fat thematic blob shaved down to perfection with some kind of bastardized Occam's Razor, where all unnecessary fat is trimmed away leaving behind only the purest and most succinct model of how early civilizations and dynasties developed.
So there you have it, Tigris & Euphrates is one of the most thematic games that exists, in every possible way, to satisfy the most curious Eurosnoot, and the most bloodletting Ameritrasher, not to mention the most calculating Abstractionist. This game has it all

* It should be worth noting that if the game does have a thematic failing it's lack of differentiation in the factions, which perhaps bothers some people as they need that to feel like a dynasty is truly "theirs". There's perhaps some merit to this, and I discuss this a bit more in a possible variant. Let me know what you think


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Number One! I'm going to tell you that this game should be the number one ranked game on BGG, and how it is The Holy Trinity of boardgames being a deep and elegant abstract, a highly interactive and ruthless Euro, and an incredibly thematic wargame.



Well, we've already gone into the theme of the game, so I will try not to duplicate too much here as I now suggest that Tigris achieves a perfect trinity of appeal being a fantastic game whether seen through the eyes of an abstract, a Euro or a thematic / war-game fan. Without wanting to get sidetracked into a debate about the BGG rankings and what they mean (thats a whole other, very long story) I truly believe this should be the number one ranked game here because it manages to be compelling across all of the main genres without really sacrificing anything of its genius to achieve it. OK, I can understand those of you think that a game like Chess or Go should be the number one, I won't really argue with you, but I think those older games that stretch back millennia are kind of an unfair comparison to any modern game because it will be a long time before we know if any of our games last long enough to be loved, studied and analyzed in that depth.

First, the game succeeds as an abstract, where it reminds me of a modern equivalent of chess. but edited to the board game generation. Chess is a fantastic game, deep, rich and rewarding, only an idiot would deny this, but for most of us, isn't it the kind of game that doesn't really sit well with the hobby here, with volumes and volumes of study available, millions of scripted opening lines and responses, solved endgames, it's the kind of game you really need to work at and study, almost exclusively (and as I understand it Go is probably even worse in that regard, or better depending on your point of view). What I mean is most of us here aren't willing to sit down and play the same abstract game over and over and over to reach the level of mastery where the truth of the game lies. The rote memorizing of openings can be tedious and annoying, but most of all, despite the grand strategic arc of a well played game of chess, there's always the sheer mystery of finding the best candidate moves amongst the plethora available, not to mention finding the optimal move, and until you're at a level where you'e played the game single mindedly for a long period, it's frequent that a game will be decided by an ill conceived blunder, or failure to spot an opponents blunder. This only serves to antagonize you if you've invested time and energy into studying the game and indeed in reaching the position in the game you blundered. This is not at all a slight against chess, I believe you truly reap what you sow there, but how many readers of this review are representative of the true chess playing enthusiasts, guys who play chess, chess, and nothing but chess. We seem to prefer a bit more variety here, and I think Tigris is a wonderful example of an abstract with the underpinnings of chess, with the tile draw (see below for an exploration of this single point) and rapidly changing state of the board eliminating the rigid lines of opening play and thorough analysis that forms the backbone of good chess play. One of the reasons Fischer Chess became popular was the desire to have dynamic opening positions that were different each time and could not be solved in the opening with a set script of moves to achieve a solid foundation. Hmm, sounds familiar. Good luck scripting Tigris once you've plopped down your leaders and first tile or two, you're not going to get the same 6 tiles to start each turn, and combined with your turn position, and the moves made by your opponents (and their tile draws) you're going to have to accept there's no set way to get going in this game. Like chess, you can certainly blunder but the obfuscation in the game state is less here, the movement of pieces is not the same, the scores can be seen (or if hidden, at least you can see your own needs), the options are fewer, and the immediate results easily processed, putting this tile here, there or maybe there in a kingdom might lead to the same point output, but is there a direction you want to expand, a leader you want to bolster, a place you want to block. You won't be caught up in the same kind of brain melting WTF paralysis that I have seen and experienced in Chess. The blunders can be painful as in chess, but these are often limited to a smaller set of patterns that you will see over and over again, there's not the same reliance on geometric plying to do here, it's generally a lot more straight forward like avoiding leaving spots surrounded by red tiles that your opponents can drop a leader into, don't extend your kingdoms in ways that can be catastrophed in half, be aware of the space around kingdoms you have a vested interest in since you know exactly how many moves/tiles are needed for someone to crash into it etc. At this point I haven't seen the same kind of blunders I see in chess, and it feels like the game plays much quicker and more transparently so it's less of a crippling gut punch if you do mess up here than if you spend hours building up a nice chess game and then make a blunder that brings the whole thing down around your head. Whereas Chess might be described thusly as walking across a tightrope between two skyscrapers, Tigris would be more like taking the same trip but across a nice wide plank instead. The danger is still there, but not at all as perilous

But at the same time, there's still this grand strategy of an opening, mid game and endgame whereby in the early stages you're finding strongholds for your leaders, bolstering their influence with temples, growing kingdoms to enhance your dynasties, being on the lookout for openings to move into a lucrative new kingdom and weaknesses of your own that might invite revolt or war now or in the future. In the end game, you're working out how best to bring up your scores in your weakest color, and perhaps trying to block the progress of your rivals doing the same. Because of the open geometry of the board and the kingdoms, often you're thinking more about which specific tile to play and in which kingdom, not the exact square it goes, or sometimes just the exact square or area and the choice of color is easier. You'll rarely be sat at the end calculating in great detail every possible placement and movement in the way endgames are solved in chess. And the middle game is just a glorious free flowing morass of islands burgeoning with color and form, growing, pulsing, breaking, shrinking, crashing across the board as the wars start to shape the landscape and bring huge rewards to the victors. I truly feel like there is the spirit of chess in here, and I am only beginning to see hints of this with the promise of more foreshadowed somewhere in my head. Getting your leaders into solid positions, reinforcing it, defending it, managing the cut and thrust of moving those leaders, then striking forth and claiming treasures, building or claiming monuments, clashing against rival dynasties, and finally plotting to secure the last resources to be able to maximize the glory of your chosen faction, it's very chess like in both narrative and in how the moves and turns play out (careful early play building solid foundations, the effects of which will be felt soon, the careful, plotting analyzing endgame trying to push for victory and the sprawling chaos in the middle game where you use the solid foundations you built up early to enable you to strike out at your strategic targets, with enough flexibility to account for the tile draw, and to be able to leave yourself in as secure a position as possible to wrap up what you need in the end game

OK, so abstract fans, you're happy, but this is a Euro game, right, well, yeah but somehow it seems to be a Euro game from the Land that Euro game designers forgot (disonaurs not included) because while it satisfies the requirements of a reasonable playing time 45-90 minutes, much quicker as 2P on the iPhone!, does not feature direct player elimination, and includes a clean set of mechanics that mesh together nicely, are held together by plenty of metaphoric thematic cues, it also features what many feel to be missing from a lot of modern game designs, and that is interaction. And specifically what they mean is direct interaction, not I'm going to take this cube so you can't do that thing and change your cube into that cube later. No, this is the kind of interaction that goes like this. Oo, that is a nice kingdom with a lot of pretty blue tiles, and a rather fetching monument that gives points in the colors I need. I want it. Me wants it. Oh, hang on, me is having it. Give it to me. Give it to me now. No, no, I AM allowed to move my leader into that kingdom, no, no its not YOUR kingdom, its just that you Lannisters have been sitting pretty there lording it up on us and now I think its time I had a chance to sit on the Iron Throne (hang on, there may be some thematic splicing going on here, blame HBO! oh why did they kill Sean Bean and let that bloody Joffrey live), so if you please I'll just drop my leader there and call for an election. Oh, you didn't realize I'd been saving up these red tiles to bribe the local voodoo boys? Pity, because it seems they got he city to vote me in and you're out, now do be a good boy and be gone, oh, there's a good chap. Oh, hey, you, you over there, look at me, I just sat on this throne and you see this kingdom has a whole network of merchants and traders, to be honest, lazy leader that I am, I've not been bothering to "network" so I don't have a lot of silk, spices and whatever else it is you euro gamers like to push around, but i see you have rather a lot too, but not quite as many as me, hang on I think I'll just invade you and take them over under my wing, you don't mind do you? Oh, you do mind, well tough luck my friend because here I am on your doorsteps and I rather think you'll find that you will be leaving town tonight, and I'll be grabbing all your merchant supplies and contacts to come with me, the rest you can probably guess I am executing in the morning, just for kicks. Muaha. Muahahaha. Muahahahahahahahahah. And so on.
So the next time you're sat thinking about your Euro games and why you have a sneaking feeling that yeah, you probably would like a game with some IN YOUR FACE interaction with real life SMACKDOWNS, but you're still a bit too Avant Garde to allow yourself to roll dice down a corridor populated by hand painted Games Workshop figures, well do try to remember, before it got forgotten somewhere, that Euro games CAN have interaction, direct interaction, in your face interaction, poke your tongue out and make the angry face interaction. And this is where you will find it best personified.

Ah, you're still here mr thematic trashcan man, and mr multicolored font grognard nut, well hello, welcome, welcome, you're not sure if this is a wargame - well if Twilight Struggle is getting insignia on its shoulders, then you better believe this is a war-game, and if those lovely fellows who love Tolkien-RISK, oops, I mean Small World can think that's war-game, well this certainly qualifies. Actually, cheekiness aside (though P.S: players of Small World, thrown down your goblins and come out with your hands up, reach to that shelf containing Tigris and take home a game that's truly worth spending time playing AND is just as fun. Not as many illustrations mind), I think Tigris really scores on the war-game front, sure, you're not playing the role of the kingdoms, but you are dynasties, involved in both political and military conflict, and with the same concerns about supply and logistics (tile numbers in the kingdoms, physically connecting kingdoms with tiles), wars moderated with some chance (tiles in hand) but where you can manipulate your forces to have a significant edge before a single "die" is rolled, you can regroup, move, attack, defend, batten down the hatches, run to the hills. It's a fantastic implementation of ancient conflict between civilizations and I think this, combined with the direct interaction that's prevalent throughout, the way the civilizations swell, collapse, and fall only to be reborn again under new leadership all bear the hallmarks of a recipe that's also going to keep the most trashy of thematic gamers happy for a long time. OK, maybe serious grognards might miss some chits with envelopes on them, but those with a penchant for more offbeat themes, and more abstract implementations I believe will be well satisfied with this, and I would be staggered if this was not the poster boy Euro game for being popular amongst the crowd that prefer their games to be bigger, louder, brighter, longer and meaner. That's right Ameritrashers, that's you lot! This game is fast playing, hard hitting, vicious fun that's unsurpassed for providing excellence to proponents of three wildly different gaming genres. Genius. Still unsurpassed.

Joel once put up an interesting geek list for potential candidates to replace Settlers of Catan at Target, aka your local mass market stores that tend to hold only Monopoly and the like, some party games and then the cool ones have now put Settlers, but maybe it's time to move on and show people that Settlers has had its day and something else should have its day. Well, get rid of Monopoly and put Acquire in its place by the way, but for goodness sake, get Tigris & Euphrates in there with a slightly reworded and clarified rulebook and that's the game we should be showcasing to the non committed, because truly this game can be grasped by newcomers really quickly if taught in the right way (see Ryans podcast link below), but has unlimited appeal for gameplay in a hardcore gamers crowd too. What makes the game great to all kinds of audiences is a property that we can just as well call "the dusty window" effect, meaning the overall picture of what's going on is absolutely clear and not at all masked behind several layers of obfuscation, but still it's a game that will take you a long time to really play well and master because you still can't quite parse the game state well enough to account for the swings that will follow the different tile draws and the huge changes in board state as a result of larger conflicts. Nate Straight described this very neatly, and again I'll paraphrase because it's similar to an insight Petra commented to me about this game too.

It's that it's completely obvious what's going on, what you need to do, what you can do, what you'd like to do, and how you should do it. There are no smoke and mirrors here.

Your weak colors define your score, so you need to increase them. Simple. As. You have a handful of tiles, they're the only ones you can play this turn, and you that each one will give a point of that exact same color to the appropriate leader, all easily identified on the board, or you'll join 2 kingdoms and start a war, or move a leader and maybe start a conflict. You can see where there are 2 or 3 tiles together that could become a monument, should you build it, can you claim it, can you hold it, should you block it, which combo will it be, who will it help. Can a disaster tile split my kingdoms up in a way that causes me trouble, can I do the same to someone else, can I strike with a war to my advantage, or should I sneak in with a revolt. Do I need to purge my tiles. Am i keeping enough space around my key areas to that reaching it for an attack will not be easy and can be defended by breaking off the opposing finger that pokes me. Balancing your desire to set up a solid base for your leaders, expand your civilizations equally, prepare for attacks and defending, looking out for monuments, using disasters., It all works as it says on the tin, there's no extra layers, no translation needed, no fluff added to pad out the idea. What you see is what you get. And it's wonderful. And it means that you can pretty much be up and running in a few minutes, and demonstrate how the game works on the fly, avoiding any painful rulebook read through and continual stopping of the game to explain, oh, now this I need to exlain now its a bit different.

So you see, this game has it all, and it should be ranked accordingly!

Oh, and it would be remiss of me not to once again apologize to Reiner Knizia, for my lack of understanding and appreciating his genius and how he makes games transparent games that are almost magical in their complexity despite a handful of rules. Few options, clear definition of goals, difficult to master. Rules on one hand, Exceptions on another, Point the players to the door and wave them goodbye as they go in and lock it from the inside. They are real games, by any definition and I urge you, urge you, urge you, if like me you dismissed him for his overenthusiastic reuse of simple mechanics, for his somewhat abstract seeming concepts and dull themes, please take the time to fully explore some of his great games and maybe you'll come to the same conclusion that I eventually did. That I was just plain wrong. For this one game alone he deserves all the plaudits he receives, the fact that he's designed dozens of great games with these core concepts of transparent and lightweight rulesets and emergent gameplay and thematic integration (of a kind that is all too easy to dimiss on the surface, but look deeper and you will… see what he did there…. this guy is a living legend of board game design, and I'm glad to saw the light before it was too light.

link to RK page
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgamedesigner/2/reiner-kniz...

Tile trilogy
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/Knizia_tile-laying_tr...#

Laszlo List (among many he's based around Knizia)
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/122464/

Martins List
http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/46848/

GCL Meatball List: Meatball Madness Tournament (won by, you'll never guess)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/139134/
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/139465/
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/139518/
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/140276/
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/140492/
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/140590/



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The Randomness, and how it makes Tigris the perfect "Chess Killer" for the board game hobby, avoiding many of the problems with euro games in general, and being very appealing to the dice chucking grognard and ATer's out there

Randomness in games is a contentious issue, and worthy of an exploration all on its own, indeed it has been discussed at length a number of times, and given the increasing length of this review, I think I'd better keep it relevant by discussing how randomness affects Tigris and how that might affect peoples judgement of it. Of course there are those that prefer to have perfect information, no luck systems, indeed the abstract heart of the game seems to be a little bit at odds with the fact that you're randomly pulling tiles out of a bag and have no influence on what you get, and thus, the scope of what you can achieve on this particular turn is influenced by the random draw of the tiles. Does this spoil the game, or enhance it, does it increase, or decrease the replay ability, does it affect the dynamics of who will win an individual game and who will win over a series of games. Does the randomness feel clumsy or well integrated, does it in itself determine the outcome to too great an extent, or introduce just enough uncertainty to keep things interesting.

Well, your mileage will undoubtedly vary, and there's little to be done in an appeal to those who can't get past the randomness, but from what I read here, it seems like there is a small group that actually has a real problem with the randomness, generally those abstract heavy enthusiasts who prefer complete information and control and studious analysis, and that's fair enough, but then I suspect we have a larger group that consists of people parrot fashion repeating what they read or hear from others without actually playing the game enough to decide themselves, or using it as a crutch to toss the game aside (namely; oh no, its all about the red tiles you draw. Really? Well how many plays did it take you to see that, because in closer to 20 plays (yes, I played on the iPhone during a break from writing this), I'm yet to see it, and in fact, don't really understand it, perhaps I am missing something though. Red tiles only help you score red points directly (and others indirectly by monuments, and winning revolts and then launching wars from the new territory), and internal revolts only get you 1 red VP at a time, presumably if they're using these red tiles to sneak in via revolt, the other players have the non red tiles, and thus, how is red tile grabber going to be well placed to win an external conflict in anything other than red? Well, this could be the voice of inexperience talking but I am not seeing this red tile effect yet, and I'm not sure I understand how it can be the case based on the mechanics and scoring. I'd love to take this up as a separate discussion point later.

That issue aside then, it's how does the tile draw in general affect the game play. Well, in my opinion not only does it enhance the game, it's actually an almost essential component. While it's true that the game has this chess like feeling to having opening strategies trying to build solid foundations with your leaders and temples and extending your kingdoms in ways that make it easy to launch strong offensives against the other players, the actual pieces are not as diverse as in chess, and the location of pieces is not often critical. A green tile added anywhere around your kingdom will give your green leader a point, so the only concern is where to put it to avoid leaving problems for yourself later with disasters, or inviting an approaching unification and war. Because of this, and the larger scale map, I think a perfect information Tigris would quickly get bogged down in a series of optimal tactical moves that would come on the back of extensive analysis paralysis. I don't think that fits the theme either, of burgeoning ancient civilizations, loosely controlled and corralled clashing into each other somewhat haphazardly in its resolution. No, this is a game that needs the tiles to provide a range of features which in my opinion make the game what it is

Replayability & Incalculability
while you might see players often opting to open with their green and black leaders, you will quickly see that within a few moves, every game of Tigris looks different, and the sheer scale of the board, number of tiles and knock on effects of conflicts with the changing board state mean that even if you think you recognize an overall position, soon enough things will change into something you haven't seen before. This means that despite the simple ruleset and transparent game system, there is an incredible amount of replayability because the tile draws lubricate the means to create different game states where otherwise raw tactical calculation might see scripting of certain positions, as in chess.

Limiting the Options & Tension (management)
Wait, limiting is bad, right? No, not really. Is there anything worse than a game where you seemingly have 50 different options and no idea how to evaluate them. Is it not better to have a smaller number of options and have a chance to really try to work out what each option will do, clearly and quickly, I think this helps enormously (here I'm talking generically about the system of having tile draw as a mechanic). The tiles you draw serve as both a focussing lens for the better options you have, and an agent of tension because often you will have specific goals to achieve but the tile draw will not help you, so then you need to go with the flow as directed by your hand and come up with another way to achieve your goal or postpone its success at least.

Turns of fortune & Drama
I think it's a positive feature of a game that features vicious direct interaction and the possibility of runaway megaleaders that there is always the possibility for an upset. Once kingdoms start to swell they become very strong in terms of war, though of course, at some point they'll want to start building monuments, thus weakening their strength considerably, but there are always disasters to throw on unsuspecting megalomaniacs, and internal conflicts, which by definition can never see you worse off than 4-1 down but more often than not will see you at most 2 points down, if not less. And then, if you manage to pull a hand of red tiles you know you are in with a chance to sneak in and revolt. But hang on, didn't I just say there was no red tile problem. Yeah, I did, because I've never seen it happen to a degree that decided the game, and especially because if you think about it, I've given a clue already as to ways you can somewhat nullify this threat. But honestly it will be more fun to discover yourself!



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Where the game sits in the world of modern board gaming, which games might have inspired it and which took a lead from it, and which new game is most worthy of comparison


Well, I should have mentioned of course that this game also has a special reputation because supposedly this is the game that a couple of guys, a.k.a Derk and Aldie discovered together, formed a bond and decided to create a website. I have to say I'm hardly surprised that it would be this game to inspire such a fantastic success story that is BGG.
As to its place in the gaming canon, well, here's where my lack of experience might count against me, I've heard it mentioned as having some elements of Acquire in it, though that might just be the superficial nature of the tile laying, though I suppose you're also laying colored regions out and trying to manipulate them (without specifically owning them) so that you can assimilate other regions to make your holdings more valuable, or sell your stuff to generate capital. I guess in a way Tigris has some of that concept, though only in very broad brush strokes. Where it certainly follows Acquire is the philosophy of design itself, Sid Sackson was not ashamed to find a mechanic and base a game around it, and it seems like Knizia is cut from the same cloth at least as he keeps his rules and systems very clean and elegant, and doesn't waste time trying to mash too many together, rather preferring to use them in a different game, and recycling similar memes in many different titles to great effect. I'm amazed that this concept seems to have totally gone out of fashion and I wonder if a little bit of it is a result of misunderstanding of theme by the consumers, thus driving publishers and designers to fluff out big messy designs with original themes, or apply unique themes to games that already exist, or to mechanics that are in every other game these days, or maybe people are ashamed to admit they copied a bit from here, a bit from there, and tweaked it, instead burying their designs under an added layer of padding which only confuses the dynamics of the game and gets in the way constantly be reminding the players they need to remember this, that or the other exception. Give us a few rules and get out of the god damned way, that should be the mantra of new designs. Come on designers, be brave and be different!
Tigris itself forms part of the Tile Laying Trilogy, though Through the Desert is more like a "Go"- Lite, Samurai shares the same "least counts" scoring method and also features vicious and cunning interaction as cities and resources not specifically owned by any player can be snatched away at the last minute by those keeping an eye out for such opportunities. I like Samurai as well, but the added dimension in Tigris (well apart from there being a lot more going on) is really the way the board state changes so drastically once you start to resolve these large mid game wars that rip out handfuls of tiles from the landscape and leave vulnerable unprotected mini regions in their wake to be mopped up again and the whole cycle begins again. Its like a more thematic expression of Conway's "Game of Life" (no, not Milton Bradley's Game of Life, the other one, with cellular automata and that) with the ebb and flow of the tile configurations. Lovely. Having recently rediscovered Ingenious (which I also highly recommend) again Knizia uses his least score counts meme, and again features set collecting of colored tile areas, without the leaders, but featuring some nasty possibilities for walling off areas and starving opponents in their weak colors, almost like a siege based war-game!
It's often compared to Reef Encounter, there again you are growing colored tile areas, but whereas in Tigris the points are grabbed as you place each tile (and then from conflicts or monuments), in Reef, you use your fish leader (parrotfish) to gobble up an area of one color when you're ready to bag it, and you are more concerned with altering the relative powers of the different colors to your advantage i both conflict and points scoring. Definitely worth looking at.

Is there a game that best follows on from the great example set by Tigris, well, I believe there is, though not coming close to the masterpiece that is T&E, I think you should seriously take a look at Neuroshima Hex, another wonderful abstract / euro / war-game with very few rules, a handful of exceptions, variable player powers, a confined and claustrophobic hex map to place your tiles and wave after wave of positioning, ,tactical maneuvering and conflict as a real fight to the death. For my money, it's at least on the right path to following the amazing example of Tigris in having broad appeal across genres, being simple enough to be appealing to new gamers, deep enough to appeal to hardcore gamers, variable enough with a short enough playing time to make any randomness seem like part of the fun, and no real hand holding from the game but again, get out of the way and let the players get it on.

Player Count Issues
Based on the polls here, the strong recommendation is to play this with 3 or 4 players, and indeed in early versions of the game it was specifically listed as a 3-4 player game (I wonder who joined Derk and Aldie in those epic early encounters). 1 out of 3 voters say that a 2P game is not recommended, now I don't know whether any changes to the Mayfair edition have fixed anything but I'd like to add my support and say that the 2P version is just great, of course any game featuring conflict is going to be more fun and more chaotic with more players clashing, but it still works as a 2P game, with the proviso that if you both sit in your own corner adding tiles and building monuments, then it will be a complete waste of both your times and you may as just well turn all the tiles over on the table and play civilization memo, however, since the game is designed to reward, and encourage conflict, then if you play to that spirit you'll realize it's still fantastic. Unlike games where you need to limit the action spaces, or reduce the playing area (yes, I know there is a smaller 2P Nile map), here its not needed, because you can start throwing your leaders together, or close to each other from the very start, and in fact, I urge you to do it. We certainly enjoy playing 2P, and even though Petra is a bit conflict averse in games in general, she's learning to kick ass here, and it's designed in a way that it's not spiteful kicking down of someones sand castle, no, here the context is clear, these kingdoms are living, breathing organisms of their own, and your leaders are just there to get rich and famous while they can, before moving on, willingly or otherwise.

I like the fact that in 3P (though again, this may be an oversimplification) theres a kind of anti turtling incentive because if A and B go at it, and C stays in his corner, its often the winner of A or B that now holds on to a mega kingdom that will have C in a lot of trouble, rather than the usual turtler being rewarded for keeping out of it (I've heard that this can happen here though). With 4 players the chaos and conflicts are high and the ebb and flow of the kingdoms on the board is truly a joy to behold. But don't be put off by the naysayers, a 2P game of Tigris still beats the pants of many of these fancy new euros on the block with their shiny shorts and braid shoes. Do yourself a favor and give it a go, however many you are and enjoy the different dynamics across the different player counts.

some follow up thoughts
And here's what I might change

Now despite my defense of the wonderful thematic integration of this game with its mechanics, and the way it represents the rise, clashing and fall of civilizations, I've also mentioned that some people don't buy it, and indeed, I can sympathize a little with the argument that there's no real feeling of connection to your faction, nor any differentiation between them. So I'm currently thinking about (and I mean in the daydreamy way I have with all games I enjoy, so not suggesting the game needs a variant, or that it would be easy to do), but how about making the factions a little different, I am not sure how easy it would be to balance them but something along the lines of

Idea
Basic Idea: Faction gets bonus of +1 or wins all ties as attacker in their representative color, say Lion Black, Bull Red, Archer Blue, Vase Green
Advanced Idea:
Archers get to attack at range, so can make an external conflict vs another archer kingdom with a corner contact instead of a full unification, perhaps with a penalty of being weaker in internal conflicts
Lions: internal conflict "revolt" bonus, any temple tiles shared with other leaders are counted only for the Lion player
(Asses), all their leaders can be placed on river tiles (or perhaps just the blue leader)
Bulls: external conflict "war" bonus, as the attacker, gets to see the defenders total strength first
Potters, some kind of monument bonus, choice to take 2 cubes of one of the colors instead of 1 of each? or ability to build monument from a block of 4 with 3 like colored and 1 other, the monument must then match those two colors exactly with the 3 tile color matching the large top piece of the monument and the 1 tile color matching the smaller bottom piece

The "powers" would need to be unique and interesting, break the rules only slightly and not be completely unbalanced, what do you think, any ideas of your own? The neat thing about this is the potential for adding different factions with different rule breaking bonusses, such as a faction that gets an extra catastrophe tile "disease", or one that uses politics and diplomacy to be able to place a leader inside a kingdom with an opposing leader, and avoid internal conflict, receiving points like the other leader, perhaps being ejected during external conflicts, or being forced to accept the responsibility in an external conflict "war", a trickster type that has the power to change some of his tiles in his hand when a revolt is started in his kingdom. How about a builder or healer type that is allowed to cancel the use of a catastrophe tile played in a kingdom with one (or just the King?) of his leaders.

quick thoughts:
1. Nominated treasures. As mentioned earlier, force the Merchant to nominate the color of the treasure tile rather than have it as a wild card, or if this is too weak, pick 2 cubes of 1 color instead.
2. Adding a 5th faction to the game, or would it be too cramped?
3. Hilarious addition from the theme discussion. Instead of tile draw, roll dice with colored faces each turn in the open to determine your tiles for that turn. 1 face of each color, but 2 red faces and 1 skull face. 6 dice, faces are the tile colors, skulls you need to roll 3 of them or something to invoke disaster from above. Replace all tiles with RISK or similar minis in the appropriate colors, use tanks, or horseback riders or whatever in the appropriate color to show leaders. Tigris & Euphrates: The Dice Game. Hang on, what started out as a joke sounds like quite a fun exercise! Please note that I am now madly scribbling down some basic concepts for Tigris Express (with dice!), please do not steal my idea


Heres what the author changed

There's even more to this game than meets the eye, and I mention it here briefly only for completeness, since we have not gotten round to trying these out. We probably will do soon out of interest, but I think we'll commit to really immersing ourself in the basic game before making these a regular feature in our games. As I understand it, most of the hardcore fans of this game probably stick to the basic game as well?

Ziggurat Expansion & Tower
This allows you to build a special 5 tile monument in the shape of a plus sign. Cover all 5 tiles with the included ziggurat tiles, and place the black tower piece there. This feature churns out a VP cube of the players choice if that player has a black leader "King" in it. So it's basically like the nominated treasure idea I proposed above (which makes me rather proud)

Zig



Civilisation buildings
These allow you to increase your point scoring to 2 VP cubes instead of 1 when you place a tile in a kingdom (still to the appropriate leader). You need a row or column of 3 tiles and can build the building in that color. If it's already built you can steal it if your row or column is bigger than where it sits now.

Civ



The English Rule
This is used to limit tile cycling in disguise, for example an attacker in a conflict can not add tiles from his hand if the total influence or strength would still not be enough to beat the opponents score, and when defending, a player can only add the number of tiles needed to tie, not more. (note to self: despite being English we have not used this rule yet, nor exploited its obvious appeal when defending external conflicts in colors you're already strong in. hmmmmmmm)

The Advanced Map
This just contains extra treasures and a different configuration of river spaces. I am nowhere near competent enough to comment on how the board layout is advanced, or what the key differences are other than to note it seems like there is an extra block of river spaces that could potential make a blue temple, and of course the extra treasures potentially means an increased length of game, as well as easier access to score balancing items.




I look forward to trying these advanced rules and variants in due course.


Here's what other people have changed

I don't know if he invented it but Nate Straight likes to toss the catastrophe tiles in the bag with the rest and hope you get lucky, others like to limit the number of catastrophes to 2 each but still throw in the bag so the timing of their arrival is not known.

There exists also a yellow tile variant which introduces a set of new yellow tiles and monuments and leaders. And I see it also comes close to the idea I proposed above where you can build a monument with a single color plus yellow as a wild card. pretty neat, though you need to proxy in some extra pieces to make it work.
Here it is, the Artist expansion
http://www.poeppelkiste.de/varianten/expansion/et-expansion....

The Nile expansion is a 2P variant where the board is smaller and constricted around the river nile, supposedly increasing the tension and claustrophobia for the 2P game. I have not played this enough to comment yet, but I will say that on the full board, the action gets pretty direct in short order anyway, so am not sure how much need there is for this map.




DO NOT BE AFRAID (apart from the length of this review)

So anyway, here's my appeal to new players, or players slightly put off by the seeming complexity of the game and the rules. Please don't be concerned with this. Sure, you might forget the first few times some of the exceptions, you'll forget that corner to corner is not adjacent and inadvertently cause a war or two, you'll forget that internal conflicts only use red tiles not the color your rack is full of, and vice versa with external conflicts, but you'll soon get the hang of it. You certainly won't understand how to play well for a long while, but you can enjoy learning the tricks and traps as you develop an understanding of the rules and how they interact, and it's exactly this kind of game that blossoms as thinking about rules quickly gives way to thinking about strategic planning alongside tactical tricks and traps and you'll find this incredibly rewarding. Because of the small number of actions per turn (2), the fact that the tile draws are random (and thus to some extent shape your choices in conjunction with your score relative to others and board position) you can very quickly get into the game and start to see how it works, without worrying about understanding it right away, to me, this is in stark contrast with some of the poster boys of "deep, complex" euros from recent years, where the first handful of plays are spent worrying about the muddled web of non intuitive rules and exceptions and "multiple paths to victory". By the time you've got your head round how all the actual rules fit together and realize there's been a whole unnecessary layer of abstraction in what actually gets you points in the game, you're thoroughly bored, and no I'm not going to name any names here. What I will say is Tigris belongs in the other group, and this is the group I think warrants more attention from all of us, and especially those fairly new to the hobby looking to get off the treadmill of cookie cutter clones, and want a longer term commitment, but without the overhead of a game a like Chess and Go. Tigris is that game, I implore you to give it a run, I think many of you will be very glad you did, I don't really care if this review gets any merits in the competition itself, or is seen as not really going into the kind of depth some of the more analytical reviews will (that's not a complaint, merely an observation), what I care about more is the number of gamers sat out there who COULD be enjoying this game, and other games that fit this recipe but instead are lured into a hopeless and ultimately unrewarding cycle of cookie cutter clones and rehashes where they're fighting the rules at each turn, desperately trying to parse the obfuscation in the multiple paths to victory, and decode the tangled web of resources, chits, actions and fluff. It's filler of the worse kind, the kind that thinks it's meritorious. Here you have a game that's pared down to its essentials, is intimately wound with theme and provides only the stage, and a few simple lines, where you, the actors get to decide the script, and it's a script that begs you to throw yourselves at each other in a bloody fight to the death. It's clean, it's raw, it's fantastic. Every gamer owes it to themself to give this not just a cursory play with preconceptions but a proper run for its money, and I wonder if some of you might come to the same conclusion as I did; why bother wasting time churning through a hundred other inferior games when you could be discovering the depths of this classic.

I love how this game breathes, and lives its theme as the swatches of colors heave and swell, ebb and flow over time, more evocative of its theme I don't think you could find, and I love how it works together with the scoring mechanic, I love the different way that the conflicts are resolved, allowing direct brute force attacks as well as more subtle revolts plus wars, I love how you can decide to build up slowly and surely and protect your leaders and give them a strong base, or you can stretch out across the board grabbing treasures and new regions as you go, how you can influence the timing of the game by how quickly you eat up the treasures (otherwise waiting for tiles to run out), or by tossing tiles in with conflicts to refresh your hands quicker (not in the English variant!), I love how it's impossible to do everything you want to do but somehow it always feels like your actions go a bit of the way towards your goal, I love how it's impossible to equally rack up the points, but inevitably end up weak in something which can leave you vulnerable, but also single minded in focus. I love that the rivers provide a kind of cover if used properly because of the limitations in crossing them, I love how monuments become huge point generating stacks but at the same time make your strength weaker as 4 of your tiles disappear from your kingdom, I love how the disaster tiles can be used creatively to cut you in half and leave you a sitting duck for a quick and bloody war, or that you can try to expand your kingdoms with that in mind and make an infrastructure that's not susceptible to catastrophes. I love the tactile feel of adding to the regions of kingdoms and the sprawling, ever changing landscape that unfolds before you, I love how everything you do, everything that happens in this game is so tightly integrated with is theme, and such a perfectly simmered reduction of the key ideas behind the theme that its breathtaking. I love the huge array of little tactual tricks you can pull off with the conflicts, and for example throwing together opponents and staying well back while they annihilate each other to your benefit, or being able to sneak in, declare war, win a batch of points and then by the fractures created, skip the wars you would have lost otherwise. Man, I just love this game, and I know some of you will too. I love the uniqueness of the river tiles and the lure of the blue temple block where the rivers converge, I love that you can wall off your leaders and make them difficult to revolt against, that you can play warmonger and be a bystander, that you need to keep an eye on your borders as you expand knowing that every player gets 2 tiles, and thats potentially 2 tiles closer to your kingdom! I love that you want to secure monuments early but then become a target for the other players who want to reap its rewards. You won't easily forget the first time you wade in and win a war, or better yet, manipulate a leader in via revolt and THEN win a war, and vault yourself into the lead because of that delicious and tormenting scoring system, and I love the wonderful way that the game itself provides its own balancing motivations, as you grow strong in this or that color, your opponents will be nervous and will try to stop you by going to war or seizing the kingdom in a revolt, as with monuments, the stronger you get, the more of a target you paint on your back as a great source of a big points boost, if the attacker can plan carefully, or if you fail to defend and use your advantage while you can, oh I could go on and on and on (Editor… you did)

Please try it
If you need any more convincing, just have a peek at this awesome annotated game thread (note: you may wish to avoid reading too much before you've played the game a lot in case it spoils some of the fun for you)
The Annotated Game (Part 1)


AND FINALLY (Editor…wakes up, what you're STILL talking!, get out of here Ambolt!)

I apologize profusely for my failings in exploring this game in the detail it deserves. No, I know I wrote a lot, but it feels like it was a bit too much filler and not enough fillet for such an incredible design and wonderful game. But I wanted to share my love and appreciation for this title, and unfortunately, if there's one thing I am good at, it's… going on a bit. So, sorry about that as well, but most of all to those that understand this game a lot better than I do, and could have shared some sharper insights, I'm sorry, please feel free to wade in at the bottom of this and add your voice. Apologies also if I slipped into the classic "he/she" trap when writing, no offense was intended, and in any case, he/she is tricky to include consistently and doesn't read nicely, so please indulge me for convenience sake, and being a man, I'll call it home bias only. Oh, and sorry for this being written on my new iMac. While I love it dearly, I haven't properly switched over my thinking from windows, nor dug around in the settings and I'm afraid my spell checker seems to be some bloody American. As an Englishman living in Sweden I rather prefer not to see z's popping up where they shouldn't, and I like to include me "u's" in color (look there it goes again!), but I guess many of you out there won't mind that!
I also apologize for the late and hasty entry, even if turned out to be ginormous, I came home around 4pm and called it a night at 3am having pretty much been at the keyboard for 11 hours, and then returning again on the final day of the competition for another ************ hours. I think it probably shows in the layout and editing, and a bit of repetition, again, my apologies for that, and hope it was worth it. Finally, I hope everyone realizes that I am absolutely not sitting here with a cap belonging to some kind of gaming movement. I enjoy and am interested in games that could be described as Euro, Abstract, War, Thematic, Trash, Simulation, Cards, the whole smörgåsbord, when I seem to tease one group or the other I'm just trying to pick apart some of the objections to this game that I see from different camps, because I passionately believe this is truly the game for all of us


I hope I've inspired some people who may have been on the fence about this game, and some people who may not even know anything about this game. Do remember it's available FOR FREE to play online RIGHT HERE at boardgamegeek. Which makes it infinitely good value for money. Go on, give it a try, I think you might like it



In summary:
TIGRIS & EUPHRATES IS THE BEST BOARDGAME IN THE WORLD. PLAY IT. LOVE IT. KEEP PLAYING IT.

Now go, right now, here
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/tigris/


Links and references


Mayfair Games Page including rules and overview
http://mayfairgames.com/game.php?id=99&stock=MFG4116&name=Ti...

Uvula Bob's totally awesome flash based review thingy
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/1197/tigris-euphrates/ufb...

Ryan Sturm's How to Play Tigris & Euphrates (now with video)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/5782/tigris-euphrates/how...

Eekamouse's drive through review: Civ Killer
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/8631/tigris-euphrates/dri...

Boardgames to Go Podcast
http://boardgamestogo.com/2005/11/bgtg-43-nov-6-2005-all-abo...

Video Review of T&E with commentary and interview with Reiner Knizia
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/video/1595/tigris-euphrates/boa...

Enders Review
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/376984/so-youre-wonderin...

iTunes App Store for iOS version
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reiner-knizias-tigris-euphrat......

Mike Doyle's alternate art page
http://mdoyle2.blogspot.se/2006/07/euphrat-tigris.html

Beginners Play Aids
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/1202/beginners-pdf
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/filepage/27615/tigris-euphrates (ignore the 3-4P quote, that was changed to 2-4 in later versions of the game)

Many thanks to all the contributors to the site, and particularly to Ender Wiggins for the great photos I ahem, borrowed from his great 360 thumb review of this classic, to Ryan Sturm for his ongoing efforts to bring people into the sometimes intimidating world of complex boardgames, to Paul Springer for his unbelievably awesome set of flash based video reviews, and to the fans and enthusiasts of Reiner Knizia and this game in particular, Martin, Laszlo, Nate, George, Kenny, you all knew what you were talking about and finally I listened, so thank you for helping me find this, a life changing game experience for us, And thanks to the organizers and sponsors of this event for their enthusiasm and efforts in promoting this kind of community wide effort. Good luck to everyone


-- This was from a previous post of Lee Ambolt. I have just reposted it as I feel that it deserves to be read as it has one of the best content here on BGG.
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David Gezelius
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Re: Tigris & Euphrates: Lazy Man's Chess [Repost from a Previous Deleted Post
HELP!
Not for the lazy review reader!
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Michael Boggs
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Re: Tigris & Euphrates: Lazy Man's Chess [Repost from a Previous Deleted Post
TLDR...

But then again, you had me at Lazy.

I wholeheartedly agree that T&E is great. I have a real physical version, a self made version, and both the android and IOS versions... Just so I can play when no one else wants to.

Hum, yep... I'm a Knizia fanboy.
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Nicholas Hjelmberg
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Re: Tigris & Euphrates: Lazy Man's Chess [Repost from a Previous Deleted Post
I can only agree (although with less words. My WHOAH moment came already when reading the rules and Tigris & Euphrates became my blessing and my curse. Blessing because of the reasons you list in your review. Curse because ever since that moment I compare everything I play or design with this masterpiece (and needless to say, everything else pales to insignificance).

Yet it's extremely difficult to get this to the table. Is it because so few else have seen what I see? Or have they simply realized that once you start playing Tigris & Euphrates, you don't want to play anything else?

Which leads me to one of your sentences: "As an Englishman living in Sweden..." If you're still living in Sweden and looking for players in Stockholm, let me know!
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Martin G
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Don't fall in love with me yet, we only recently met
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Re: Tigris & Euphrates: Lazy Man's Chess [Repost from a Previous Deleted Post
Nice to see this back, but you really ought to credit the author, Lee Ambolt.
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H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.
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Re: Tigris & Euphrates: Lazy Man's Chess [Repost from a Previous Deleted Post
nhjelmberg wrote:
... I compare everything I play or design with this masterpiece (and needless to say, everything else pales to insignificance).


Agree. This helps me keep my game collection lean.
 
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Deranged
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Re: Tigris & Euphrates: Lazy Man's Chess [Repost from a Previous Deleted Post
qwertymartin wrote:
Nice to see this back, but you really ought to credit the author, Lee Ambolt.


Hmm, yes that would be fair.
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Raymond Ganancial
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Sorry I have just got back on to reading this page. Done, I have explicitly stated on the repost regarding Lee Ambolt.
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Zarkov
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In case someone is wondering – the annotated game thread mentioned near the end of the article can be found here. (Well, part I, anyway. It is a beast of legendary bulk.)
 
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Val Ofiesh
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Thank you for re-posting this review.

I found the intermission music a particularly well-timed bit of relief.
I also enjoyed the BGG history lesson about pasted on themes informative. However, it did not leave me a shared love for the game. I still have to try this one. Unfortunately, and despite the enthusiasm of Lee's review, it left me feeling fuzzy about engaging with this tile-placement.

Who am I kidding? I love tile placement and will likely end up with a copy some day.
 
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