Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Triumvirate



It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the game Triumvirate. When I reviewed the first edition, I concluded that it lives up to its billing as an excellent trick taking game for two players, and that it's innovative, thematic, quick, skilful, and fun! It will primarily appeal to people who enjoy the nuances of trick taking games, but are prepared to try something unconventional, because the mechanics are more intuitive and the trick-taking mechanic is used in a rather innovative way. With the benefit of another twelve months, my positive assessment of Triumvirate hasn't changed. Despite having a large collection, this is one of the few games that I take with me in my vehicle everywhere I go, so that I can play a quick two-player game over a coffee with my wife in a cafe from time to time, or while relaxing at a park bench. I posted my original review more than a year ago, and the strengths of Triumvirate that I identified then still ring true:
● Trick taking game that caters for two players
● The indirect trick taking mechanism
● Bluffing element
● Tactical and strategic
● Decent theme
● Short game time
● The portable size

Two player trick taking games are precious, and Triumvirate is a good one. Sure, you can play Schnapsen (see my review of Schnapsen here) - it's an excellent trick taking game that works brilliantly for two players. But Schnapsen is also very intense, and sometimes you want to play something that's clever but doesn't quite burn your brain that much. That's where Triumvirate steps in. It uses traditional type trick taking (with a few small twists) in a game with three suits, but the interesting thing about the game is that you don't necessarily have to win tricks to win the game. Rather, as the game progresses, you set aside cards will support which of the three suits that you think will win the most tricks and hands. I concede that the theme about supporting one of three triumvirs to become emperor is pasted on, but for me the theme does give the game some flavour and helps make an inherently good trick taking game all the more interesting. But despite all these positives, there was one down side: the production quality of the original edition.

But any concerns about production quality have changed with a new edition. The mediocre graphics on the cards of the first edition didn't stop me playing the game, but you can imagine that it was music to my ears when I discovered that designer-publisher Travis Worthington was in the process of getting a new edition out with professionally produced artwork and components! Fantastic news! Having designed a great little game in Triumvirate, Travis worked very hard to get the word out about this little gem, and Essen 2010 will see it released as one of three games in the "Postcard Box Games" series being produced by his one-man outfit, Indie Boards and Cards. I'm only too happy to see him on the road to success, and hope that this fine new edition of Triumvirate will help get this great little two-player game into the hands of more gamers!

Pictured below: Caesar (red) wins the opening hand and gets his first consulship.



In this overview, I won't be covering the rules or gameplay of the game. For that consult my original review and my pictorial illustration of gameplay, which teaches you how to play the game and more. The new edition changes none of the rules, so this is intended primarily as guide to the new edition, for people wondering what it looks like, and how it compares to the previous edition.

Series

Triumvirate is the first of three games in Indie Board and Cards "Postcard Box Games" series, along with Haggis and The Resistance. All three games will make their debut in this new format on time for Essen this month.



They really do look as nice as they do in this picture!

Box

One look at the box cover and you immediately recognize quality. The box is sturdy and compact, and looks attractive in every way. It has a classy linen finish, and the artwork and design looks great! What's more, it's postcard box size, making this game very portable and perfect for putting in the glovebox of your car or in a pocket of a bag when travelling - in fact you can fit them in the palm of your hand! First appearances look very promising!



The back of the box has information about Triumvirate in English, German and French. The game components are language independent, but it does come with rules in all three languages.



There's even an individually numbered `certificate', signed by the designer - if ever you needed proof that this is a labour of love, this is it!



How it compares with the previous edition

This is no contest really. Triumvirate has really graduated to the big leagues with the new edition. The original edition had a home-brew look and feel, whereas the new edition screams quality all round, from the look and feel of the cover, to the box insert, to the card stock! Thumbs up all round!



Components

Here's our first look inside the box, which has a nice plastic insert to house the cards and markers.



Let's pull everything out of the box and give you a complete list of what you get with the game.
● 27 Cards (3 colours)
● 9 Consul markers (3 colours)
● 3 Game Scoring markers (purple discs)
● 1 Dealer marker (green disc)
● Scoring Tableau
● Rules



Rule book

The new edition comes with a professionally produced English language rulebook, as wells as one in German and in French.



The rule book contains colour illustrations and examples of play.



It's quite short, since the rules of Triumvirate are fairly straight-forward, and yet has a classy look and feel.

How it compares with the previous edition

In addition to German and French rules, the original game came with a novelty Latin translation of the rules that is absent from the new edition. It was a small thing that made Triumvirate unique, and helped give it flavour, but in reality it's not something anyone will miss. Overall the rules have made a big step forward from the plain black and white paper of the original edition, with the addition of colour, professional formatting, and even the feel of quality paper.



The version of the original rules that I had also included a short FAQ and details about a "Drafting" variant (which I never felt a need to try), but both of these weren't essential by any means, so I don't feel that anything is missing. I do miss the handy card that summarized the rules and functioned as a handy reference card - this might have been a useful inclusion as a way of recapping the essentials of gameplay at a glance. Aside from this the rules are a big improvement in all respects.

Scoring Tableau and Markers

The Scoring Tableau is used for placing the scoring markers on. It's made out of very thick cardboard, with nice artwork, and a high quality linen finish.



Three wooden "Consul markers" in each colour are used to keep track of the amount of hands won for each of the three triumvirs (Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus) - each marker represents a statute erected in the statue garden (pictured on the scoring tableau) in honor of the consulship.



Placing the third Consul marker on the board signifies that person has won three consulates and is elected emperor. The game is usually played as the best out of three, and the purple discs are used to keep track of how many games players have won, while the green disc is used to keep track of the dealer of each hand.



The wooden discs are very colourful, a nice size, and appear to be of very high quality.

How it compares with the previous edition

The wooden discs used as scoring markers and round markers are a notable improvement in quality from the much larger and more dull markers that came with the original game. I realize that stand up figures may have increased the cost of the game, and it's probably just sentimentalism on my part, but I did grow fond of the old edition pawns, and felt they helped add some thematic flavour (we used just three, and called them Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus). Moreover the colours of the consul markers of the new edition do seem somewhat garish, but this is probably only as a result of being used to playing with the more muted colours of the original.

A bigger change is the scoring tableau. The original game had two separate boards for this (a Curia Hostilia Tableau and a Europa Tableau), as well as extra markers for both boards (and I haven't even mentioned the Roma Tableaus yet!) It's not often that I complain about a game having too many components, but that was the case here, and in an earlier thread I had suggested ways to make score-keeping easier and simpler. This has all been streamlined in the new edition.



This also means that the way winning tricks are recorded has changed - instead of using markers for this, the winning card is left on top of the trick to indicate which colour/suit won that trick. This may take a bit of getting used to, but since all tricks played need to remain face-up throughout a hand, it makes sense to do it in this way. While I do like the artwork on the new Scoring Tableau, I did have some fondness for the progressive track on the original Curia Hostilia Tableau, and would have liked to have seen some of that retained (for one possibility, see this clever user redesign). But overall, the stream-lined scoring and reduced components only helps make the game better by removing unnecessary clutter.

Cards

Now we get to the heart of the game, which is the deck of 27 cards.



The cards shuffle well, and are well produced with a quality linen finish. I can't imagine them having done them any better, except for one minor thing about the artwork: my wife pointed out that the blood splatter was somewhat gratuitous and unnecessary. It fits with the theme, I suppose, but it has proven somewhat of a distraction ever since she pointed it out, and perhaps the game would have been more well served without the graphic allusion to gore. But this weakness aside, the artwork and quality of the cards is of a very high standard.

Suits in three colours

The 27 cards come in three identical but different coloured suits (numbered 0 through 8), representing Caesar (red), Pompey (yellow), and Crassus (black). Here's all the cards:



Cards in three types

Each suit has the same makeup, and consists of a Mob card (#0), Legion cards (#3,5,7) and Senator cards (#1,2,4,6,8).



Let's just show you an example of each of these three types of cards in all three colours, so you can admire the artwork.

Mob card:



Legion card:



Senator card:



Aren't these cards a thing of beauty?

How it compares with the previous edition

The cards have made a huge improvement in quality from the original edition. While I loved the game immensely, I did admit to being disappointed with the original artwork, because it looked like it was the work of a high school student playing around with MS Paint. Maybe that was closer to the truth than I realized, but I'll be the first to compliment the designer and publisher for stepping up to the plate and giving us what we'd hoped for with this fabulous new artwork. Here's a comparison between the artwork, showing New vs Old:



And just look at how the artwork of this Senator card has improved exponentially!



I can't say enough about how much of an upgrade the artwork and card quality has had from the original. It's terrific, and all those involved in the process of bringing it up to this new high standard deserve a solid round of applause. Well done!

Game-play

There's no real changes in the way the game plays - no need to fix something that isn't broken! It just looks much nicer when in play!

Set-up

Here's a two player set-up:



Winning a hand

Here's an example of Mob rule, as black trumps yellow to win the hand for Crassus:



Winning a game

Here pledges are revealed after Crassus (black) has won three consulships and is elected emperor. Player B wins the game with pledges of 3 and 5 (total 8), while Player A only has a pledge of 7 for Crassus.



Recommendation



In the final analysis, Triumvirate has come a long way from its humble beginnings. With this new edition, the gameplay of Triumvirate has not really changed, and that's a good thing. Aside from components, the only change that was necessary was streamlined scoring, so it's good to see that implemented, and it's only helped make a good game even better. Before you go out and buy the game, do read this disclaimer: I don't expect everyone to like Triumvirate. While it's an excellent game in its own right, trick taking games are not for everyone, and some gamers inevitably will give up on the game prematurely when they find that they don't `get' it on their first play. If you can't stand trick taking games of any sort, playing with improved components won't change that. But if you enjoy the nuances of trick taking games, are prepared to try something unconventional, and are willing to persist with the game beyond your first play, you are likely to find a gem inside.

If you already own the original edition, you probably already know this. Given that the improved components, make this is the equivalent of an upgrade directly from version 1.01 to version 7.0, if you enjoy the original you'll very likely benefit from replacing your original version with this new edition. Even though the original edition will retain some sentimental value and nostalgia, you'll have the added bonus of knowing that you're supporting a designer and publisher who has worked hard to get to this point and deserves some reward for his efforts - and if you are partial to the pawns of the original edition like I am, you can always mix your favourite old components with the new.

On the other hand if you don't yet own Triumvirate and have been thinking about getting it, definitely get this edition while you can, because the new edition only enhances the strong case for buying this great little game. If you like trick-taking games or know someone that does, definitely give it a shot, because good two-player trick taking games are hard to come by, and I believe that Triumvirate is a very strong candidate in this category. Kudos to Travis Worthington and to all those involved with Indie Boards and Cards for producing this great new edition, and here's hoping it will help more people get to enjoy this little gem! This is every bit what I had hoped to see this game become. And even more. Highly recommended.



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mb The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596

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Jonathan Warren
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Excellent review. I couldn't get hold of the first version, so I was pleased to find out that this quality second edition was to be published.

I pre-ordered a copy along with the excellent Haggis.
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Kenny VenOsdel
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Very nice review. I preordered through Kickstarter (my name is in the book!). I played one game with my fiancee and then one with my friend. The game really came together when my friend and I noticed the rule that you can only pledge 3 cards in the whole game rather than as many as you want. As a fan of trick taking games I highly recommend everyone to try this.
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Ian Arbuckle
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Great review! Just got my copy of this new edition yesterday, after supporting it in Kickstarter, too. I highly recommend getting a copy!
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David Hoffman
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Great review of the new edition. I actually like the weird art from the original edition -- but that didn't stop me from ordering the new version (which really is great looking).
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Jody Ludwick
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As always, a wonderful and thorough review. Thank you EndersGame.
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Peaceful Gamin'
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You found our Geekbadge Overtext. Congratulations! :-)
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simply nice
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Kris Wolff
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...another game to buy because of your review! Thanks!
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Damon Asher
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Thanks for the very useful comparison. I have to say, I prefer the first edition artwork and pawns. I think I enjoy the "indie" yet high quality feel. The second edition looks more polished, but also less distinct from everything else out there.
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