I think if there was a Top 10 for longest awaited games, this would be near the top. Targi I only heard of when it got mentioned a few times on The Dice Tower by Zee Garcia as a really good two player game. Now normally I rarely get two player games to the table so I glossed over it, but as I heard more about it I became interested to try it out. One snag. It was out of print, had been for some considerable time and nobody I knew in the Western Hemisphere owned it. I presumed it was a lost cause and took no further notice. . .
Until I finally met someone who did own Targi, thanks be to the girls at The Game Shelf (#plug). I was shown it and my first impressions were positive, but of course reviewing a game takes more than one play and it was still out of print so I added it to my list of played games and again took no further notice. . .
Until Targi came back into print (seriously I should stop giving up so easily) after all this absent time. Maybe it was Vasel's Law who knows, but once I saw it on the releases list I immediately made a request for it. This is essentially a review almost 2 years in the making and it's high time it was brought to a conclusion.
Designer: Andreas Steiger
Publisher: Z-Man Games
Time: 60-75 min
Comb The Desert!!
Theme and overview:
Unlike in other cultures, the desert Tuareg men, known as Targi, cover their faces whereas women of the tribe do not wear veils. They run the household and they have the last word at home in the tents. Different families are divided into tribes, headed by the ‘Imascheren’ (or nobles). As leader of a Tuareg tribe, players trade goods from near (such as dates and salt) and far (like pepper), in order to obtain gold and other benefits, and enlarge their family. In each round there new offerings are made. Cards are a means to an end, in order to obtain the popular tribe cards.
The board consists of a 5x5 grid: a border of 16 squares with printed action symbols and then 9 blank squares in the centre onto which cards are dealt. Meeples are placed one at a time on the spaces at the edges of the board (not including corner squares). You cannot place a meeple on a square the opponent has a meeple on already, nor on a square facing opponent's meeple. Once all meeples are placed, players then execute the actions on the border squares the meeples are on and also take the cards from the centre that match the row and column of the border meeples.
The game is predominantly scored and won by playing tribal cards to your display. These give advantages during the game and victory points at the end. Usually cards are played (or discarded) immediately once drawn. A single card can be kept in hand but then requires a special action to play it (or to discard it to free the hand spot for another card). Each card has a cost in goods to play. Goods are obtained either from border spaces or from goods cards.
The display (for scoring) consists of 3 rows of 4 cards that are filled from left to right and cannot be moved once placed (barring some special cards). There is also a balance to be found between the victory point score on the cards themselves (1-3 VP per tribal card) and in the combinations per row (a full row of 4 identical card types gets you an additional 4 VP, and a full row of 4 distinct card types gets you 2 VP).
The winner at the end of the game is the player with the most victory points.
Clean Euro Sand Style
Targi's theme fits with what you're doing in the game, but in the end it's a Euro through and through so don't expect anything really thematic to Arabian Knights or something. The artwork supports it and it's fairly decent actually, not to mention the graphic design is near perfect. Iconography is clear and large and intuitive, plus the cards even have text on the back of them to tell you what they do so you can get rid of unnecessary text once you're familiar with them.
The rules are nice and clear to understand also with plenty of pictorial representations of setup and the turn sequence. If you've played games before you'll recognise a lot of the concepts used here, but this could actually work as a gateway game with some people. I'm not sure I'd fully put in within that category given the depth which I'll get into later, but it's definitely a next step up. Despite the large time gap between my first play and when I got my own copy and played it again, my understanding of the rules was back up to speed within minutes and it's a pretty easy game to teach. Start with the goals, go through the turn sequence and then the iconography and you're pretty much sorted.
Components are fairly basic, it's primary a card game, but they are good quality and at least you get wooden sculpted pieces for your Targi workers. Might have liked something better than a little wooden cylinder for the intersections, but that's going beyond nitpicking at this point. Everything else is presented by a card board token or tile and nothing feels flimsy.
Worker Placement. . . With A Twist!
The timer mechanic is one not often seen in a worker placement game. The Robber has a piece that will move around the border cards one by one blocking each space from use until he eventually completes a loop and the game ends assuming no-one has already got their 12 Tribe cards. On route he triggers the Raids at pre-set points which force each player to choose one of two things to discard be it resources or points or gold.
You don't often see spaces getting blocked each round, I wish more games did that and it's nice to have a choice in the Raids as to what to lose. Commonly you are losing either resources or points. Now resources you might need to buy a really sweet Tribe card that round, but then giving up points is . . . well giving up points, it's up to you which is more important. My last game of this resulted in a win mostly due to the opponent having been forced to give up points in a recent raid so they make a difference.
My favourite twist on the mechanic though is one that's been seen this year repeated in another game I reviewed very highly and that was Quadropolis, the city building game from Days of Wonder, still in my collection. In that you had a pawn that meant you couldn't place an architect down if it was directly facing it. Here is where that all started (from my perspective, don't quote me some random game from history if I'm wrong!). You cannot place your Targi if it will directly face your opponent's Targi. So in essence not only is your opponent blocking two action cards from use (the one they're standing on and facing), but if you think carefully, they're also blocking you from taking any card on that particular row because you won't be able to intersect your Targi's there any more.
So with only 3 Targi's to place you have to think hard about your tactics for that round when coupled with your strategy, a nice balance between the two. It forces you to prioritise your greatest need and then have a backup plan if things go wrong. Because you're only facing one opponent it's common for you to figure out what they are up to and so you can really throw a spanner in their works, but will that be at the cost of not getting what you really need? All of this is going through your head each round and I warn you, it can get pretty cut-throat as you're straight up denying your opponent what they need. You're not so much interacting with your opponent, it's a typical Euro in that regard, but this isn't solitaire mode, you have to pay attention to what they are doing.
Need's Its Own Space
Now most 2 player games are generally a fairly quick affair, with the exception of all the really heavy GMT and war style games of course. Typically they're wrapped up in about 30 minutes, sometimes a little longer. Targi will commonly take you an hour to finish, probably longer on your first couple of games while you get used to the depth involved. Even with two end-game triggers you're going to usually finish somewhere between the 12th and 16th round.
So you need to be aware that this isn't a filler game, it's too long and involved for that, but it won't take up your whole evening either allowing room for repeat plays or other games if necessary. And repeat plays you'll will do as there are several paths to victory you can aim for when compiling your personal tableau grid. From a variety standpoint, there's plenty of Tribe cards to use each game though, maybe it would have been nice to have included some different border cards or a way to mix them up around the edge, but I guess that was done for balance reasons.
Targi is also a bit of a table-hog for a 2 player game. You have to make a 5 by 5 grid, then have room for space resources and gold, then room for 2 sets of 3 by 4 card grids for your personal tableau. Most standard tables should handle it fine in the home, but if you're at a pub or travelling, bare in mind you might need to squeeze things together a little.
Verdict on Targi
As stated, I've waited a long time to try Targi out properly and I was praying it wasn't going to disappoint. I'm glad to say it hasn't one bit. Targi is a very well designed game that brings back that enjoyable tension and cut-throat nature of a typical worker placement game, but yet with only two players. The restrictions on where you can place your workers force you to prioritise and have back up plans on every turn while simultaneously attempting to thwart your opponent's plans at every turn.
It can go a bit long sometimes over the 1 hour mark so be aware that this is not a filler game, but you're engaged throughout and is still a relatively small box on your shelf, however be warned it can take up a bit of table space with all the card grids about. These are relatively small flaws however when considering that Targi is not very difficult to learn, yet contains a deep, yet manageable level of tactics and strategy.
Targi will go down easily as one of the Top 10 Two Player Games out there (maybe I should do that list soon). I do wish it had more of an engaging theme, but I strongly advise to give this one a look, before it goes out of print again!
If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/
YOU WILL LIKE TARGI IF:
You want a 2 player game that isn't just a quick filler.
You enjoy worker placement games, but felt that they lost tension with only two players.
You enjoy games that can get pretty cutthroat.
YOU WILL NOT LIKE TARGI IF:
You feel an hour plus is too long for a 2 player game.
You are hoping for something portable - the box is small, but multiple card grids take up table space.
Thank you for the fine review of a great title (but really it is not at all any sort of the table hog that your quibble implies)
For another take on the length, none of our games have gone past an hour.
The greatest game that I have played in this hobby. Regarding lenght, the first couple of games will go on a tad longer than they should yes. But once experience kicks in, it should not take longer than an hour. I simply love this gem and I have made it a priority to show as many people as I can how incredible it is.
I love the smell of cardboard in the morning!
My wife and I also absolutely love this game. If you like euro games, and your main gaming companion is your partner, then this game simply needs to be in your collection. Simply wonderful!
PS: Look out for the pending expansion!
This is a really great game. Thanks for the review