This is my second quick review. The goal of this type of review is to concisely describe the game rules and provide enough information to help readers decide if they would be interested in the game further or not.
Taluva is an abstract game with a beautiful layer of art polish on top.
The game elements are:
- Thick tiles - each consists of three hexagonal areas adjacent to each other, resulting in a rough triangular shape. Each area (called field in the rules, but I prefer area) shows a terrain type. One terrain type - Volcano - appears on one area of each tile.
- 3 Temple pieces
- 2 Tower pieces
- 20 Hut pieces
The tiles are beautiful and thick
The game is played in turns and during each turn you have two phases:
Phase 1: Draw and place a tile.
There are 2 ways of doing this:
(A) Place the tile on first level - it must touch one other tile, unless it's the first tile played.
(B) Place the tile on top of existing tiles - "Eruption" play. The conditions for this play are:
- the Volcano area of the played tile must rest over an existing Volcano area.
- the new tile must cover at least two existing tiles - it cannot cover a single tile.
- the tile cannot have one of its areas hanging over an empty space.
- tiles can be placed over areas with Huts as long as they don't eliminate an entire Settlement (a group of adjacent structures of the same color) - the eliminated Huts should be placed to the side so they can help with scoring for a tie-breaker condition, if needed later.
- tiles cannot be placed over areas with Temples or Towers.
Phase 2: Build one or more structures (Hut/Tower/Temple)
The building rules are the following:
- "Starting new Settlements": a Hut can be placed on any non-Volcano area of level 1 that does not neighbor an area with Huts of same color.
- "Expanding existing Settlements": choose a Settlement and a neighboring non-Volcano area type, then place Huts on all such areas that are adjacent to the Settlement - the number of Huts placed is equal to the level/height of the terrain. This action can lead to the merging of different Settlements.
- a Temple can be built next to a Settlement that covers at least 3 areas and that doesn't already have a Temple.
- a Tower can be built on a level 3 (or higher) area adjacent to a Settlement that doesn't already include a Tower.
Important note: a player is eliminated and loses the game if they find themselves in a situation in which they cannot build at least one structure during this phase!
If a player manages to build all pieces in any 2 of the 3 categories, he immediately wins the game. Otherwise, the game ends after all tiles are played and the player with most Temples built wins. Ties are broken using Towers and further ties use the number of Huts built.
Caveat: rules that you can get wrong on first play
- The condition for placing a Temple requires to do it adjacent to a Settlement that covers 3 areas, not one that includes 3 structures.
- You can place more than one structure, but remember that running out of things to build will lead to an immediate loss.
- the tiles are beautiful and the island you build looks nicer and nicer as more levels and structures are getting added.
- there are few rules.
- while there are not many rules, their number and variety of conditions, as well as the fact that they're not really intuitive, can lead to players missing some of them, so special attention needs to be paid out during the first game. If nothing else, I'm hoping that my overview here can serve as a quick reference.
- I don't think that the game plays well with more than 2 players. I think that the situation can change too much if there are two turns before yours. I'm placing this in the bad category because the game advertises play up to 4 players.
- I would also criticize here the useless insert that is of the type that just takes space in the box rather than attempting to help with the organization of content.
These are elements that may be seen as good or bad depending on personal gaming preferences.
- while the tiles are beautiful, the game is a hardcore abstract game. Rather than forests and lake areas, you might just have green and blue ones - the only time terrain (other than Volcano) matters is when you expand a village.
- the different terrain type hints at properties that simply are not supported by the game rules, which can lead to some additional initial confusion. For example, lakes made us wonder whether you can build on them because in other games, such terrain tends to represent an obstacle of some kind. Here it's as good a terrain to build on as plains, or jungle, or anything else - the terrain doesn't matter.
- the interaction can be brutal due to the disruptive potential of eruptions or of claiming areas that your adversary also hoped to use. This can also lead to more analysis and slower play.
It seems difficult to get tiles placed at level 4 or more. Just something to keep in mind.
As I was thinking about Taluva, I was wondering what rules would people imagine for it, if they would discover a completed game and had no other knowledge about it. I have a feeling that most people would get their imagination working by the beautiful art and would probably come up with a more complex set of rules than what actually led to the setup they discovered.
Hope this helps.