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Subject: Tyranno Ex, my first Euro? rss

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Charles A. Davis
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Greeneville
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Tyranno Ex, my first Euro?

This review is of the Avalon Hill version. I first played this in 1998 at AVALONCON. I was an old SPI and Avalon Hill gamer so this, in many ways, was my first EURO. The original game was produced by Moskito in 1992. It is my understanding that both versions play the same.

Players: 2-4

Time: 1 hr per player (4 players that know the game can finish in 3 hrs)

Components: This game comes in one of the large 16.5 X 11.5 inch Avalon Hill boxes. The box is filled with air. Seriously, there is a single fold mounted playing board, 4 light card stock screens, a 3 page double sided rulebook, a deck of 32 cards, 84 small round chits, 78 small square chits, 4 triangle chits, 1 rectangle chit, 6 small 6 sided dice, one 3 X 5 errata sheet and a cardboard insert 1 inch tall that fills the bottom of the box. OK, so the box could have been a third the size.
The main part of the board is divided into 4 colored (yellow, red, green, blue) rows. One for each player. Each row pictures a ancient environment (desert, jungle, volcanoes, steppes) but these are just for show. They have no effect on the game. Each row has 4 spaces to hold animals and each column has a rank 0, 3, 6, and 9. There are 3 special spaces at the end of the board ranked 13, 10, and 7 for animals that survive long enough to move onto them. At the other end of the board are the environmental and evolution columns which also have the four colors. However, these colors have nothing to do with the player colors, as all environments affect all animals. There is also a turn record chart on the board.
The cards are nice quality. They show a picture and name of the animal and the 3 environments that the animal needs to survive. Some animals will have double of one environment but still have 3 total. There is also a graphic of a die showing 1 pip. As the environments change and/or an animal defeats larger animals it can get stronger and get more pips. On the back of the cards is text describing the animals and what happened to them. This is nice but not important to the game. The only errata concerns this text because the Arsinoitherium description has been switched with the Proganochelys.
The round chits have a question mark on the back and a distinct graphic of an environment on a colored background.
The square chits come in 2 forms. Black with a white number (used for frequency) or colored with a graphic of a die showing 1 to 6 pips. The colored die chits are placed on your animal as it gets stronger. The color will help identify your animal, if it gets into the 3 special spaces. This is the one place that a color-blind person might need to add something to the animal cards to know which animal belongs to which player. A maximum of 3 animals could be there so this is a small adjustment. Other than this, I believe this game is color-blind friendly.
Each player gets a +5 token, there is a turn record token, and there is a start player token.
The dice are functional but in most games, it is a good idea to have another hand-full of 6 sided dice available.

Gameplay: The play is based on using the environment chits to change the 4 environments to your animals' advantage. Each player starts with 12 random environment chits behind their player screen. Each row on the board starts with 1 face up random chit in the environmental column. So you have chits that you will play to change environments and you know what environment each row starts with. Again the rows don't matter, all four environment spaces will be used be all animals.
The game is played turns that include 5 phases.
1. Animal selection – pick a face up animal from the top of one of the 4 decks. (2 animals on the first turn and later when the double moves start) Looking at what environmental chits you have. Try to choose what environments you have the best chance of keeping active and thus what animals you should try to get. Sometimes it does not work that way.
2. Influence the environment – On the first turn everyone will get 3 rounds. On the second turn, 4 rounds, and on all other turns 5 rounds.
On your turn you can do 1 of 3 things each round.
-pass (sometimes used late in the phase when things are going your way.)
-swap 3 or fewer chits with those in the bag/cup. (Only available in the first 3 rounds of a turn.)
-place 1 or 2 chits on an environment space, face down. This is the game! As you place chits in the space, you are trying to manipulate the environment so that your animal will have a chance to grow and survive. When the face down number of chits is larger than the face up number, the face up ones will go away. The face down ones will be turned over. If there is one type with more (2 to 1, 2 to 1 to 1) the larger number will become the face up chits and the environment has changed. If it is a tie (1-1, 2-2) all are turned face down again but that is still considered an environment change. There can even be a rapid change where 7 or more chits get in the face down stack. With 7 the following could happen. They all turn over and the numbers are 3-2-1-1. The environment with 3 would move immediately up and then away because 4 chits were left. Then the 2 would move up and the 1-1 would turn back over. The rule book explains it very well. All of this changing the environment can benefit you. On your turn, if you change any environment and one or more of your animals has all 3 of the environments showing, that animal grows and the next higher die marker is placed on that animal. If your animal has 2 water environments showing, water must be on 2 different rows in the environment column. At the end of this phase, any animal that does not have any of their environments showing dies. That is not good.
3. Battle - In the battle round, each player will be able to attack one enemy animal with one of his animals. Each battle is 3 rounds. The strength of the animal is the die marker showing on the card. This is the hit number for that animal. The animal must roll that number or lower to hit the other animal. Oh, but there is more. The amount of dice that you roll depends on the total number of environmental chits face up in the environmental columns that match your animal's environments. This is called frequency. Say your animal has a strength of 2 with a tree, sun, and water environment. There are 4 trees, 2 suns and 0 water chits showing in the environmental column. That animal would have frequency of 4+2+0=6. You would roll 6 dice and hit on all 1s or 2s. Another animal might have a frequency of 9 but a strength of 1. It would roll 9 dice and hit on 1s. If those animals fight and one has more hits it wins that round. If it is a tie you re-roll. If you win the first 2 rounds the battle is over and the animal that lost dies. If it is a 2-1 victory the loser is suppressed but does not die. You can grow by one strength by beating animals the same strength or larger than you. You don't grow by beating up on weaker species but you can still kill them off. Suppressed animals cannot be attacked a second time but they will not score.
4.Evolution – Each animal in the 4 main rows moves one space toward the special row and eventually into the special row. The 0, 3, 6, 9, 13, 10, 7 are the points for the animals in that column so you want to survive, not be suppressed and move to the bigger numbers. Once in the special row, animals do not move unless pushed. Great if you can score a couple of times.
5. Reckoning (scoring) – You will keep score on a piece of paper. You score points for the column plus 1 point for any empty spaces in the column, if your animal is not suppressed. Once animals are in the special spaces they will sit there until they are pushed out and score every turn. Rotate the start marker and refill to 12 environment chips.

Start the next turn.
One more thing. Each player has a +5 chit. It has 3 uses and can only be used once.
1. It can be used to add 2 more environment chits before the you kill off animals at the end of the influence phase. Only one player may use it and the option is in reverse turn order.
2. It can be used to make a second attack during the battle stage. Only one player may attempt this and the option is in player turn order.
3. It is worth 5 victory points at the end of the game.

Is this a good game?
Some people say no. Here is why. The environment chits and changing the environments have a somewhat random/luck element because you don't know what others will do. The dice rolls can ruin your plans. The game can be a little long. These three things seem to be the standard knocks about the game. My approach to these complaints is this. The chits are initially placed face down but every time the environment changes you get to see them. That memory element is not that hard but if you want to remove the memory element completely just leave them face up all the time. You will see what others have played and learn from it. As for the dice, well don't leave it up to the dice. Learn to increase your frequency and strength. How do you do that? One way is to have similar environments on your animals as those that others have on theirs. Going it alone is death in this game. If the game is to long, just remove 4 or 8 animals from the deck. You will not play as many rounds and save some time.

I like the game and wish I could play it more. The challenge of growing your animals is kind of like a puzzle. I like puzzles. You have to see what the other players need and use that to your advantage.

Edit: Fixed a few grammatical errors and corrected how frequency is determined.
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Jim Marshall
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I too like this game, but find it hard to get it to the table for the reasons you state
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Greg Berry
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Thanks for your review. I have always been curious about this game and now I feel like I understand it a little bit. I may give it a go if I ever find someone who owns the game.
 
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Ruiner of Things
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Well, once again we find that clowning and anarchy don't mix.
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Nice job with the review. I'm giving you a Cordwainer Bird Award and a 6 GG tip for your efforts.

I'm still giving away GG for first reviews of OOP science fiction, fantasy and horror games. Check out my Cordwainer Bird Award GeekList for information on how you can help out--and cash in!
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Charles A. Davis
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Greg,

I am over in WV. Come visit and we will solve your problem.
 
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