Martin Wallace apparently considers Tyros his most underrated game, so I was very eager to give this one a go, playing with Alex, Alistair and Bernard.
We drew the tiles to set up the empires, but they were all at the far end of the board from Tyros, which struck us as a bit daunting for a first game. So we redid it and got a more benign spread, with orange in Cyprus, green in Sardinia, yellow in the south of France and violet in North Africa. (I noticed afterwards that we should’ve had yellow and green the other way around.)
Everyone dashed to Orange Greece on Round 1. I headed on towards Green Sardinia and then to Yellow France. Alex and Alistair hung around Greece, as orange clearly looked in the best position to expand into the largest empire. Bernard headed for Green Sardinia and was the only player to build a city in Round 1.
The orange empire soon had a straight line south and looked to be heading for a monopoly on the eastern 11 spaces, but yellow managed to avoid being boxed in by getting the top row space bordering on the Black Sea, eventually expanding across to the eastern edge of the map. Green expanded southward to the map edge, so things looked bleak for the violet empire.
Nobody wanted to go to violet, but in an effort to use up available cards before the end of Round 2, I built a city there. And a happy event this turned out to be, because while violet was indeed the smallest empire at the end, I got 7 bonus points for having the majority of violet cities, plus it enabled me to get 7 more bonus points for being the first player with a city in every empire - so 22 points in all!
Alex established himself well in orange, to the point of referring to it as "my empire". Bernard mostly invested in green and Alistair played a positional game, keeping his ships and one or two cities in the centre of the board. I had a yellow city, but that empire was limited to a row of spaces along the northern edge, so it didn’t seem worth investing in. Again, this turned out to have been a wrong assumption, as yellow broke out westward en then spread south, eventually becoming the second largest empire., with green getting hemmed in from all sides.
We only really started trading on Round 2, after seeing that you absolutely need to build large sets to do anything worthwhile. Also, trading with the bank seemed a good early round way to sift through the cards, until the draw pile ran out.
Midway through the game, we all got in on the relatively cheap act of thwarting each other’s city building plans by sailing into the same space as an opponent’s ship.
By the time Round 6 rolled around and the game was about to end, building cities in the few remaining spaces was virtually impossible, with a surfeit of ships ready to block others. Alistair had the most ships. He used them to prevent any others from gaining points from empire spaces without cities, while claiming three of them himself. This boosted his score by 18 points.
Alex had the most cities in the largest empire, but never managed to get to the western half of the board, so ended up with the fewest points, 65. The difference between the city scores in the different empires is not so great that you cannot offset it by other judicious moves. Alistair had 76 despite having the fewest cities, while Bernard and I both had 80. Bernard was helped by a couple of very advantageous trades he made, while I had that windfall of the violet city.
Alistair made a comment that confirmed something I had suspected when he said Tyros is like Acquire with movement.
Absolutely. There is the same orthogonal growing of empires/hotel chains, the same investment in cities/shares. I love Acquire, having been fortunate enough to pick up an old 3M copy at an op shop for some small change. It is early days yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to play Tyros more from now on. There is less arithmetic, all the information (except who holds which map tiles) is visible on the board and there is a more intriguing spatial element with the fact that ships can only sail on water, so that getting to an adjacent space may require a detour.
The theme of Tyros is more convincing too, though I think one shouldn’t equate the empires with the goods used to depict them and perhaps the cities should be thought of as trading posts.
Based on the first try, Tyros is a very appealing game, easy to learn, quick to play and generating interesting decision making with an impressive economy of means.
I reckon Mr Wallace is right in thinking this one deserves more attention.