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Triumvirate» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A pocket-sized game that packs a punch, and plays with 2 rss

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LordDillon and I enjoy trick-taking games, but, like bidding games, it’s hard to find one that works for two players. So we were intrigued when Travis asked us to playtest his new game, Triumvirate. LordDillon is a Latin and Roman History buff, so the theme was perfect for him. I like games that give me something new. Neither of us was disappointed.

Triumvirate took what we know about trick-taking games, and turned it on its ear.

Trick taking games are for four people, usually partners. Nope. Triumvirate is for two players.

Trick taking games start with a bid and a trump, and the game is focused on that bid and that trump. Nope. In Triumvirate, nothing’s decided until the last card is played. You’re both influencing the winning suit throughout the game. You can be strong in more than one suit. You can change direction in the middle of the game. You can play to hands that have been scored, or try to push the scoring in a different direction.

Trick-taking games are about the number of tricks you take. Nope. In Triumvirate, winning a trick allows you control over the next card led, but the points come from the cards you can’t see, not the ones you can. Cards are set aside ("pledged") face down, and the points from the pledged Legion cards of the color that won the most hands of the game are used to determine victory. In each suit, Legions are the cards 7, 5, and 3, Senators are the cards 8, 6, 4, 2, 1, and then there is a special, unranked card called the Mob. Part of the strategy is whether to play a legion card (especially a large one, like the 7 or 5) to take a trick, or to hold it back to pledge. A pledged card won’t mean anything if that color doesn’t win the game, but a color that wins the game won’t help you if you don’t have any cards of that color pledged.

Players are dealt eleven cards, and the remaining cards are set aside. The non-dealer leads a card, and then the dealer plays a card. Each trick is 2 cards. The victorious color of each trick is scored on the Europa Tableau. The player that took the trick leads the next trick. The hand is played until a suit has won three tricks. When a color wins a hand, it is marked on the Curia Hostilia Tableau. When a color has won three hands, the game is over.

Like many trick taking games, a player must follow suit where possible, and if they cannot, they may play any other card. In Triumvirate, the highest card wins the trick, even if it is a different color from what is lead. However, the Mob card (unranked card) is the lowest ranked card of its suit, but will beat any card of another suit (in case of a tie, the first card played wins the trick). It is to my benefit to make the other player follow with a mob card in the suit I lead, so that he cannot spring it on me later.

At the end of a hand, each player has the option of pledging a card. Pledging a card means taking it from my hand and putting it face down on my Roma tableau. Once I do that, it is out of play for the remainder of the game, for better or for worse. Any Legions I pledge will be points if that color wins the most hands in the game. Any Senator or Mob cards will help me to control which cards are in play. If I pledge a Mob card, I know it can’t be used on me later. If I pledge a high Senator card in a color that I don’t want to win, I know my opponent won’t have it available later in the game. I must choose wisely, however, as only three cards may be pledged per player.

After pledging has been completed, the cards that were played and the cards that were set aside are shuffled and re-dealt. I can try to make the color that won the previous hand win another hand, or I can try to make the game change course, and have a different color win. I must choose between throwing all my might behind one color, or reacting to changes in the game. There are strategic decisions to be made throughout the game, making it very satisfying.

While I was somewhat neutral about the theme, after playing Triumvirate, I found the mechanics (especially pledging Legions) interesting and immersive enough to overcome any doubts I had. Setup is quite quick. It requires little in-game maintenance. One round can be played in about 15-20 minutes, when you only have a little slice of time, or you can choose to play a full game of three rounds. It’s portable, but it has full-sized cards and solid wood pieces. There’s a lot to like about this game, and I encourage you to give it a try.
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T. Nomad
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Thanks for the review, Indigo. I can't wait 'til I get my hands on my copy!
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Pasta Batman
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Yet another intriguing review. All the positive reviews here have sparked my interest in this game, but I see that all so far have been from playtesters that, presumably, received free copies. I was hoping to see some reviews from paying customers before Monday, when the new printing goes on sale.
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pastabatman wrote:
Yet another intriguing review. All the positive reviews here have sparked my interest in this game, but I see that all so far have been from playtesters that, presumably, received free copies. I was hoping to see some reviews from paying customers before Monday, when the new printing goes on sale.


I can understand that, but my review would have been the same if I had purchased it. I tried to give a balanced and accurate view. I mentioned that LordDillon liked the theme, while I was neutral about it, but the mechanics won me over. There were additional things that I mentioned to Travis in my feedback to him that were details about the layout of the rules or game pieces, which he improved upon before the final printing, and no longer applied here. I was impressed in the balance of the game, and, judging by the finished photo above, the final execution.
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pastabatman wrote:
Yet another intriguing review. All the positive reviews here have sparked my interest in this game, but I see that all so far have been from playtesters that, presumably, received free copies. I was hoping to see some reviews from paying customers before Monday, when the new printing goes on sale.


I'm not a playtester and I've never written a BGG review, but I do write personal comments. I was attracted to the game by the theme and (I admit it) the fact that the rules were available in Latin (thanks to William Herbst, our own BGG latindog!). However, now it's here, it's getting a lot of play on its gaming merits. It's currently a 7.8 for me. In my comment for it I wrote:

"Quick, cunning game, with opportunities for "thinking in reverse" for getting what you want by manipulating your opponent and not always taking the obvious approach. This suits me very well (I like Zertz, for example).
The theme is attractive, being a Rome fan, and surprisingly thematic for a very short card game.
Quality of the components is very good. I particularly like the satin finish of the wooden pieces and the choice of slighty muted but rich colours."

OK it's not a full review, but it might help you to make up your mind!
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The Steak Fairy
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Games? People still play games??
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I was a playtester, though not a very good one, and received a free copy. I was not particularly impressed with the game, though I certainly respect the opinions of those who are. I was not in the mood to write any sort of negative review--the two people with whom I tried the game both had reservations about it as well. Very few games will please everybody that tries them. In this regard, Triumvirate is quite conventional.
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