The game of Troyes recreates the construction of the Cathedral in the medieval French city of Troyes way back in the year 1200 – which was no small task back then. In fact, it took 400 years to complete! (Don’t worry, the game doesn’t last that long). Back in those days three major areas of influence helped shape the city and society: the clergy, the nobility and the lowly peasants.
In Troyes, players act as a member of a rich family and use their money and influence to affect three aspects of medieval society. You can recruit a workforce to take part in activities, gain influence and protect the city from marauding bandits. Oh and of course there’s that pesky Cathedral you have to complete. The player who gains the most Victory points wins!
The game of Troyes lasts only 6 turns in which players must allocate their principle resource – their Workforce – to 5 possible game turn actions:
- Activate an Activity Card (…like glassblowing!)
- Construct the Cathedral (It’s really big.)
- Combat Events (Yikes! Brigands!)
- Place a Citizen on a Building (You get dice for this.)
- Use Agriculture (Get you cash!)
A player’s Workforce is generated by rolling 3 different colored dice based on the number of Citizens they have in the three key buildings in the city: yellow dice, representing the City Hall, white dice, representing the Bishopric, and red dice, representing the Palace. Activity cards and Event cards may then be assigned different colored dice in order for you to complete them. For example, Wanna fight some Brigands? Use the red dice (Militia). Need to talk to a Monk? Use the white ones (Bishopric) and so on. Events and Activities earn players money (called “Deniers”), Influence and most importantly, Victory Points.
But player interaction can be fierce. (Hey it’s the middle ages!) A Player’s Deniers can be used to buy dice from another player and they can’t refuse. This effectively steals their resources. Players can also spend their Influence points to reroll, or even flip a die to its opposite side. Balancing the use of the Workforce, Deniers and Influence is the key strategic facet of the game.
After six rounds the game ends with victory points being tallied. Activities, Events and building the Cathedral can earn you Victory Points with one final unique twist. Each player has a different character card that has a Victory Point award based on a specific area of the game. For example: If you are playing as Urbain the IV – the pope at the time – he gives VP awards for completing levels of the Cathedral. (Hey, he’s the Pope.) But he doesn’t reward only you he rewards all players. Counting up the final Victory points is fun and this mechanic makes for a great game ender.
The game board, cards and wooden components have a true “Euro feel” and the imagery evokes a French Middle Ages sort of look and feel – like a finely woven tapestry – colorful and appealing. Given the engaging game matrix, the style of the game is just icing on the soufflé… eh…cake.
Troyes has unique mechanics that make learning it difficult, even for those who have played worker placement games. The rulebook is easy to follow, with ample illustrations. But if you are not particularly mathematically minded, it will be difficult to grasp the finer strategic points even after a few plays.
Who would enjoy this?
At first glance Troyes looks like a typical worker placement, resource management game with a medieval theme. But designers Orban, Dujardin and Georges surprise you with great depth of mechanics and unique game play. Randomizers such as dice often result in a game imbalance, but this game feels perfectly balanced. Action and Event cards are randomly chosen but not all of them are used, giving each game a fresh feel. The dice-rolling mechanic is not exactly new, but the way the dice results are applied to in-play actions is ingenious. Every cause has an effect: use too much of one resource and the next turn you will be lacking in another. Since the game only lasts six turns, it takes every ounce of scrutiny to make sure you are staying on track. It almost feels like a puzzle the designers have cunningly created to test your gamer mettle. If you don’t get it right the first time, you are itching to play again to prove you can master it.
If this sounds like a challenge that appeals to you, then Troyes will become a favorite on your game shelf. Vive La Troyes!
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