Review of Tournay
Reviewed by: Mary Dimercurio Prasad
Game Played: Review Copy
Number of Plays: 2 – 4 player, 1 – 3 player, 2 – 2 player
Built by the Romans during the first century in Belgian Gaul, Tournay experienced most of its growth along the Scheldt river. In 881, the Normans upstream conquered the city, squelching its magnificent boom. The Norman disaster forced the Tournaisians to flee what became an enormous field of ruins. Only thirty years after their escape did people begin to return to their homes. This game invites you to repair the damage caused by the invasion of Normandy, by constructing and operating the prestigious buildings of the city. Join the new and glorious era, which will see more than seven centuries of prosperity for the rebuilt city. (From the rule book.)
The goal of the game Tournay is to earn the most prestige points by managing a district in the city of Tournay and effectively placing its citizens. The citizens (meeples) are represented by three classes, military (red), religious (white), and civilian (yellow). The force behind the game is in its activity cards. Before beginning the game, these cards are separated into decks by level (I, II, and III) and type: red for prestige buildings, white for characters, and yellow for buildings. They are placed in a 3 by 3 grid on the table. Each of these 9 decks contains one Town Crier card as well; when this card is drawn, an event is triggered (usually bad). There is a deck of 13 event cards; three of these will be placed face up during set-up. Each player receives starting money (6 denier), a plaza card (for available citizens), and two citizens of each color.
Players take turns in clockwise order. On a turn, a player may play a card from her hand (optional), and then perform an action with citizens (mandatory). To play a card, the player must pay the cost listed on the card. The card is placed in the player’s district, a 3 by 3 grid in front of her. The first card may be placed anywhere but subsequent cards must be played orthogonally adjacent to cards already in the grid, never extending beyond the 3 by 3 grid. There are three types of cards (besides the Town Crier): buildings, characters, and prestige buildings.
To perform an action with citizens, a player may use her own citizens on her plaza card, or pay another player to use his citizens at a cost of 2 denier each (use a gray citizen token if it will be used to activate a building, see below). The actions that may be performed are: draw a card, activate one building in your district, combat an event card, earn money, or gather your citizens on your plaza card.
To draw a card, remove one to three citizens from your plaza of the same color as the card to be drawn and place them on the table face down. The level of the card determines the number of citizens, e.g. two red citizens must be used to draw a level II red card. In general, players draw two and keep one. The card may be played at the beginning of your next turn. If a Town Crier card has been drawn, the game is temporarily suspended. A denier is placed on each event card if there is a free space, and all events take place, once for each denier on an event.
To activate a building in your district, take a citizen from the plaza of the same color as the building and place it on that building. It must be unoccupied unless another card says otherwise. Buildings allow players to do things like use another player’s building, gain money, recruit citizens, draw and keep more cards, or draw higher-level cards. Activating buildings may also trigger character card effects if it is in the same row or column as the character(s). These allow you to do things like gain some money or activate a building a second time.
To combat an event card, you must pay the cost on the card plus a denier for each denier on the card. The costs are either two citizens of a specific color (removed from your plaza card and placed face down on the table), or one citizen of a specific color and a denier. The card goes into your hand and may be used as a pass for a single future event. These are also worth one point each at the end of the game.
To earn money, move any number of the same color citizen off your plaza card and place them face down on the table. Take two deniers per citizen moved.
The last option is to gather all your citizens on your plaza card so they will be available again. When you do this you also remove any tokens on your buildings, e.g. damage tokens from events or gray citizen tokens from paying another player to use their citizen to activate one of your own buildings.
The game end is triggered when some combination of conditions have been met at the beginning of the start player’s turn. Conditions include: some number of players have filled all 9 spaces in their districts, a certain number of Town Crier cards have been revealed. Once the conditions have been met, each player may pay for and place a final card, if they have such a card, money, and space in their district. Players score prestige points for each building in their district with prestige points listed on them, one point per event card battled, and points for prestige buildings. The prestige buildings generally give more points to their owners but also give points to all the other players who meet the same criteria. For example, a prestige building may allow the owning player to gain 2 points per red citizen they own but his opponents gain 1 point for each red citizen that they own. No points are given for money unless specified by a prestige building card. The winner is the player who earned the most prestige points.
Note: for complete rules visit the Z-Man Website for Tournay and scroll down to the rules download.
Tournay is mainly a card game. Please note that it is not a card game version of Troyes, as the artwork might suggest. Although there are a few similarities (three types of citizens based on Troyes, combating events, paying to use another player’s piece(s), and shared end game points – though these last are not hidden as they are in Troyes), it is a game of its own. There is a spatial element in building districts including an interaction between many of the cards, as well as some card drafting; none of these are a part of Troyes, e.g. the card interactions in Troyes are quite different, more of a cascading effect, rather than spatial.
There is a bit of a learning curve. The iconography is good but does take some getting used to. A handy icon summary is on the back of the player aids that come with the game. In the first game or two, most time will be spent looking up the cards. There is a card summary on the back of the rulebook; I suggest printing some extra copies, one per player, to have available for the first few games.
The game plays well with 2 players, and I may like it best this way since there is much less down time. With 3 players it isn’t bad as long as the others play quickly. With 4 it can drag a bit – I would only play this again with 4 if everyone knew the cards and had played before. This would not be my game choice if an AP player were in the grouping.
The rules are fairly comprehensive, although there are a few quirks. There are a couple of small printing errors (e.g. the level 2 Arsenal is listed as a person instead of as a building in the summary table) but you should be able to figure these out easily enough. Be sure to read all of the examples and boxed notes before you play or you may miss a rule or two!
Mostly, I really enjoy this game. The events can be annoying at times but I’ve managed to win even when hit more heavily than my opponents. Once a Town Crier is out of a particular deck, it is “safe” to draw from for the rest of the game; this gives you some choice for drawing during your turn without triggering events. I like the building and tailoring of my district – choosing the optimal places to put characters and buildings to best utilize the character powers. There are a lot of choices in the game, including card selection (drafting), deciding on which action to perform, and selecting what building to use. There are usually a couple of ways to do things, for example, earning money by using citizens of the same color or by using a building. I also like being able to pay an opponent to use his meeple. Heh heh.
The production is high quality – from linen textured cards to nice chits and wooden meeples (although I would have liked the 10 coins as chits rather than cards, at the very least for uniformity sake). I think Tournay is one of the best games released in the last couple years.
Opinions from other Opinionated Gamers:
Dan Blum: I’ve played this a few times and am still enjoying it. As with many card-based games, the key to doing well is to put together effective combinations, which inevitably means there is a noticeable luck element. (Which since it is a card-based game shouldn’t surprise anyone.) However, the luck in Tournay is fairly manageable, since you are picking from a restricted space at any given time (i.e., one of nine piles) and have a choice of two cards (not to mention that if there’s a face-up card you like, you can get it).
My only concern is whether or not some card combinations are enough better than others as to imbalance the game. I haven’t yet played enough to tell, as all my games have had first-time players and everyone was therefore more focused on what they were doing than on taking good cards away from other people.
Mitchell Thomashow: This is a clever, reasonably short, and interesting tableau game. The icons take some getting used to. When I first acquired Tournay I played it six times and found it enjoyable and intricate. However, with all of the icons, I’m sure the next time I pull it out, I’ll have to relearn the game. Still, my experience of the game was good enough that I will make the effort. It’s a good game, but not sufficiently dynamic.
Greg Schloesser: Tournay is intriguing, challenging players to optimally choose and place their cards so as to maximize their benefits. Players need to establish a set of cards that will provide a reliable source of income, as well as provide opportunities to acquire new citizens and earn prestige points. Some cards allow players to use the buildings of their opponents, and these are quite powerful. Characters cannot be overlooked, as these can provide additional benefits each time a building is activated. Of course, acquiring and constructing the prestige buildings will ultimately yield the points necessary to compete for victory. These cards will also guide a player to pursue certain strategies. It is challenging and fun to properly arrange these cards to increase one’s flexibility and options.
While I enjoy it, I do have a few issues with the game. Since it is a card game, the luck of the draw can be harsh. Failure to draw cards that provide income or allow the recruitment of new citizens can put a player at a significant disadvantage (advanced rules do allow for the purchase of new citizens). It is difficult to catch someone who has deployed some very beneficial cards early. My main complaint, however, is the abundance of cryptic icons that are liberally used on the cards. My distaste for icons – especially when they are difficult to decipher – is rising. Making matters worse in Tournay is a player aid that doesn’t precisely match the icons themselves, making deciphering and understanding them considerably more difficult. If icons must be used, they should be extremely clear and intuitive. That is not the case in Tournay, and for me, this makes playing the game considerably more difficult and reduces my enjoyment.
In spite of these issues, I do enjoy the game. There are numerous, seemingly viable strategies to pursue, and each game plays a bit differently. The game also plays to completion in sixty-to-ninety minutes, and can occur quicker than you think. Players must plan and execute their strategy quickly lest it fail to reach fruition. I enjoy this time-pressure, which drives the players to move forward and not procrastinate. If the game is well received, it lends itself well to numerous expansions, providing even more options and helping keep the game fresh. In spite of my issues with the icons, I am still enjoying exploring the game.
Tom Rosen: Tournay is one of the best games of 2011. I’ve played it eleven times now and my enjoyment of the game has continually increased. The most important thing I think I can say is that your feelings for Troyes likely have little to no bearing on whether or not you will like Tournay. I really did not care for Troyes, but enjoy Tournay a lot, whereas a friend thinks highly of Troyes, but seems to despise Tournay. Perhaps there’s an inverse relationship even. When I learned Tournay at the 2011 BGG.CON, I was very pleasantly surprised with the game. It’s a quick tableau building game of card interactions. Two elements that I particularly enjoy are the ability to use opponents’ workers and buildings at times, and the importance of figuring out the timing of when to refresh your workforce. This concept was seen again in 2012’s The Manhattan Project and is probably the most interesting aspect of that game. In both cases, there’s a wonderful tension between using just one more worker to maximize your time between “wasting” a turn to refresh versus refreshing earlier to make more impactful turns. Come to think of that, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Duck Dealer’s challenge of deciding how “big” to make your turns. In the end, Tournay is a fairly light and quick card game, but with interesting decision-making about which card to take, when to refresh your workforce, and how best to interfere with your opponent(s).
Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers:
I love it! Mary Prasad, Tom Rosen
I like it: Dan Blum, Mitchell Thomashow, Andrea “Liga” Ligabue, Greg Schloesser, Lorna
Not for me…