Alan How: First thoughts on Trade on the Tigris

  • Trade on the Tigris
  • Designer: Geoff Engelstein & Ryan Sturm
  • Publisher: TMG
  • Players: 3-6
  • Ages:10+
  • Time: 60-90 minutes
  • Times played:once with a purchased copy €50

Many years ago the original Civilisation game was created by Francis Tresham and several clever ideas were introduced including a new trading system whereby players traded commodities to gain points which were exchanged for civilisation developments. The desire to gain more commodities of the same type drove the trading process. Included within some of the trades were calamities which affected the person receiving the card. This was part of the trading process and also the way in which you could affect a rival. I always thought that the system should be used in a future game but until now I had not come across a similar system.

Trading on the Tigris acknowledges the original idea and uses it as its central game system. Players receive a starting number of basic and imported production cards which are used to acquire the basic and imported goods. Development cards allow players to add more production facilities or other benefits gradually increasing the number of trading cards received each round. There then follows a similar but not identical trading system to that used in Civilisation. The benefits for players allow sets of commodity cards to be exchanged for money (which are the victory points in this game). In addition the cards allow the players to move their markers along two tracks. The markers start in the centre of each track and move towards democracy or dictatorship on the government track while on the religion track they move to Ashur or Marduk. The further the markers move from the centre, the better are the cards  to be drawn, which increase the number of commodities that will be traded in the future rounds.

The trading takes place in five minutes or less and then the sets of cards are cashed in. Each player can only carry over three cards so most of the cards used to get victory points and other bonuses immediately. There are a few cards that provides a negative effect for the receiver of that card. Unlike the trading system in Civilisation these can be traded on in the trade phase to other (unsuspecting) players. The downside is not too radical so it doesn’t feel as disastrous as you might expect. In addition some of the cards allow for a specific specific special trading card to be received from a separate deck of cards. These provide very interesting impact on the game. So far I have found only cards that have to be traded. In other words they provide no benefit for the person receiving the card unless there are included as part of a trade. This is very interesting and novel use of the trading system.

Trades can be reasonably complex. They can include the trading cards, culture points and barbarian points which are good or bad respectively at the end of the 2nd to 5th term if you have the most of these types of points. You have to tell the truth about the commodity elements of the cards, but not about other aspects, though you may of course.

The game only lasts five turns and the points from trading and will comprise the majority of your victory points while some points are derived from your final position on each of the two tracks.

My thoughts on the game:

As soon as I heard that the game had use the original trading system from Civilisation I was interested in the game. I was concerned that the negative impact of trade could offset the enjoyment of trading but fortunately this concern was misplaced. The game plays really quickly (I’ve only played with three people so far) and the trading was enjoyable and fun to conclude. The penalties for receiving negative impacts was sufficiently small that no one worried about them too much although they did have a marginal effect. I thought they were appropriately for the scale of the game.

The components are solid. Players have a board which shows all the resources and how sets increase in value and is a good player aid. There are hundreds of cards which was great, and while the iconography while clear, the icons used were too small. Why on earth publishers do not use more space on the cards for larger symbols is beyond me. The two tracks are jigsaw pieces which are fine but the religion tracks appear to be set up the wrong way when compared to the iconography on the cards and the player boards. It’s not a big deal, but ought to have been picked up. These are minor niggles.

The biggest compliment I can play the game is that the trading system lives up to the values of the game that inspired it and I look forward to future games where it would fill an hour of gaming.

With more plays this could rise to I love it.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Joe Huber (1 play) – While I am a big fan of Civilization (and even more so Advanced Civilization), and I agree that there’s a nice attempt to reuse some of the mechanisms, at that point I diverge from Alan.  For me, Trade on the Tigris became less and less interesting as the game went along. Players don’t receive enough cards to make the trading as interesting as in the original game, and the game just doesn’t last long enough to allow for the story arc to play out – which is usually the problem with attempts to create a shorter civilization building game.

Dan Blum (1 play): I agree with Joe’s comment about the story arc, but it bothers me less than it does him. I rather enjoyed the game up until we got to the level three development cards. All the development cards are obtained by drawing two and selecting one; this works fine at the lower levels since the cards generally give you abilities which shape your civilization but do not have drastic effects. The third level cards all seem to be about drastic effects and victory points, which is fine as far as it goes but means they are very swingy so pick-two-choose-one doesn’t work very well. I had a choice of two cards which did very little for me or to anyone else and other players got cards which gave them many more points and/or hurt other players. This had a major effect on the outcome.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Alan H, Dale Y
  • Neutral. Dan Blum
  • Not for me… Joe H
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1 Response to Alan How: First thoughts on Trade on the Tigris

  1. ianthecool says:

    I’m disappointed they didn’t keep their original title.

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