Dale Yu – Review of Troyes Dice

Troyes Dice

  • Designers: Sebastien Dujandin, Xavier Georges, Alain Orban
  • Publisher: Pearl Games
  • Players: 1-10
  • Age: 12+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Asmodee NA (who distributes Pearl Games in US)

Troyes Dice is the third game in the Troyes family – first Troyes in 2010, then the Ladies of Troyes two years later, and then Troyes Dice, a good ten years after the original.  The artistic feel is the same between all games, and this small box reimagines the original game where you must balance the needs of the three main parts of the population: Nobility, Clergy, and regular people.

The city is represented by a 2-piece wheel; around which 9 Plaza tiles are laid out.  Each player gets a scoresheet which has a number of important areas.  There are three colored districts, red for nobility, yellow for citizens and white for clergy.  These each take up almost a third of the sheet.  Each of these districts has six columns, with an empty square at the top.  These have to be filled in with numbers; there are many different ways to do it, but it is suggested that beginners simply place a 1 in the left most column for each color and ascend until the 6 is in the rightmost column.  However the numbers are chosen, it’s important that the numbers in a particular column are the same and that each player have an identical layout of numbers.  At the bottom of each district is a resource tracker – red influence, yellow gold, white knowledge. Underneath the districts are a small set of tracks for your population, one for each of the three colors.

The game is played in sixteen turns – split up into 8 days, each with a morning phase and an afternoon phase.  In each half days, dice are rolled and placed on the board, the black die effect is resolved and then each player chooses a die action.  In slightly more detail:

1] Roll dice – the four dice (3 transparent and 1 black) are rolled. They are placed in ascending order for the four plaza of this day.  Black dice are placed before transparent dice of equal value.  The black die is always considered black.  The transparent dice take on the color of the colored plaza they are placed on.

2] Resolve the Black event – the black die destroys the plaza it is on.  Pull this plaza away from the board a bit.  Also, starting with day 3, the black die destroys a die on the player sheet – namely the combination of the number of the die with the color of the plaza being destroyed.  All players cross this number off on their sheet, and they can no longer use the buildings in that column.  (This can be prevented with a fortress – more on this later).

3] Perform an action – the players now simultaneously choose one of the the 3 remaining dice to perform an action.  Costs for choosing each die are printed on the board underneath the plaza.  If you cannot afford any action, you do not take an action and instead gain one of each resource (money, influence, knowledge).

In short, you choose a die, possibly modify it, and then use it in the appropriate place on your sheet.  But, it’s somewhat complex.  First, you choose a die, and then you pay the cost as noted underneath it on the small wheel (1 denier, any 1 resource, 2 denier or 3 denier).  Next, you can use influence to mentally modify the die number +/- 1.  You can do this as many times as needed.  You can also spend 2 knowledge to change the color of the die.  Once you have the color and number set, then you apply that die to your scoresheet.

You could choose to generate resources.  If so, go to the track matching the color of your roll and circle a number of resources equal to the number of your die.  As you use resources, cross them out.  As you move along the resource tracks, certain resources have a meeple attached to them.  When you gain that resource, you also gain the attached meeple, and you can circle said meeple at the bottom of your scoresheet.

You could choose to construct a prestige building – this is the upper building in each color. If you build one, either outline the building or circle it (if you’re lazy like me).  You must build the building matching the number of your die

  • Red – Fortress – A Fortress allows you ignore black die rolls in the entire column (for all three districts).  You also gain a citizen as shown on the building.
  • Yellow – Great Hall – Gain the pictured resource or citizens for each available die (from the current roll).  In this case, the color of the available dice always refer to the actual combinations seen on the board.
  • White – Cathedral – Unlock end game scoring for a particular type of building.  Choose one of the six bonus boxes at the right of the scoresheet, write a 1 in the multiplier box for your 1st and 2nd cathedrals, a 2 for your 3rd/4th Cathedrals, and a 3 for your 5th/6th cathedrals.

You could choose to construct a Work Building – this is the lower building of each color – again outline or circle the building to show it has been built.  For each work building, gain the two citizens of matching color as shown in the building.  Note that there are bonuses on the citizen tracks – allowing you to build a building for free with the fifteenth citizen of each color, and a 2 citizen bonus at the 20th.  There are also bonuses when you have completed the 3rd, 6th and 11th column.

For all buildings, as you build a pair of buildings around a diamond, you gain the bonus within the diamond as soon as both buildings surrounding it are built.

4] End of half day – flip over the plaza which was destroyed by the black die, this likely changes the color of the plaza (some, but not all, of the tiles have the same color on both sides).  At the end of the afternoon phase, turn the wheel one space so that the day number changes to the next day.  At the end of the 8th day, the game ends.

The final scoring looks at three things:

1] Cathedral bonuses for buildings – score points based on the number of buildings constructed multiplied by the bonus number in the circle.  If you did not fill in a number, the score is always zero.

2] Resources – in each line, score 1VP for each pair of resources gained but not crossed out

3] Citizens – score 1VP per citizen circled.

The player with the most points wins. There is no tiebreaker.

The game also includes an advance expansion called Banquets/Raids which uses a set of double sided tokens.  3 are used each game, each associated with a specific plaza, and they start on the Banquet side, which gives a positive benefit whenever the die from that space is chosen.    If their plaza is destroyed by a black die, the token is flipped over to the Raid side, where it will remain for the rest of the game, providing a negative effect whenever that die is chosen.

My thoughts on the game

This is one of those games where it may take as long to be taught the game the first time as it will to play the game (once you know it).  And, I don’t mean that in a bad way.  Instead, I’m impressed by how much game you can fit into a 20 minute timeframe.  (After my fifth game, I’d guess that it was taking about 15 mins per solo game).  There are a lot of things to explain to be able to play – all of the parts of the scoresheet and the workings of the plaza wheel; but once you get a grasp of it, it’s easy to remember.

Before I go any further, let me state that this is a strictly simultaneous solitaire game. Only one player rolls the dice, and there is no interaction between players.  Each player chooses any of the three transparent dice, mentally changes it if they want, but none of their interactions affect anyone else.  There is no competition for resources or race for scoring bonuses.  I’m not sure why the box limits it to 10 players, as this really could be infinite.

I think the main question asked of board games that are converted to dice games is: Does the new version capture the essence of the original game?  Here, I think the answer is yes.  Players still have to carefully balance the three different sectors of the game as each provides different abilities.  The dice game does seem to condense the play into a shorter time frame, and I appreciate that.

The use of the transparent dice is clever, and one that I do not recall seeing in the past (but of course, there are so many games out there now, I may have missed or misremembered that fact) – and the rotation of the inner wheel helps you plan ahead a bit for what colors might be available in your future.  Of course, the black die will cause color changes along the way as it causes the plazas to be flipped – and it adds a bit of uncertainty into each die roll as one fourth of the plazas of that half day will become unavailable.

As you play the game, the biggest decision point is which die to take and then how and if you are going to modify it.  Sometimes the cost of the die is the issue – because if you don’t have enough denier, you just have to take whatever you can afford.  However, with enough influence and knowledge, you can make any die have any color/number combination – it’s just whether or not you are willing to afford that alteration.  This, of course, means that gaining resources is important; but each die that you use to gain resources is one less that you can use to build buildings.  This is one of the angst filled decisions of the game, when to take resources instead of building things.

Unlike other roll and write games that tend to generate their action/variance from combinations, there are very few extras here – though there are some incremental bonuses on the resource and population tracks.  In Troyes Dice, the magic is in the ability to change to die rolls to what you want, provided that you have the resources to do it.  All of the building actions are good, but you have to pick your path that you want to take.

The destruction of dice starting on Day 3 adds a bit of extra strategy to the game, continually limiting the areas that you can use on your sheet.   By the end of the game, you could potentially lose 12 dice areas from your sheet – though with repeat rolls and fortresses, I think i’ve been averaging about 7-8 areas blighted out.  It’s a neat idea and offers the player a risk/reward calculation.  If there is something that you really want, you may have to go out of your way to modify dice to get something now, lest it get blown up by a ill-timed black die.

Be sure to know the Cathedral rule, I once had someone mistakenly think that if they used the “6” value cathedral, even if it was the first one drawn, that they could put a x3 multiplier down.  It doesn’t work that way, but it is a mistake I can easily see happening.

I’ll admit that I’ve only played it solo, but again, you’re really only playing against the scoreboard here – so the only thing that is different is that my games have been quicker as I can make my decision and move onto the next roll without having to wait for anyone else to decide what to do.  I really like this one, and I am definitely putting this into my traveling roll and write carry-all case.  It’s the sort of game that I would play in binges – thus far, I’ve had 2 sessions, one with 3 games in a row, the other with 4.  Once the board is set up, the turns in a solo game go super quick!

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Craig M. (4 plays):

 This is one of the best roll and write games  to come along in a while. The snappy turns coupled with simultaneous play make this very accessible. My initial plays had the “just one more” element to them which is a good sign. While the game can feel “samey” the addition of the banquet/raid tiles help this. Also, the support from Pearl Games and the designers with a series of different challenges/scenarios will keep this fresh for quite a while. Each of the challenges also list the scores of the designers providing nice benchmarks to chase. It is hard to avoid immediate comparisons to the dice game version of Rajas of the Ganges: The Dice Charmers which is a much more faithful version of its board game version both mechanically and in length of the game. Troyes Dice provides a quick engaging experience thematically connect and for me much more likely to stick around long term.

Chris Wray (>5 Plays):  Dale is absolutely correct when he describes this as “strictly simultaneous solitaire game.”  But while there may be no player interaction, I think it is extremely cool that you can play this game with however big a crowd you have.  Troyes Dice has some cool mechanics, and it is one of the better roll and writes out there.  I gave it away after a few plays because it got a bit same-y for me, but at a relatively low price, this is worth checking out!

Brandon K (3 plays) – Simultaneous solitaire games have their place in the roll and write genre, and this is a good one, with just enough strategy and luck it can be challenging and it can be fun. The ability to protect your columns is extremely important and each play that we have had, those red buildings are highly valued at the beginning of the game and then thusly the Cathedrals that rewards you for those fortresses, should always be built late, so having a lot of abilities to manipulate the dice is really important. I dig it, I was the beneficiary of Chris’ copy being given away and I am grateful. 

This all does still leave me wondering though, if this is Troyes Dice, what were we playing before as Troyes has far more dice than it’s dice namesake. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y, Craig M.
  • I like it. Brandon K, Chris Wray
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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