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EUPHRATES & TIGRIS: CONTEST OF KINGS

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games; 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, about 45 minutes; $24.95)

 

One of the most popular and respected creations of the prolific Reiner Knizia is Euphrat & Tigris, a true gamer’s game that challenges the most hardened Euro style game player (and featured in the Spring 1998 GA REPORT). Euphrates & Tigris: Contest of Kings is Knizia’s answer to a challenge: transform that classic boardgame into a card game.

The Euphrates & Tigris Card Game comes small boxed with 16 circular wooden pieces (4 leaders with their own unique symbols representing four dynasties), 193 civilization cards in suits of black, blue, green and red (of which 8 are red treasure cards, so noted by a symbol in the right hand corner), 4 catastrophe cards and 3 ship cards.eandtcard

After selecting a dynasty and taking his four pieces (one each in black, blue, red and green), each player takes 1 catastrophe card. The ship cards are placed aside. The eight treasure cards are laid out in a straight line to become the first card in what will become 8 separate, at least for the time being, “kingdoms”. Remaining civilization cards are shuffled and players dealt a hand of 8 cards.

On a turn, a player may do TWO actions from a menu of three possibilities: place one or more of his leaders, place a civilization card from his hand into a kingdom or play a catastrophe card.

A leader may be placed on any civilization card in the kingdom array that is not already occupied by a leader. The leader may come from his holdings or be moved from one card to another. However, if a leader of the SAME color is present in the kingdom, an INTERNAL conflict occurs to be decided through the play of red cards (and only red cards).

The attacker plays as many red cards as he wishes from his hand. Each red card has a value of 1. In addition, a leader occupying a red card in the kingdom adds 1 to the total. Now the defender may respond by playing as many red cards from his hand as he wants. The person with the highest total wins the conflict (with ties going to the defender). The losing player removes his leader from the kingdom while the winner takes 1 played red card and adds it to his Victory Point card stack. Any remaining played cards are discarded.

A civilization card may be used in two ways. First, a card may be placed in a column under a treasure card. This expands the length of the kingdom and allows the player to earn Victory Points IF he has a leader in that column of the matching color to the card played AND he has, in his hand, a matching color card. That matching card may then be played face up onto his Victory Point stack. (The black leader has an additional power. He can assume ANY color, thereby allowing players to earn VPs in colors in addition to black provided that other color is NOT represented in the kingdom already.) I

The second way to play a civilization card is to place it face down BETWEEN two columns (kingdoms) thereby connecting them. To make this play, though, those two adjacent columns have to already have at least three cards each under their treasure cards. This connective placement can create a chain reaction of conflicts.

If kingdom connection results in leaders of the SAME color now being together, EXTERNAL conflict occurs. External conflicts are resolved in a similar fashion as internal conflicts EXCEPT the color of the cards used depends on the colors of the leaders involved (e.g. if two green leaders are involved, then GREEN and not red cards are used to resolve the conflict) and the rewards are potentially greater. As with internal conflicts, the losing player removes his leader and the winner gets one of the played cards for his VP stack. But now, ALL of the cards of that color from the losing player’s kingdom are removed from play (unless protected by the presence of another leader on the card) and placed on the winner’s VP stack!

The final option is playing your catastrophe card. This card can only be used once the entire game and it removes a civilization card from the array. Both cards are discarded. Any civilization card (except those occupied by leaders or treasure cards or ship cards) is vulnerable to this play, even cards that have joined two kingdoms together, effectively splitting kingdoms.

Treasure cards and ship cards add a little twist to the basic flow. Treasure cards may be claimed by the player joining two kingdoms together provided he has a green leader (“the trader”) in one of the kingdoms and a red card to exchange for it. (Treasure cards act as jokers and can count as any color, an important consideration in final scoring.) Ship cards show two colors: blue and something else. They may appear if FOUR cards of the same color IN A ROW have been played in a kingdom. In that case, the player removes (and discards) the four cards and replaces them with a single ship card that shares the original cards’ color. For each leader a player has in a kingdom that matches the color(s) on a ship in that kingdom, he may play a card of the matching color (or both) from his hand to add to his VP stack. When, finally, there are not enough cards for all players to replenish their hands back to 8 at the end of a player’s turn, the game is over and we score.

Scoring is done as in E&T: your score is the total of your LOWEST color. So, for example, if, at game’s end, you have 5 Green, 7 Red, 6 Blue and 4 Black, your score is your LOWEST total – 4. The player with the highest (of the lowest) total wins!

The monuments in the original game no longer appear (replaced by those treasure cards) and ships are new. Although it comes in a relatively small box, be prepared to use plenty of table space! The card array of kingdoms tends to spread and occupy more space than you might imagine. One of the curious stipulations in the rules are that players may NOT look at the cards in their Victory Point stacks. This introduces a memory element, not present in the original game. It’s an element that the game could do without as it hampers players in following a specific strategy to balancing their holdings. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 black cards if you only have 1 red. Your score will still be only 1! We suggest abandoning this rule, allowing players to consult their VP stack and plan accordingly.

The E&T Card Game has an ambitious and challenging goal: streamline a highly respected game classic and yet keep the flavor of the original. To a large extent, it reaches that goal, maintaining most of the elements of the original and cutting play time down to less than an hour. But this may not satisfy the traditionalists and purists among us. The E&T Card Game will not replace the game that inspired it but it does offer a compelling play experience well worth your attention. – – – Herb Levy


 

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