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FLASHBACK: EUPHRAT & TIGRIS

(With the Euphrat & Tigris: Contest of Kings card game getting feature treatment this issue, we though it would be a good idea to see how its parent game, Euphrat & Tigris, was received back when Kban gave it a good look in the Spring 1998 GA REPORT)

EUPHRAT & TIGRIS (Hans im Glück, 3-4 players, 60-90 minutes)

 

Reiner Knizia has been one of Germany’s most prolific game designers for the past decade, churning out four to six new games per year. His games, such as Quandary (Summer 1997 GA REPORT), Titan: The Arena (Fall 1997 GA REPORT), Modern Art (Fall 1996 GA REPORT) and Tutanchamun (Spring 1997 GA REPORT), tend to have clever mechanisms, be reasonably short (30 to 60 minutes) and accessible to both casual and serious gamers. They usually depend on player interaction and hinge on perceived value as the driving force.

Euphrat & Tigris, on the other hand, is a radical departure for Knizia. E&T is a 90 to 120 minute “gamer’s gamer) of developing balanced civilizations. It is a tile laying game (for three to four players), with different colored tiles representing settlements, temples, farming/agriculture and markets (in black, red, blue and green, respectively). Similarly, each player has four round wooden leader disks (one for each color or sphere of influence) with his dynasty’s symbol. Each player also has a screen to keep his tiles and earned Victory Points secret.euphratandtigrisbx

The rectangular board starts with 10 temples, a plain wooden treasure cube on each. Players start with six civilization tiles, four leader disks, two catastrophe tiles and a privacy screen. A player’s turn consists of taking any two actions from among the four choices:

1) Position a leader

2) Place a civilization tile and receive a Victory Point (VP)

3) Place a catastrophe tile

4) Swap up to six tiles

A player may choose two different actions or perform the same action twice. As with most Knizia games, you’d like to do just a bit more, creating strategic tension in the choice process.

Leaders (kings, priests, farmers and merchants) can only be placed orthogonally to temples, never on a river space and never in such a way as to join two kingdoms together. No Victory Points, (represented by little wooden cubes in colors matching the tiles and leaders) are awarded for positioning leaders but no VP can be earned without them on the board. By adding a civilization tile to an existing kingdom, a VP is gained for the dynasty whose leader disk matches the color of the tile played.euphrattigris

Since only once leader of a given color can peacefully co-exist in each kingdom, a conflict occurs when a second leader of the same color is added or when kingdoms merge. In the former instance, each conflicted leader adds his temple support (red tiles) in his kingdom to any red tiles he wishes to play from behind his screen. Totals are compared. A tie goes to the defender and the osing player must remove his leader from the board. The winning player receives a red VP. In the latter instance, the merging player decides the order in which the conflict gets resolved and this is done by comparing the number of supporters (tiles of matching color) in each leader’s original kingdom and adding tiles from behind one’s screen. The player with the high total remains on the board and receives one VP of appropriate color for each of the tiles lost by the vanquished leader.

The merger of two kingdoms also results in a treasure VP being awarded to the player with a green (market) leader in the new, combined, kingdom. Treasure VPs are wild cards that can be used as any color and come in quite handy at game’s end.

One key to ensuring rapid growth to one’s dynasty is in erecting a monument. A monument is built when a fourth tile of one color forms a 2×2 square. A wooden 3D two-colored monument is placed, one of whose colors must match the tile placed. Monuments yield on VP at the end of a player’s turn if he has a leader of matching color present in that kingdom. This VP production every turn allows a dynasty to grow rapidly and to concentrate on shoring up its weakest sphere of influence.

Catastrophe tiles break up a kingdom into two pieces and are a powerful defensive move to prevent an opposing dynasty from piling up an insurmountable lead. Since each dynasty only has two catastrophe tiles to last the entire game, they must be used sparingly.

Players continue to draw tiles, replenishing their hands back to six. Play continues until there are either no tiles left to be drawn or there are two or fewer treasures left on the board. The winner is the player with the greatest amount of victory points in his WEAKEST sphere of influence. Knizia is not kidding. When he says “balanced”, he means it. Having the greatest number of say, green market VPs but only having a few red temple VPs would be a losing proposition

E&T is relatively easy to teach by example but difficult to learn from scratch. The rules are very clearly stated and well written but it is the concept of the two different types of conflicts and how they get resolved that trips up even experienced gamers. The game does flow nicely once all the concepts have been fully absorbed. …

The unique victory conditions and the wide range of choices a player has force each player to constantly adjust strategies on the fly – when to build, when to add leaders, when to force or avoid conflict, and when to break up a kingdom. These choices ultimately determine the winner making Euphrat & Tigris a true gamer’s game…Highly recommended. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Kban

Copyright 1998, all rights reserved.


 

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