[Back in 2018, we reviewed an excellent 2 player game that had eluded American shores for years: Targi. With the release of an expansion for the base game (featured in this issue), here is a Flashback as to how we saw the original, base, game in 2018!]
Reviewed by Herb Levy
TARGI (Kosmos, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 60 minutes; $19.95)
Back in 2012, the German game company Kosmos released a two player game of tribal competition in the desert. This game received critical acclaim including receiving a Kennerspiel des Jahres nomination as well as a nomination for best 2 player game for the International Gamers Award. Despite the recognition, the game was not that easy to get. Now, years later with this release in English, players have the chance to discover (or rediscover) what the desert has to offer in this Andreas Steiger design: Targi.
In Targi, each player is the head of a Tuoreg tribe (denizens of the desert) and seeks to make his/her tribe the most prosperous (which, for game purposes, means having the most Victory Points when the game ends).
The playing “board” of Targi is not a board at all. It is a set up of cards that create the playing area. 16 cards are Border cards. These are numbered from 1 to 16 and placed in that order to form a square with “Raid” cards at each corner. The inside of this square is filled with Goods and Tribe cards with five Goods cards and four Tribe cards placed in alternating order to fill up the space. There is a robber in the game and he begins the game on Border card 1, advancing in number card order, every turn. Each player receives 3 “Targi” figures and 2 Tribe markers (in either blue or white). They also get some supplies to start: 2 dates, 2 pepper, 2 salt, 1 gold and Victory Point tokens (that add to a value of 4). The last player to eat dates (!) goes first. Failing that, blue goes first.
A player may place his Targi figure on any Border space with the following exceptions: no player piece may be placed on the space with the robber, an occupied space may not have a second figure placed there, a player may not place his figure on the Border space directly opposite a space occupied by his opponent and no figure may occupy a Raid card. Once all figures have been placed, Tribe markers come into play.
Ir you were to draw straight lines from where your Targi figures stood, you would discover one or two points where those lines intersect. Tribe markers are placed on the cards that occupy those points. Now, in turn order (and going first alternates from turn to turn), the active player does ALL the actions allowed by the spaces occupied by his or her pieces. These may be done in any order (and may even be declined if wished).
When claimed, center Goods cards allow the player to pick up more resources, even Victory Points. These cards are then removed from play and replaced by a Tribe card, face down. Center Tribe cards require a payment of specified resources to be claimed. Once claimed, they start (or are added to) a player’s display. (More on this later.) Alternatively, one – and only one – Tribe card may be held “in reserve” to be placed in the display later. Claimed Tribe cards are replaced by Goods cards (face down). Border cards can provide basic resources but also offer special – and valuable – actions such as exchanging goods (for one more essential to you), drawing a Tribe card from the deck, paying for it and immediately placing it in your display and the ability to play a Tribe card you have been holding in your hand. No matter what actions are done with Border cards, they remain in place. A not so pleasant action are those demanded by Raid cards.
Raid cards are found at the corners of the perimeter. When the robber reaches them, players must pay the demanded “tribute”, losing either goods or gold or Victory Points. These penalties gradually get steeper as the robber continues his journey. After a raid is triggered, the robber immediately moves to the next space and play continues. Once both players have completed their actions, all face down center cards are turned up, the robber advances to the next numbered Border card, the other player becomes the first player and we do it all over again.
As Tribe cards get claimed, players will construct a 4 x 3 display of those cards, going from left to right. Rows do not have to be completed in order but there is method to the madness. Tribe cards comes in five varieties, noted by their artwork: Well, Camel Rider, Oasis, Targia and Camp. Some Tribe cards award immediate benefits (such as a bonus of goods or reducing the price of future Tribe cards of a particular variety). Some have an end of game scoring bonus. All have a Victory Point value. In addition, a completed display row with four identical symbols is worth a bonus of 4 VPs; a completed row with four DIFFERENT symbols is worth an additional 2 VPs.
Play continues until either a player has completed his/her 12 card, 4 x 3 display OR the robber have made it to Border card 16. Now we score.
To the Victory Points shown on the cards in each player’s display (and any bonuses those cards might bestow), players add the VPs held in their reserve from Victory Point tokens and any bonuses earned for placement in their display. The player with the most VPs wins! Tie? Then having the most left over goods is the tie-breaker. Still tied? Then the game is a draw!
Targi’s use of a “crisscross” placement mechanism goes back at least as far as Sid Sackson’s Intersection (published by Aladdin in 1974) but the twist here is the addition of worker placement to generate needed goods, claim valuable (Tribe) cards and activate special abilities. Using these special abilities wisely can be critical in many ways such as helping you trade for what you need (gold is the most difficult to acquire), cashing in resources for Victory Points and permitting you to play a Tribe card held in your hand.
Competition between players to complete their displays before their opponent can is heightened by the robber who will inexorably advance and cannot be stopped. Time is of the essence. Each move must pay dividends or else. This is made more difficult because of the restrictions on placement. A player’s Targi figure placed on a particular Border card restricts what is left for your opponent to claim that turn. While it is not quite a forced move, you can relegate your opponent to a space that provides little or no benefit. Part of the strategy – and fun – is having to gauge the benefits of a claimed space to you versus the disadvantage claiming a space will put to your opponent; a subtle undercurrent that elevates play.
Component and card quality of the game is good and it must be mentioned that the crucial Border cards are two sided. One side has symbols but the other side has, in English, exactly what the card can do. This is a great help to players just getting into the game and lessens the learning curve.
The desert can be a barren place. Fortunately, Andreas Steiger has discovered a veritable oasis there with an exceptional two player game worthy of its accolades: Targi. – – – – – – Herb Levy
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