TONY & TINO and DRAKE & DRAKE

Reviewed by Herb Levy

TONY & TINO and DRAKE & DRAKE (Eurogames/Descartes USA, Inc.; both for 2 players, both about 30 minutes; $14.95 each)

Tony & Tino and Drake & Drake are parts of the games trilogy designed by Bruno Cathala in the Eurogames’ Blue Box series. (The other entry, War & Sheep, was featured last issue). Although different, the games share some of the same characteristics: same designer (Bruno Cathala), same small boxed appearance, both two player, similar artwork, quick playing and pretty good! And in each case, the “bad guys” get top billing.

The world of the Underworld has long been a topic of interest in movies (The Godfather series of films, for example), television (you need look no farther than The Sopranos) and games including Tony & Tino.

The small box holds a game board which represents a neighborhood in 1930s Chicago. There are plenty of tiles too: 36 square crew tiles, 36 round “corner” tiles, 12 rectangular racket tiles. Rounding out the package are two identical decks of 13 cards. The premise of the game is a stretch but interesting. Two brothers, Tony & Tino, aspire to control the rackets in Chicago. Their father (“The Godfather”) can only choose one of this sons to take over so arming them with identical resources, the brothers must compete for control of the city. Whoever manages to control the most rackets, thereby earning the most money, takes over.Tony&T

The board of the city is actually a six by six grid upon which the 36 round corner tiles are mixed and randomly distributed on the 36 “street corners” of the board. 24 of these corner tiles have values (3 each valued at 1 to 6, 2 each of the 7 and 8 values and 1 each of 9 and 10). There are also 12 blank tiles (six each of purple and blue).

Each player begins with 18 identical crew tiles: one tile valued at 3, three valued at 2, 11 valued at 1 and three valued at 0. The blank blue and purple tokens are replaced with matching color henchmen valued at “1”. Now, the racket tiles (valued from a high of $50,000 to a low of $10,000) are mixed and distributed along two edges of the board. The remaining crew tiles are mixed and placed, face down, in front of each player to form a draw pile. Two tiles are drawn and placed face up in front of the player. Each player gets their own deck of 13 cards, shuffles them and draws three to make a starting hand. Then, play begins.

Each game turn follows a set sequence. First, the active player must play or discard a card. These cards, identical for each player, allow players to switch positions of henchmen on the board, modify henchman placement, randomly redistribute tokens on the board, take another turn or even cancel your opponent’s card play. After playing (or discarding), a new card is drawn so you always maintain a hand of 3 (as long as the cards hold out). You must then place one of your men on the board.

The player MUST choose ONE of the two pieces face up in front of him on an available corner of the board. However, availability is determined by the NUMBER of the chit occupying a corner. In essence, the henchman must be placed on the LOWEST numbered corner. (In case more than one lowest number is available, the player may place his henchman on any of those.) A new crew tile is drawn to replace the one played and the game continues.

If, at any point, all six corners of a street are occupied, determination of who controls the racket is made. The player with the highest crew value along the street gets the racket tile. In cases of a tie, the racket tile is simply discarded.

Once all 36 corners are filled with Tony and Tino’s crews, the game is over. The player with the most money in racket tiles wins and becomes the new Godfather.

Tony & Tino plays quickly and has some nice touches. The grid motif of play seems to be popular and it certainly is appealing. On the other hand, the heavy reliance on blue and purple as the major colors on the pieces, cards and board is probably too much of a good thing as the colors tend to run a little too closely together. Colors a bit farther apart on the rainbow would have been a good idea. The cards add a little spice to the game but at the expense of planning. Chaos by card play can upset the most meticulous strategies. (Although the Police Raid card can stop an enemy play, there’s only one of those in each player’s deck). And there is a printing glitch (at least in our copy). Although identical in every way, the card that allows you to switch the positions of 2 numbered tiles placed on unoccupied corners is called “On the Take” (correctly) in the blue deck but “The Fiddle” in the purple deck!

In Drake & Drake, the bad guys are pirates and, once again, it’s brother against brother as both players try to be the first to land on the island and claim the treasure while conquering territory and throwing enemy pirates into the sea!DrakeD

The game components, as in its “brother game”, consist of a game board (a virtual 6 x 6 grid, with 31 inhabitable areas including 21 island spaces, 8 spaces marked with rum kegs and 2 with treasure chests), double sided pirate tokens (in values of 1, 2 and 3) and a deck of 46 cards (numbered 1 to 46, consisting of 36 yellow Landing cards and 10 orange Action cards).

The cards are shuffled and each player is dealt a stack of 23. From his stack, each player draws a hand of 8 cards and play begins.

To perform an action (and this is an unusual touch), you need to play either 4 yellow Landing cards (which generally place pirates on the board), 2 orange Action cards (allowing pirates to be moved, removed and even flipped to their enemy side!)) or a combination of 2 yellow cards and 1 Action card. Both players make their choices and the cards are revealed simultaneously. Cards are now “activated” based on the NUMBER of the card (1 through 46) with low number going first. Play continues (with hands replenished back to 8 cards as long as the draw pile lasts) until either all of the spaces on the board are occupied OR neither player can play the needed combinations of yellow and orange cards to make a play. Now points are tallied.

Pirate held territory translates into points for the controlling player: 50 points for a space marked by a treasure chest, 30 for a space with a rum keg and 10 points for all other occupied spaces. In addition, points are earned for large chunks of occupied territory that touch on at least one side. These values range from a lowly 5 points for a two space territory up to 400 if you manage to link 20 spaces together. (Presumably, more points are earned if you exceed 20 but that really isn’t very likely.) An offered variant, where players exchange their decks of cards and play a second round with the combined total of the two rounds determining the winner, is a good idea to help lessen (but not eliminate) the luck factor of the game.

Tony & Tino and Drake & Drake are both enjoyable and accessible games that serve well if you desire to bring a gamer and non-gamer to the same table. Both offer up a soufflé of chaos with a little dash of planning to help keep your head above water. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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