In this issue, we welcome Robert Marti to our pages.
[I am relatively new to board games. I had played some AD&D in high school and some Axis & Allies in college, but it was not until fall 2019 that I was introduced to modern board games. A friend invited me over to play a few games with some friends. My wife, who thought I needed a hobby, encouraged me to go. There were only three of us that first night and we played Lords of Waterdeep (with Skullport expansion), Star Wars Outer Rim, and Hero Realms. I was hooked. We met once a week, and our group varied from 3-5 people, and we almost never played the same game twice as one guy had a massive collection. After a month or so, I started to buy my own games, picking up Orbis and Otys, and backed my first kickstarter (Wonderland Wars, which still has not arrived). I also picked up Mechs & Minions and City of Gears second hand. For Christmas, my wife bought me Lords of Waterdeep and Risk Star Wars. As with most groups, ours was shut down due to pandemic. But then I learned about solo gaming on BGG, and dipped my toe into those waters with Viticulture and Terraforming Mars. Over the next 12 months, I purchased close to 60 games, from smaller light filler types to co-ops to heavy euros. I really enjoyed the freedom that solo gaming offered – the ability to play what I wanted, when I wanted, and as often as I wanted; however, now that the tide seems to be turning, I am looking forward to playing with a group again. ]
In this issue, he shares a full tricks up his sleeve!
Reviewed by Robert Marti
TRICKERION (Mindclash Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, 60-180 minutes; $60)
“Welcome to the Grand illusion! Come on in and see what’s happening. Pay the price, get your tickets for the show…” Styx
In Trickerion, (designed by Richard Amann and Viktor Peter), you will journey to the City of Magoria, once a bustling city but now just a shadow of its former glory. The decline began when one of their biggest benefactors, Dahlgaard the Magnificent disappeared decades ago. No one has heard from Dahlgaard until you received a mysterious invitation from him. The great Dahlgaard wants you to compete against your fellow magicians to find the greatest illusionist. And to the victor, Dahlgaard will bestow the secret of the Trickerion Stone. Are you ready to seek your fame and fortune? Do you have what it takes to become the next Legend of Illusion?
Trickerion is, at its heart, a worker placement game, where players take on the role of a magician from one of the four fields of magic: mechanical, spiritual, optical, and escape. There are eight magicians included in the base game; two for each field, and additional magicians are available in the expansions. When playing the base game, the magicians are basically the same; however, when playing the dark alley expansion (included in the base game), each magician will have their own special ability. Over the course of the game, you will place workers to help your magician learn new tricks, hire and pay assistants, buy components so you can prepare and setup your tricks, and finally advertise and perform your tricks to gain fame and fortune in order to win the Trickerion stone (and the game).
Trickerion is enormous; it will consume a lot of table space, especially at higher player counts! The game consists of three types of boards: a main board, which is double-sided (one for base game, one for dark alley expansion), four player boards, and several assistant boards (a player could have 1-3 assistants, and each assistant adds a new board that builds off your player board). Additionally, the game provides several sets of cards: magician cards, magician poster cards, standard assignment cards, special assignment cards, trick cards, and performance cards. Finally, you also have character disks, trick and symbol tokens, money, trickerion shards, prophesy tokens, and let’s not forget the dice.
NOTE: If you take the time to organize all of these components before your first game, the setup and teardown of the game should be much faster.
The game takes place over five years (rounds), and within each turn, players move through the following phases: Roll Dice (to determine what assistants, tricks, and coins will be available that turn); Set Initiative Order (determine who goes first, second, etc.); Advertise (pay coins to gain fame); Assignment (players simultaneously select locations where they plan to send their workers); Place Characters (after all assignments are made, players reveal their assignments, and based on turn order, each player sends one of their workers to a selected location); Performance (after all workers have been placed, if any of the magicians were assigned to perform in the theater, then those performances happen now); and finally End Turn (player pay wages, return workers, perform cleanup and setup next round actions).
For the first turn, the game suggests that the person who last wore a top hat go first, and then follow a clockwise order. Each player will then select their magician, collect player components, and select first trick(s). After the first round, turn order is set each round during the “Set Initiative Order” phase, where the player with the fewest victory points goes first and the player with the most going last.
NOTE: The game provides suggested first time setup for beginners, which includes which tricks, components, and assistants you should start with.
As with many worker placement games, turn order is everything. During the assignment phase, each player will simultaneously and secretly determine where they want to send all of their workers, and after all assignments have been made, they are revealed. Unlike some worker placement games, you will not get blocked from visiting a location; there are enough spaces for each player to visit each location during their turn – but, not all spaces are created equally.
You must expend different amounts of “Action Points” to perform the actions at each location. Each worker comes with a specific set of action points (Magicians have 3, Specialists have 2, and Assistants have 1). In a 4p game there are four spaces available at each location, and each offers additional action points (+3, +1, +1, and +0) that get added to the ones that come with the worker. And this is where Trickerion shines, as you must determine which actions you want to take, how many action points you need, and which workers you need to send based on which spaces may be open. For example, at the downtown location, you can hire a new assistant, learn a new trick, or get money from the bank. Each of these actions requires 3 action points. If you are first, you could send an assistant and grab the +3 spot, giving you 4 action points – enough to take one action, or send your magician to gain 6 action points, enabling you to take two actions. But, if you are second or third, you may need to send a specialist, and if you are fourth, you may need to send your magician. Therefore, each player must decide (agonizingly), not just where they need to go and which actions they need to take in each location, but also, how quickly can they get their worker to that location and what bonus spots will still be available. This will determine which workers the player needs to send.
After all assignments have been made, the selection cards are flipped over, so everyone knows who is going where, and this brings up the second strategic part of the game. Can you estimate when you need to send each worker to each location based on what the other assignments the other players have made? For example, you are planning to prepare a trick in the Workshop and then setup and perform the trick in the theater, so you assign one worker to the Workshop and two workers to the Theater. When you reveal your assignments, you discover that two other players are also sending workers to this location. Player A is sending his three workers to Market Row, Workshop, and Theater, but he is only sending a specialist to the theater. Conclusion: He is buying components to prepare and setup a trick that he will perform next round, or hope that it gets performed as a second act. On the other hand, Player B is also sending two workers to Theater (magician and manager) and her assistant to Workshop. Conclusion: She is also going to prepare, setup, and perform this round. And this is where the agony (or fun) really continues. If you have your turn before Player B, you can pick the night you want to perform – do you want to go first on Thursday, but lose some fame, or do you want to go last on Sunday night, and gain extra fame. Sounds like an easy decision – of course you want to go second and gain more fame, but be careful, there is a lot of strategy involved in this decision. If you pick Sunday, you perform last, which means Player B picks which performance card to perform first. And this is where we must dive into the mechanics and details of the performance cards.
In order to perform a trick, you need essentially three things. First, you need to prepare a trick. This requires you to buy the necessary components for the trick and then send a worker to the Workshop to prepare the trick. Once prepared, you add on several trick tokens onto the trick card. Second, you need to setup the trick within a theater. Around the outer edge of the theater you will find the performance cards. These represent the different theaters where you can perform. When you send a worker to the backstage area of the theater, you can setup one trick (per action point) onto one of these cards. You can take this action whenever you have prepared tricks available. Each performance card has bonuses on the bottom of the card, and when your magician performs this card, you get those bonuses. In addition, on each trick card are four symbols that represent the four fields of magic, and when you setup your trick, you must orient the trick token such that the symbol that matches the type trick you are going to perform slots into a specific circle on the card. If you or another player performs the same type of trick, and places the other trick token such that the two symbols in the circle match, this creates a link. Thematically, this represents tying one trick into another, and this gets you more fame, money, or maybe even a trickerion shard. Building these links represents a kind of mini game within Trickerion. Links give bonuses two ways: when they are first created, and after the performance card is played. The third and final thing you need is to place your magician in the theater on the stage. Once your magician is on the stage, you can perform any performance card that has at least one of your tricks on the card. And, once performed, every trick on the card gets performed, even other players, and each player gets the fame, coins, or shards that are on their trick card. But, only the magician who performs the trick gains the bonus on the bottom of the card and any link bonuses on that card.
So, if we go back to our example above, you decide that you want the extra bonuses so you place your magician on the stage first on Sunday night; Player B selects Friday night. You currently have two tricks on two different cards, but you want to prepare an even bigger trick. So, your second action is to send your assistant to the Workshop to prepare this other trick. Player B follows suit and sends her assistant to the Workshop. For your third, and last turn, you place your specialist in the theater, backstage on Sunday night, and due to penalty, you can only setup one trick. You look at the two performance cards, and can create a link and gain one additional coin on Card 1, or create a link and gain two additional fame on Card 2. You put the trick on Card 2. Player B takes their last turn, placing their engineer backstage on Friday night, and places two tricks and creates two new links…on Card 2. Although you got credit for the link you created on Card 2, you just realized that Player B has stolen your performance card. And sure enough, when it comes time to perform, Player B performs Card 2 because she has at least one trick on the card. She gets fame, money, and shards for her tricks, plus bonuses for three links (the two she created and the one you created), and she gets the bonus at the bottom of the card. You will get the credit for your tricks, and gain the Sunday bonus for your tricks, but all the other bonuses have been stolen. And this is exactly what happened to me on my second game. I was so focused on building a huge performance card, I completely missed that another player could place one trick the card and steal the card just be placing their magician earlier in the week. This is why going last on Sunday night may not always be the best option. Unless you can completely fill the performance card, there is always a chance that someone can steal the card. On the other hand, if you spread your tricks across multiple cards, you can ensure that you will gain fame and money even on turns where you do not perform, which is a great strategy too. And, if that’s not enough, you can always add expansions!
Trickerion is a deceptive game. I remember hearing that Vidal Lacerda described how easy Lisboa was – play a card, take an action. Trickerion is very much like this too. Place a worker, take an action. But the amount of planning and strategy that goes into what actions to take and when to take them is what makes this game so difficult. Although Trickerion is much lighter than its 4.20 BGG rating would suggest when playing the base level of the game. This is because the base game includes an expansion, the Dark Alley, which increases the complexity (and fun factor) of the game.
Dark Alley introduces a new location to visit and is provided on the main game board if you flip it over. This expansion introduces two new components. The first are special assignment cards, which add a bonus action/benefit when you assign one of these cards to your workers. For example, one of the “Market Row” assignment cards allows you to take an item from the marketplace for free, or one of the “Theater” cards allows you to gain extra fame or money for preparing a trick. These cards are one-use only, and supplement the standard assignment card you already have in your hand. The second component is prophesies. These are green circles with special benefits/actions/penalties that are imposed on a specific turn, starting on turn 2. There are always three prophesies showing, so you can do long term planning to capitalize or avoid a benefit/penalty; however, when you visit the Dark Alley, you can also manipulate the order of these prophesies. When playing the Dark Alley, you also use the flip side of the magician card, which also gives each magician their own special power. Finally, the Dark Alley expands the game, moving it from 5 to 7 turns, which allows you to build up your magical abilities, learning more complex tricks and more fame. And if that’s not enough, you can add more expansions!
Dahlgaards Gifts (2015)
This expansion introduces two new elements to the game:
- Magician Powers. This introduces 90 different “power” cards that allow you to customize your magician. You get dealt 9 of these cards, and they will get added to your player board and require trickerion shards to unlock their powers.
- Duel of the Magicians. This introduces a rule variant for the 2p game. The base game blocks two action spots at each location for a 2p game, but these blocked spots are static throughout the game. With this variant, a deck of setup cards is provided and these alter the blocked spots each round to increase the difficulty. Additionally, this variant also includes new performance cards to make it easier to create links in a 2p game.
Note: If you are planning to mostly play this at 2p, then this expansion is highly recommended as the Duel of Magicians really tightens up the board and makes things more interesting.
Dahlgaards Academy (2019)
This expansion introduces two new elements to the game:
- Dahlgaard’s Academy. This adds a new location to the game, a new specialist, and four new magicians.
- Solo Mode: This introduces a fully automated, intricate opponent (Dahlgaard’s Heir) with variable difficulty levels. This solo mode was designed by Dávid Turczi.
Note: As a big solo gamer, I immediately purchased this expansion. At the time of this review, I have only played the solo mode, but not the academy expansion. Obviously if you want to play this game solo, this expansion is necessary. I will also point out that the academy expansion adds to the overall size of the game, as its game board is also very large.
Dawn of Technology (2019)
This expansion includes two modules for the game:
- This allows magicians to enhance their workshops.
- Signature Tricks. When magicians learn a trick from their own school, they can instead pick one of these signature tricks, which are enhanced versions of some of the original tricks.
Trickerion is definitely a game that gets better with each play. There are a lot of rules to learn, but they are fairly straight-forward. I highly recommend that new players, especially those dipping their toe into their first complex Euro, start off slow with the base game and then slowly add in the more complex elements. Also, be prepared for a longer game. My first few plays of the game were solo, two-handed, and each game took over two hours. There is a lot to think about in this game, and players who suffer from “AP” may struggle with this one initially. But, please persist! This game is absolutely amazing and well worth the effort to learn (and the headaches you may get after playing).- – – – – – Robert Marti
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Other Summer 2021 GA Report articles