Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tigris & Euphrates: a brief description

I have a lot of serious writing that I should be doing. I want to write something for Father’s Day, and Crystal would like me to write a story or something for her as a present for our anniversary. But the words aren’t there yet, and I don’t have any good story ideas yet, so I’m just going to write and hope that it shakes something loose. So, instead, I’m going to write about one of my favorite games: Tigris & Euphrates. If you were to examine the contents of my game shelf, you would find that a disproportionate number of the games there have been designed by one man: Dr. Reiner Knizia. I love his work, because he manages to develop elegant games which always require difficult choices. He has stated that his life philosophy is “So many choices; so few moves”, and this philosophy is expressed in many of his games. However, of all the games that he has designed, my favorite is the game considered to be his best work: Tigris & Euphrates. Tigris & Euphrates takes you back to the cradle of civilization, placing you in charge of a dynasty trying to establish itself as the greatest of the Fertile Crescent. You do this by building settlements, temples, farms, and markets to support the various aspects of a healthy civilization (military, religion, food, and commerce), allowing your leaders to take advantage of these developments, gathering victory points in each area. If you check out this picture, you will see a game in progress. The round wooden pieces are the leaders (each player plays a symbol, not a color), and the tiles are the different buildings that are played. Red tiles are temples, blue are farms, green are markets, and black are settlements. Each player has a hand of six tiles kept secret (like in Scrabble). Each turn, he may do only two things, which sometimes feels like not quite enough time. So, the civilizations begin to grow and spread. Of course, eventually kingdoms connect, in which case there is a war, with tiles being destroyed in the process and the victor earning even more victory points. Eventually, the draw bag for tiles runs empty, and the game comes to an end. At this point, the winner is determined. Remember how you are collecting four different kinds of victory points? Well, whichever category has the least victory points is used as your final score. So it’s not enough to do well in one or two areas. In order to win, you need to build a well-rounded civilization. There are other aspects to this game that I won’t get into. However, I find this game to be involving and tense. The conflicts are particularly tense, as there is always some uncertainty about who will win. I have seen some games where the obvious underdog in a conflict has turned the tables on his attacker, causing a massive upset. This game is a modern classic and one that I greatly enjoy.

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