Sunday, 21 August 2011


Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

Troyes (pronounced as "Trwaaa" or "Tooh-waa") is a highly regarded game released in 2010. It is known as a game with creative use of dice. It is also called a worker placement game. The theme of the game is protecting the medieval city of Troyes (in France) from invaders and building its cathedral. Various actions in the game grant victory points. After a fixed number of rounds (depending on the number of players), the game ends and whoever has the most VP's wins.

Every player starts the game with a number of followers, and assigns them to three types of industries in the city - religious, military or civic. There are always 6 jobs in each industry. Most jobs are taken by players' followers, while the rest are taken by neutral followers. Each working follower translates to one die of the appropriate colour to be rolled (religious white, military red, civic yellow). Dice for neutral workers are rolled too. After dice are rolled, players take turns using one to three dice for various actions. Using your own dice is free but you need to pay to use others' dice, which is cheap if you buy and use a single die, but can get very expensive if you buy to use in a pair or a triplet.

You can use dice to build the cathedral. You can fight invaders and external threats. Doing these earn you some rewards, in influence, money and victory points. You can take over someone's job, which means you'll have more dice next round. A subset of privilege cards are used in each game and they enter the game in a random order. Dice can be used to gain rights to use privileges, and afterwards to exercise them. Privileges have various abilities, e.g. changing dice colours, changing dice values, gaining victory points, earning money.

The gameboard. Three quarters of the board are the city of Troyes. The open space at the centre is the city square, where dice are placed. There are five segments, four for up to four players plus one neutral dice segment. The black rectangles around the city square are the three industries (religious, military and civic) with 6 jobs each. Each industry has 3 privilege cards with the matching colours on the card backs. Only one card from each industry is revealed in the first round, so only by round 3 will all be revealed. The black rectangle on the top right corner of the city is for cathedral building. The bottom part of the gameboard, i.e. outside of the city of Troyes, is for placing external threats.

The privilege cards. The middle row tells you the cost of purchasing rights to a privelege card. The number on the blue shield is victory points to be gained by owning the rights. The bottom section tells you that dice that can be used to execute the privilege (all yellow in this example), and also the effects of the privilege. The card on the left lets you earn money for each follower in the religious sector or the military sector. The card on the right lets you increase the value of red dice by 5.

Other than cash, influence is another currency you have to manage. You need influence to bring more followers into play. You also use it to reroll dice or change their values.

There are many ways to earn VP's. Rights to privileges are worth VP's. Defeating threats too, and many privilege abilities. There is a VP penalty for not contributing enough to cathedral building. At game end, each player reveals a secret objective card dealt at the start of the game and everyone scores according to every card. Naturally you can prepare to score well for the card you are dealt, but you'll need to try to guess what the other cards held by other players are by watching how they play.

The Play

I played a 2-player game against Allen at Old Town Kopitiam Cheras, with Jeff teaching us. The 2-player game worked quite well.

I was a little cheap and didn't bother to keep many followers employed in the military. It was expensive to pay their salaries. I tried to get more followers in the civic field, because they are free. I had the secret objective card of having as many working followers as possible, so I tried to keep as many of them employed as I could.

I used my influence freely, first to bring in followers and later to fiddle with my dice. Allen accumulated much influence, and it didn't occur to me that he was working towards the secret objective card he was holding. In hindsight it was very obvious. I should have at least saved some influence to score some points. I didn't score any.

Early in the game I gained rights to a privilege that let me convert one white dice to three yellow dice. Later in the game a privilege card came up that converted yellow dice to VP's. It was a wonderful combination. I planned to use this combination repeatedly to score tons of points. Unfortunately Allen foiled my plans by using my dice. Using up others' dice is a very valid and important strategy. It's dangerous to have the mentality of "my dice are mine".

The city square. On the left you can see one of my green follower lying down. He has just been fired from his job and is now sulking. I can use him for something else, or I can leave him there to continue to sulk. If he stays there, my other followers in the military are protected from being fired.

Look at my (green) segment. I have so many clerics (white) and carpenters (yellow).

The Thoughts

I must admit I was a little prejudiced even before I played Troyes. It seemed to be a very typical cube-converting Eurogame, with the same old boring medieval city setting. Having now played the game, I'd say I was more or less right.

I do think the dice mechanism is interesting. The overall package works. There is tension and there are interesting decisions. There are different ways of gaining VP's. You need to try to work out effective ways of using the combination of privilege cards and threat cards that come up. You need to watch what others are doing and try to hinder them too. Interaction is high. You get your opponents' followers fired from their jobs, you use up "their" dice, you fight over limited slots to contribute to building the cathedral and fighting enemies. There is competition all over the place.

I'm not sure why I don't particularly fancy the game. It's well crafted, but somehow lacks a spark for me. It reminds me of how I felt about Macao, which is also a fine game and well-liked, but I think I like Troyes more. I also like it more than Kingsburg, another clever-use-of-dice game.

Maybe I have Euro burnout.

I actually quite like the artwork in this game. I think they are tasteful, despite the boring and over-used medieval theme.


J.Y said...

My only experience with Troyes is during BGC boardgame retreat the other day.

I quite like the game, it has a very interesting dice mechanic.. I think in 4 player game the game is much more intense, as your dice will be taken away pretty quickly by other players, before it even comes back to your turn again. Plus more people will compete for worker spaces for dices.

Not sure how the 2-player game is different though in terms of rules :D

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

hi jun yet, troyes with 2p works quite well. i guess it is because regardless of the number of players, all 18 dice will be used. but i'd imagine with more players you'd "own" much fewer dice and the decisions about how to spend your dice will be even more agonising.

allen pointed out that with 2 players, one change is that the players get 2 secret objective cards each as opposed to just 1. the number of rounds played is also different. but i think most of the rules stay the same.

one interesting aspect is how much effort you want to spend on fighting over jobs. if people do this a lot, as a group they will have less dice to fight the external threats. so there is a bit of a cooperation element. tricky!

Frank Conradie said...

I have played quite a lot of Troyes recently, and I really love the game. It is invariable tense and competitive, with lots of ways to get points.

It also plays differently every time, depending on which action cards come out (it helps that I have the mini-expansion from the BGG store - won in a geekgold auction :-)

I think it plays best with 3, but is still excellent (and quick) with 2. Four player is really tough, as your dice will disappear rather quickly. The best description I have heard regarding this is "don't think of the dice in front of you as your dice, rather think of them as dice you don't have to pay for."

I also happen to love Macao, so it seems I am turning into a bit of a Stefan Feld fan-boy ;-)

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Among Stefan Feld's games that I've played, I like In the Year of the Dragon (somehow I dig the theme of surviving hardships) the most, and also quite like Notre Dame. I thought Roma was just OK, and I really disliked The Speicherstadt.

I think I have now developed a bias against games that feel "too Euro". The problem is I'm not sure I can define what's "too Euro". Somehow some games just rub me the wrong way. E.g. game mechanism-wise I'd say Troyes is superior to 51st State, but I like the latter more.