Sunday, 6 March 2016

Trickerion

Plays: 4Px1.

The Game

Trickerion is a Kickstarter game about magicians and magic shows. You are an unknown magician trying to make it big in show business. You develop new magic tricks, buy materials to make the equipment you need, set up the equipment, and eventually you perform. You manage a team of assistants to help you do all these. This is a worker placement game. Your goal is to become the most famous magician in town (score the most victory points).

This is the game board. It looks complicated, but it's really just four regions to which you can send your workers to perform actions.

These are game components of the green player. The round discs are the workers. There are different types. The magician (i.e. yourself) has 3 action points, while the lowly errand boy has only 1AP. Actions you can perform have different AP requirements. If you send an errand boy to do an action that requires 2 or more AP, you will need to find ways to supplement his AP. Else he won't be able to execute the action.

The square tiles are your equipment. After you gather the necessary materials, you can manufacture equipment. Each piece of equipment can be used only once. The moment it is set up for a performance, it will be exhausted. If you want more you need to execute the manufacture action again.

These are the fronts of the action cards. Four of the colours represent the four regions on the main board. The fifth colour represents the workshop on your player board. You need cards for placing workers because where to send which worker is something everyone decides secretly and simultaneously. Only after these action cards are committed by everyone they are flipped over to reveal who is going where.

This is the player board. At this moment I have three workers (discs). There is space below each worker for an action card. The top right section of the player board is the workshop. It is a region you can send workers to to manufacture equipment.

These are the materials you need for making equipment.

This region of the main board is the performance theatre. If you send a worker here, there are two things he can do. He either sets up equipment on the stages (those cards on the right), or he performs a show. Only the magician himself can perform. The audience area is actually the score track. You keep track of your fame (victory points) there.

This reference booklet contains the details of all magic tricks in the game, e.g. materials required, benefits gained. When you develop a trick, you take the trick card from the deck and it belongs to you exclusively. Buying materials to make the necessary equipment for your magic trick is tedious and costly, so usually you try to minimise doing this by developing tricks which need similar materials. Thankfully the raw materials do not exhaust like the equipment does.

This is the player board again. That row in the middle is your storage space for raw materials. You only have 6 spaces, so you can have at most 6 types of raw materials at any one time. At the top you also only have 3 spaces for magic tricks.

This is one of the regions on the main board where you can assign workers. Workers are placed in the round spaces. There are differences between these spaces. The leftmost spot gives 2 extra action points. The two central spots give 1AP each. The rightmost spot gives none. There is an advantage in sending your worker here earlier. Such bonus AP also means it is possible to send a lower level worker to do a higher level task.

Those rectangles with icons specify the kind of actions your workers can perform. The grey dice determine which new workers are available for recruitment. The white dice determine which type of new magic trick you can develop. The black dice determine how much money you can collect (sometimes magicians need to do children's birthday parties to make ends meet). The two actions at the bottom are changing a die value, and rerolling a die.

This is another region on the main board. You buy materials here. Normally only the four types on the left are available in any one round. You can perform an action to change what will be sold next round. One player has done so here - the dove will replace the metal sheets next round. There is also an action which allows you to buy an item which is not officially sold (smuggled goods I guess). A player has done this too - the ropes in the middle.

This is the player board again. The action cards have been played, and revealed, but the workers have not yet been sent out to work. The smaller board at the bottom is supposed to be an extension to my player board, but we didn't have enough space to place it to the right of my player board. You gain such expansions when you recruit a middle-tier worker.

At the top left you can see I have manufactured equipment (stack of square tiles) for my magic trick.

These stages (cards) around the theatre work like a sushi belt. They come in from the left, and when they reach the rightmost spot, they are dismantled. If no performance is held when a stage is dismantled, the equipment set up on it is wasted. In this photo all stages have some equipment, so all of them are eligible for performances. You can perform at a stage only if you own one of the equipment on it. When you perform, all equipment owners get something, but as the performer you get something extra. So there is incentive to execute the perform action, even though you are helping the other equipment owners.

In Trickerion, recruiting workers is the same thing as the family growth action in Agricola, so we stacked the new worker like the newborn child in Agricola.

I know three magic tricks now (the three cards at the top). There is overlap in their raw material requirements, so I can save some effort.

When setting up equipment on the stages, the icons on the equipment tiles matter. The type of trick (of which there are four) determines which icon must be placed within a circle. If you want to score a bonus, you need to create pairs of icons that match. When you place equipment tiles, you can create opportunities for cooperation. Or you may see it as creating opportunities to leech off the actions of other players. When more than one player has stakes in a stage, who will be the one ultimately executing the performance?

I played with Jeff, Boon Khim and Kareem. They were all deep in thought.

My player board. I now have a Level 3 (highest level) magic trick, at the top left. Since there are only 3 spots for tricks, I had to discard an older trick to make way for this. I also have 6 types of raw materials now, which means I will have to discard if I buy a new type.

The Play

Trickerion is mainly a worker placement game, with an additional twist added to the core worker placement mechanism. There is a production life cycle you have to go through, from developing a magic trick to buying materials, making equipment, setting up the equipment and eventually performing to the public. I think in a typical game you'll probably go through this 3 to 5 times. Some parts of a life cycle can be done multiple times, e.g. you can produce more equipment and use them for more performances. Different players will go through their life cycles at different paces, and sometimes when your phase coincides with your opponents', competition ensues for the action spots on the main board. You don't often get completely blocked out though. Usually the worst case is the better spots are claimed by others.

I feel the game is mostly an efficiency game, a tactical game. It's about how you optimise your actions when going through the life cycles. You want to watch your opponents and observe their progress, so that you can gauge which spots will be more hotly contested, and which ones are less in demand.

One of the spots on the game board - the Dark Alley - lets you take special action cards. These are single-use cards which can replace a normal action card for one round, and they provide all sorts of additional powers. Coordinating your actions to make the most of such special action cards is quite fun - the card combo type of fun. This is quite tactical in nature, since these cards are single-use cards.

The final scores - Kareem 126, Boon Khim 122, Jeff 109, me 103. Both Jeff and I had recruited fewer workers, and we felt this was the main reason we trailed the others. In addition to that, my game wasn't very efficient. The others had done better at creating combos and making good use of the special action cards.

The Thoughts

I find Trickerion a little tedious. There is much work, and I feel the enjoyment I get out of it does not justify this amount of work. There is much effort required in picking which magic tricks to develop, in buying the necessary equipment and eventually in orchestrating the performance. However I feel there really is not a lot of competition or interaction in developing magic tricks. There is little benefit in competing for similar tricks which need similar materials. Players doing this will likely fall behind while others who face less conflict soar ahead. Once you pick your first trick, your subsequent tricks will likely be of a similar nature, because you want to reuse your existing materials as much as possible. So I feel there is little need to compete with others in this aspect. Most of the competition is in being more efficient. The game is mostly tactical. There is not a lot of long-term strategy to think of. This doesn't mean the game is poor. It depends on what you like.

There is some challenge in trying to create good combo moves, and when done well this is satisfying. The game is won or lost on many small tactical decisions. Players don't have very different overarching strategies.

Trickerion introduces some changes to the worker placement mechanism. The setting is interesting. The graphic design is good and the production quality is high. It's a Kickstarter game though, so I'm not sure whether it can be found easily even if you want to buy it.

2 comments:

Noplug Games said...

That boardgame looks way too intimidating!

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

The game itself is not as complex as the artwork makes it seem. It's not easy for players who are new to the hobby, but if you are a boardgamer and you can handle games like Agricola, Caylus, Puerto Rico, then you won't have a problem with Trickerion.