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Out of the dust comes a classic in every sense of the word.  Tigris & Euphrates, long considered Reiner Knizia’s masterpiece was fir...

Tigris & Euphrates Tigris & Euphrates

Tigris & Euphrates

Tigris & Euphrates


Out of the dust comes a classic in every sense of the word.  Tigris & Euphrates, long considered Reiner Knizia’s masterpiece was first released in 1997.  One to 4 players will take turns to take up to two actions in developing their Kingdoms.  However whereas many more-modern Euros struggle or eschew player interaction, T&E provides it in bucketfuls.  Not only will you decimate your opponent's Kingdoms but they will yours as well.  If you don’t like seeing your brilliancy ruined then this is not the game for you.  If your group thrives on aggressiveness (over the board) then you’ve got to give try this.


Gameplay

Despite the seemingly lightweight rules it took me a good while to wrap my head around these 20-year-old, but still brilliant, mechanics.  The biggest thing I struggled to grok was the different coloured player pieces.  Maybe I’m a dullard but none of the rules would sink in until I had this concept down.  Instead of receiving all the red tokens for your pieces, you receive all tokens i.e. 'leaders' of the same shape. The leaders you receive are black - that's a king, green - a merchant, red - a priest and blue - a farmer.  The shape is what denotes ownership, not the colours.
The dawn of civilization...
The most common action players take are to either place civilisation tiles or one of your leaders.  Both these actions may wreak glorious destruction on your opponent's kingdoms, but may also damage your own.  There are two different types of combat in this game, if a leader has been placed into a kingdom and there is already a leader of that colour then a revolt will be resolved.  Each kingdom can only have one leader of one colour but there may be leaders from multiple players in each kingdom.  

If a civilization tile has joined two kingdoms together then a war between those two Kingdoms occurs, in which each leader of the same colour will battle each other regardless of which players own it.  The winner will effectively resolve multiple conflicts until there are no longer two same-coloured leaders in the joined kingdom.


A revolt between the Pot King and the Bull King.  Adjacent red temples and red tiles played from the hand count
Each combat follows similar principles and once you’ve seen two or three they are easy to conduct. Revolts will be augmented by red tiles (temples) that are adjacent to the two leaders and any supporting tiles red tiles played from each players hand.  The defender wins ties and the winner destroys (out of the game) the loser's supporters and returns the losers leader.

Full-scale wars take the shape of multiple revolts but in a battle the individual strength of the leaders (calculated by totalling how many tiles of their colour they can connect to) plus additional supporting tiles from their hand (of the same colour).  The defender wins ties again and the winner not only destroys their opponent's supporters but also destroys the tiles their leader was using to calculate strength.  This can have huge consequences on the board.
Lion has placed a tile connecting two Kingdoms.  War will break out between the Lion and Bull King, and between the Lion and Pot trader.  All connected tiles of the same colour and played tiles from the hand will count.
These fighting concepts sound simple when written down, but I felt like a true dullard trying to learn this.  However, there is a beauty in their simplicity (once understood) and the limited actions each player has, occupies a rare space in board game design in which the board and pieces appear to take on a life of their own.  As your kingdom's power ebbs and flows it really does invoke the ‘cradle of civilization’ theme slapped onto this abstract game; it is. despite the simplicity brutal and very engaging to play.

As you place tiles that are connected to your similar coloured leaders you will gain victory points of that colour.  Your final score will be the lowest of those four victory point totals.  This design creates a constant tension between what you want to do on the board (i.e. an opponent’s leader is vulnerable and you have lots of red tiles to support a conflict) vs what you should do to collect more victory points of your lowest colour.
Endgame, Lion wins with 19 victory points.

The essence of this game is simple but it does create a lot of options and planning for each player.  However, before it’s your turn again, the board may be completely different, but it’s far from chaotic; an experienced player will win this every time.


Components



Beautiful board bits
I rarely have anything negative to say about Z-Man-published games, Z-Man have taken Dr Knizia’s masterpiece and just updated it with chunky plastic monuments and leader tokens.  The rest of the components are either tiles (in one of four colours) or victory points.  These plastic components are particularly nice looking on the board and are functional, in that it is very easy to determine what is a leader versus a tile.


Advanced variations included in the box

Criticisms

I can’t criticise this. I acknowledge it is absolutely genius design and I just might not be clever enough to play it (well).  It’s not a hard game to play but the number of options and forward planning possible does remind me of chess to a large extent.  I am also, in general, not a fan of abstract games, however, I would readily recommend this abstract.  My only criticisms are for my own brain and pre-conceived ideas of how board-games work.


My puny brain struggled with these rules. despite being well written

Conclusion

I can understand why this is widely considered to by Knizia’s masterpiece.  It has simple actions that create complex kingdoms that appear to take on a life of their own.  It is the epitome of a wargame or at least a competitive game if we don’t want to start that argument again…  Taking part in an experienced (i.e. 10 + plays) four-player game of Tigris is a fantastic way to spend 90 minutes.  However, being the learning player where two or three others already know the game is no fun at all.  However, the rewards of that act of self-flagellation i.e. playing amongst experienced equals make it absolutely worth it.

Massive thanks to Asmodee for sending this review copy.  Most game stores I've visited have had this in stock and quite often at a discount. You can use this link http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/ to find your nearest in the UK or support them using their online web stores if you can't make it in person. 

Publisher: Z-Man
BGG Page: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/42/tigris-euphrates
Players: 2-4
Designer: Reiner Knizia
Playing time: 90 minutes


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