Trajan

Just got this one for my birthday! It combines elements of several fun games/game types/game elements:

  • mancala
  • trick-taking games
  • simple area control
  • worker placement
  • bonus stacking/combos
  • populace fulfillment

While there are a lot of actions, commodities, and lots of special tokens in Trajan, each turn you only take one normally, so it feels less overwhelming than many other strategy games.

The irregular rounds, the heavy combo possibilities and the beautiful iconography help make this game quick to pick up and easy to follow.

Some of the highlights:

  • interesting action choice mechanism: hop colored action markers from a starting “tray”, dropping off one in each subsequent clockwise tray until you use up all that were in the starting location. The end tray is the action you will be taking, and any Trajan tile in that spot will also give you bonus score/functionality of later turns
  • the seaport action lets you draw commodity cards in several ways, or trade in those from your hand for points. Larger collections of cards are worth more points, but it’s first come first serve during each quarter of the game, as ships fill up with cargo and are unable to take on more
  • area control pops up in two places, the same ones where worker placement does: military actions and construction actions. Placing tokens from a limited supply converts them into legionnaires or workers for the rest of the game, and they can then be used to obtain points/votes/other goodies, and construction can even lead to free additional actions

There are a number of “bonus stacking” mechanisms in the game. When I say this I mean any sort of free stuff/cool combos, not just literally points: free actions from construction or extra action tokens, which can even be doubled up with a +2 token; free placement of tokens from certain Trajan tiles; free direct points from others; wildcard tokens for commodities/demands/construction/extra actions. Whoever controls the senate gets first pick of bonus tiles, which confer extra points in the endgame.

At the end of every quarter – the game is divided into four quarters of four rounds each, which themselves have a variable number of turns – all players must meet the demands of the people. Each preceding round of the quarter, a new demand gets revealed. There are three kinds of demands: bread, games (represented by gladiatorial gear) and religion (represented by a massive Olympic-style torch). There may be more than one of a type, and for each demand not met, a player gets further penalized, losing victory points.

I’ve only played a demo game so far but this is fast-paced and easy to learn, with lots of random bits while still involving a good deal of meaningful choice. I can see it getting a fair share of play in my gaming circles.

4 out of 5

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