Before I begin, I was provided a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid review.
Do you ever have a game that you really want to play but for some reason you just cannot ever get it to the table? Yeah me too. Tiora is one of those games. I received it to review last October, and I was super excited about it because I had it in time for Halloween. Then Halloween came, and first all the people who wanted to play cancelled, but my wife was still game. Then just when I set it up, our neighbor got irritated with all the noisy kids, and showed up with a bottle of wine, and they were distinctly non-gamerly.
Fast forward a few weeks, Triora is again on the docket, just before it gets pulled out, someone arrives with all the excitement of their new Kickstarter delivery that HAD to be played right then.
Fast forward a few more week, and I have set up a two player game…finally. My opponent gets sick and cancels. And, on and on and on.
However, finally, I took it to a con, and on the way in, I told my friend that the we are not doing anything else until we play. So at last, at long last I got to try the game! Finally, I would get to learn if my witch would be the one to avenge the death of the coven mother!
So Triora is, at its core a worker placement game with a set of recycling raw resources (herbs) that each player has to manage, and turn into refined resources (potions). Each player has a witch, and a familiar which they will place at different locations around the town that has wronged them. All the while they are doing their best to avoid the inquisitor, and perhaps visit the spirit of the dead witch mother.
Each location will either allow you to plant herbs, brew potions, corrupt townsfolk, summon zombies (which can be used to create their own havoc), earn coins, or corrupt the location that you are at, in return for points and/or resources. Corrupting the town also takes you one step closer to the end game, as once enough of the town is corrupted the game ends. Pretty much every action you take will raise or lower the attention the inquisitor is paying to you at any given moment. I also should note that at the beginning of every turn players bid for play order, going earlier may result in you earning inquisition attention, while going later may lower it and/or get you resources. All of this is pretty standard worker placement fair, though with a theme I have not seen before, and it is nice that each with has a familiar that can do a lesser version of each action.
However, what makes this game unique is the resource management system. Each player has a board where they track the potions that they have made (these are used to corrupt the town locations, and take various actions on the board). However, there is never any “collecting” of these resources. Rather each player starts with all that they will ever get, they must instead manage their herbs-circle of life style. Once you use the herbs you harvest the seeds, and then you have to plant the seeds, then when the turn moves from day to night to day, the herbs will sprout, then you can take another action to harvest the sprouted herbs.
The final bit that I will note is that at the end of each turn the Inquisitor will move two spaces toward whichever witch has the highest attention level, and the spirit will go towards the witch with the lowest. If you ever max out your inquisitor level, and the Inquisitor finds you you are executed, and the game will end then.
So what do I think?
I think this game really nails its theme. You really do feel like you are on the run all the time, but doing your best to take your revenge on the town. The mechanics of growing the herbs, and brewing potions, and corrupting townfolk all feel spot on to me.
I also love, love, love the herb growing and harvesting mechanic. It is unique, it is fun, and it is deliciously complex to try to master. I truly think it is the most delightful part of the game. I will also add that I love the way the player board looks, with the potion bottle counters to track what you have made, and your witch art in the middle.
I also really enjoy the bidding for turn order, I really like the trade offs you have to take for going early but attracting attention of the inquisition. Along with that I feel like the Inquisitor really adds just the right amount of danger to the game. If you are not careful then you will get taken out. Very clever.
The board is gi-frickin-normous. It is almost comically big. I just do not understand why that is the case, it actually makes it somewhat challenging to play, as you need a non-human sized table to play on, once you add in the individual player boards as well.
I will also add here that I like the art, but it is not brilliant, it’s enjoyable to look at but not something that you are going to keep looking at to find those little hidden details that you may have missed. I will also say that there are a lot of things you are tracking, there are a bunch of potions to track, your herbs, the zombies, the coins, the inquisition, your familiar, your witch. None of it is hard, but it is a lot.
The rules are a challenge. Initially, there were some translation errors, which have been fixed, but it is still a little hard to parse. You have to look at the iconography cheat sheet, and compare that with the rules as written to parse out what to do the first time you play. It can be a bit of a struggle.
Next I want to comment on two mechanics here. The first are the townsfolk, which when corrupted give you set bonuses at the end of the game. This is a wonderful avenue to go down, and SUPER thematic. However, I find that it is really challenging to actually make this path work out well, it just is not quite as fluid as I would like it to be. The other is that I think the focus of the game is on the worker placement part of the game, with the herbology and brewing mini game being a support to that. I wish this was reversed, the herbology part of the game is so inspired and so unique I want to do that more, and the main game board less.
Bringing it all together
Triora is a worker placement style game that nails its theme. From the growing of herbs to brewing of potions, to running from the Inquisitor, you feel like a medieval witch out for revenge. The game plays fast, once you figure out how to play (the rules are a bit of a challenge to parse at first). The worker placement aspects are good, but the resource management system is incredibly inspired, and I wish that was a more featured part of the game. I will also note that the additional rules for two player are quite good, and I do so wish there was a solo variant, I think it would be delightful.
No one has time to read that?! The Inquisitor is coming!
* Spot on theme
* Good art, cool components to track potions and herbs
* Solid worker placement gameplay, amazing resource management gameplay
* Rules are a bit tough to work through, but once you get it it is quite simple, and fast
* I wish the focus of the game was more on the incredible resource system first and the worker placement second
* Good two player variant
* The game board takes up a metric crap-ton of table space
* A fun thematically delightful euro game, that I definitely want to play again.
* I cannot think of anything more satisfying than watching my buddy think he had won, only to get burned by the Inquisitor on the final turn…so good!