Euphrat & Tigris - or Tigris & Euphrates, as
we more commonly say in English - is a game of the dawn of civilization.
At least it claims to be - it's actually more abstract than that
theme would suggest. But it's true that there are more elements
of story in this game than in most of Knizia's games. The rivers
on the board help the terrain tiles feel more natural, and watching
two city-states spread out until they come into conflict gives one
some sense of how early border wars must have arisen. But basically,
the game doesn't have the same sense of atmosphere that most American
gamers tend to like - or that Ursuppe has, for
Whew! That's the negative out of the way! The rest of this game
is very good stuff, indeed - a game that will take a long time to
master. The play is not too complex, but the strategies definitely
require a lot of thought. The game is for 2-4 people, but plays
much differently at either end of that spectrum. A four-player
game might be more accurately called "Let's you and him fight!"
The components are very nice: an attractive board with 176 spaces
(almost a quarter of them river), 153 civilization tiles of four
different types (settlements, markets, farms, and temples), some
catastrophe tiles, 6 wooden three-dimensional monuments, 16 wooden
disks representing leaders (four per player), 140 wooden cubes as
victory point counters, 4 screens to hide your tiles and victory
points, a cloth bag for the tiles, and a few other odds and ends.
Most of the components are both attractive and functional - the
one exception being the catastrophe tiles. These are too close to
civilization tiles in appearance - they need to stand out more.
I glued mine to wooden blocks, which does the trick - coloring the
borders white might also work.
The game is different from any other I've ever played, so it took
a bit of getting used to. For example, your four leader pieces
all have the same symbol on them, but come in four different colors
(black, blue, red, green). Most games divide players' pieces by
color, so it feels strange at first that each player has a red
piece, a black piece, etc. Once you've got it, however, it feels
easy enough. The four players in the game are the Bull, the Archer,
the Potter and the Lion - all drawn from authentic Mesopotamian
art. The artwork, by the way, is by Doris Mathäus of Doris
& Frank fame, and is quite beautiful.
Each turn, a player gets two actions. An action can be to:
You may repeat the same action twice - lay two tiles, for example
- and you chose the order any actions occur in. Everyone starts
with six civilization tiles, and you draw back to six at the end
of anyone's turn after playing any. Each player has two catastrophe
tiles which are not replaced when played.
- place a tile on the board,
- place a leader,
- place a catastrophe tile, or
- get rid of some of your tiles and draw replacements from the bag.
The object of the game is to score victory points in all four
spheres of influence: red, green, blue, and black. The four tile
types are color coded (blue farms, green markets, red temples and
black settlements), and correspond to the four leaders (blue farmer,
green merchant, red priest, black king). The trick is that your
final score, used for victory purposes, is how well you did in the
color you collected the fewest points of! This means if you are
an awesome king, and get 30 black victory points, but a lousy farmer
and only get 5 blue victory points, your final score, when comparing
to the other players, is 5. You would lose to someone who only
got six victory points total in each of the four colors! So the
game forces you to be balanced in your outlook.
You score points in five different ways:
Learning the difference between an internal conflict (caused by
placing a leader into an existing kingdom) and an external conflict
(caused by placing a tile which joins two existing kingdoms) is
important, and seems to be the hardest thing for people to grasp
about the game. It took me a while, but I have it down firmly now.
Aside from that, the game mechanics are fairly easy and intuitive,
and the game flows smoothly. It makes you think a lot, though, so
be prepared to be tired after a game, which takes about 1.5 to 2
- Placing a tile in a kingdom where you have the appropriate leader
scores one point in that color;
- Having a leader in a kingdom with a monument of the same color
scores one point per turn (thus monuments are fought over);
- Collecting one of the ten treasures that begin on the board,
which scores you a "wild card" - you can assign it any color you
want at the end of the game;
- Winning an "internal" conflict: when a leader is placed in a
kingdom which already has a leader of the same color, one of them
must go, and the other scores a red victory point (because temples
- red tiles - are used to resolve such conflicts);
- Winning an "external" conflict, which is caused by placing a tile
which joins two kingdoms, each of which has a leader of the same color.
External conflicts score VP of the appropriate color equal to the
number of leaders and tiles lost by the loser.
Catastrophe tiles, by the way, are used to destroy previously placed
civilization tiles. This is usually done to split a leader from part
of his kingdom, so you can take over the split-off part, or challenge
him in his newly reduced powerbase. You only have two, and the player
who uses them too quickly may regret it later ...
I've mentioned "Let's You and Him Fight!" This is because in a
multi-player game, it's perfectly legal - and a good tactic - to
cause an external conflict between two other players.
- if player A has a kingdom with a black leader and a newly placed red
it's probably to player C's advantage to link these kingdoms up.
- player B has a kingdom with a red leader and a newly placed black
This is because player A probably has a lot of black victory points
already, and is just starting to collect red, while the opposite
situation is true for player B. If player C can link these kingdoms
up, they become one big kingdom - and there can only be one leader
of each color in a given kingdom. Therefore, it's likely that
player A's established leader (black) will knock off player B's
newcomer, and vice versa. This will win a lot of black victory
points for player A, and a lot of red victory points for player B,
but player C doesn't care about that - they already have a lot of
those points, so they don't need them. What player C wants to
prevent is both players A and B scoring in their weaker spheres.
You win by the least collected color you have, remember.
I like this game a lot, yet it's very different from another recent
acquisition, Ursuppe. The latter requires only
slightly less thought, but has a much lighter tone and "feels" more
like the subject matter. Euphrat & Tigris is an
excellent game, but not something to be undertaken lightly. It's
a more serious game, with harder choices and less chance (though
there is enough chance in the draw of the tiles to keep it fresh).
This is a game to play when you want to savor a hard-earned victory,
or simply pit yourself against other players, brain power to brain
Recommended for serious gamers.
Other games by this designer I've reviewed are:
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