Sunday, October 16, 2005

Review: Trias

Ralph Lehmkuhl's game Trias has been around for a while now but I've only recently gotten around to playing it. That's a shame because after one or two playings, I could immediately tell that this was a game I wished I had played before.

Inside the box you'll find a nice, well written rule booklet with clear examples and nice diagrams. You'll also find a scoring track, a deck of cards, several wooden dinosaur "meeples" and 39 cardboard hexagonal tiles.

The hexagons show different terrain types: mountains, steppes, and grasslands. There is also a "south pole" hex which bears a volcano (because everybody knows there's a volcano at the South Pole) and two water tiles. At the start of the game, the south pole tile is placed in the center and the other tiles are randomly arranged in a large hexagonal landmass around it. Together, the hexagons represent Pangaea, the uber-continent that existed at one time in Earth's long distant past. As the game progresses, the continent will fragment and drift apart. Your goal is to have your dinosaur herds dominate as much of the fragmenting land as possible.

This is a very clever game. After an initial placement round where each player places four dinosaur herds on the continent, players take turns controlling the continental drift and dinosaur migration. On your turn you play a card which lists a terrain type. You then must take one hex that matches that type of terrain and reposition it such that it ends up farther from the pole than where it started. As a side effect of doing that, you may dump some dinosaur herds into the ocean. You may create new continents (which are then scored). You might even "drift" that land underneath some dinos that are already "swimming", thereby rescuing them from a watery doom.

After your initial "mandatory drift", you get to spend four action points however you please. You can move your dinos, give birth to more dinos, or rescue three "swimmer" dinos for one action point. For three action points you can "drift" another hex of your choice.

Each time a new continent is formed it's scored. At that point, whoever has the most dinos on the new continent gets two points. Whoever has the second most gets one. But the big scoring comes at the end of the game. At the end of the game, the person with the most dinos on a continent gets one point for each hex in the continent; the person in second gets half as much. Each continent is scored and whoever comes out on top is crowned the victor.

In case you can't tell, I like this game. The theme is whimsical, the pieces are attractive and fun to play with, and there's a good mix of strategy and tactics. There's also a nice amount of "take that" as you dump your opponent's dinos into the sea and then attempt to shut them out of a continent that you've laid claim to as your own. This is a very fun game indeed. And at around 45-60 minutes, the length is just right. I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up.


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