Some games provide you with a wide-open sandbox of opportunity, with little to no limits on the number of actions you can take on a particular turn. These games are like the skies in the Great Plains, endless as far as the eye can see, with no rules and constraints holding in the vision of what you want to achieve in-game.
Torres is not one of these games.
Torres gives you 10 turns to build the highest and largest castles and position your knights to maximize each castle’s score, all while your opponents are trying to do the same under the same strict limitations. Originally produced in 1999, Torres has been causing analysis paralysis with gamers for almost 20 years. Is this Torres worthy of the action points spent on its reprint? Read on to find out.
Torres is an abstract area control game for 2-4 players. Torres plays best with 3 or 4 players.
Torres takes place over 3 phases (known as years), with each year divided into a number of rounds. At the beginning of each year, players are given tower pieces in stacks, with the number of stacks equal to the number of rounds during that year.
On a player’s turn, they are granted 5 action points to spend on the following actions:
- Build a castle block: Use a stack of castle blocks to add to the base or height of a castle. Base blocks must be built next to existing blocks, but no two castles may connect through a newly built block. Castles may be no higher than the number of blocks in their base.
- Add a knight: Place a knight next to an existing knight, as long as it is at the same level or lower.
- Move a knight: Move a knight into adjacent spaces as long as they are below, at the same level, or one level higher than the starting space. Knights move for free through castles as long as they exit on the same level they enter.
- Acquire and play action cards: Action cards provide bonus action points or special movement rules for one-time bonuses.
- Increase score: Pass and increase their score by the number of unused action points that remain.
Scoring occurs at the end of every year, with each castle scored by multiplying a player’s highest level knight by the number of base blocks in the castle. For instance, a knight at height level 3 in a castle with 4 base blocks would score 12 points. Bonus points are awarded to players with a knight in the same castle as the King token, as long as the knight is on the level corresponding to the year number. At the end of three years, the player with the most points is declared the winner!
The beauty of Torres lies in the severe limits that it places on each player, providing them with a limited number of actions over a limited number of turns. By harnessing the power of limits, Torres forces players to be creative and judicious in how they spend their action points, ensuring that they take the time to plan out every move to ensure no action goes wasted. It takes what could be a boring title and makes it exciting, as there is a short window of opportunity to build castle blocks and get knights into position before your opponents can.
It is this heavy set of limits that makes Torres a tactical game rather than a strategic one. During our sessions, we found that players who attempted to play using an overarching and long-term strategy tended to be less successful than players who focused on short-term goals and worried about each round as its own discrete unit of time. With limited placement rules for knights and castle blocks, and especially with four players, the board gets very crowded very quickly, and long-term strategic goals become very difficult to maintain and work towards.
On the subject of player count, Torres is a perfectly fine game with two players, although in our plays we determined that at least three is where the game begins to shine. With a fixed board size, as the player count increases the real estate decreases, with players getting in each other’s way far more often. While this may sound frustrating, it adds to the tactical depth of each turn, determining which actions will provide you the most points and points potential that you can pull off before your opponents steal those spaces from you.
Our major issue with Torres is in rules and the need for clarifications. While we applaud the developers for attempting to create action cards without language dependence, the graphics do not come close to doing an adequate job of describing the powers of the action card. In addition, the lack of individual player aids for explaining the cards led to a cumbersome experience. The phase order cards are equally as lacking in quality.
Included in the box is a set of “Master” scoring cards, meant to provide more advanced goals for more advanced players, by scoring bonus points for positioning knights on the edge of the board, or a certain number of knights in a castle. We found that Torres provides enough mental gymnastics for tactics and maximizing score that these are generally unneeded by the gaming community by and large.
Torres is a solid title, worth of a reprint and reintroduction to a new generation of board gamers. It’s challenging gameplay and strong tactical acumen requisites make Torres a game that should sit on the shelf of any abstract gamer, and any gamer who enjoys area control-style games.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A great tactical abstract game that needs a little help from rules clarifications and better graphic design.
• No text of action card functions on the action card
• Design of action cards makes guessing function difficult
• Can suffer from major analysis paralysis