Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Friday, 5 October 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Troika

Game: Troika

Publisher: Oink Games

Designer: Jun Sasaki

Year: 2018

People go mad for Oink Games – micro games from Japan that come with a not inconsiderable price tag for their size. I see numerous people of social media who are going for a ‘full set’. As they have become more popular and have reached wider distribution in the UK, a couple have become quite mainstream games, like A Fake Artist Goes to New York and Deep Sea Adventure. When we saw that they has a booth at the UK Games Expo this year, their notoriety meant that I was excited to see what was next in their line of games. Troika appeared to be the most recent addition.

I’m still unsure what the theme is here, if indeed there is one, but Troika is the same small box as many of the other Oink Games, filled to the brim with colourful pentagonal tokens that make a really pretty game on the table. Let’s take a look at how it plays and we’ll share our thoughts on this push-your-luck set collection game for 2-5 players.


Gameplay

At the start of a round of Troika the numbered tiles are all put into a face down pile. Players then take turns until all of the tiles in the centre are face up. On your turn the first thing you must do is flip 1 of the tiles face up. After this you may take a face down tile (up to a maximum of 3), take a face up tile (no limit on how many you have) or you can return one of your claimed tiles to the centre.

Scoring at the end of the round is a little unusual. If you don't have a set of three of any one number (i.e. 7,7,7) then you don't qualify to score that round at all and instead take a penalty tile. Should you have managed to get your triplet then your remaining tiles are also laid into sets of 3, this time you are looking for straights (i.e. 5,6,7) for each straight you have you score the final digit of the biggest number. For example a set of 7,8,9 scores you 9 points, while 10,11,12 scores you 2 points (two being the final digit of 12). Any tiles which cannot be put into a triplet then cost your points towards your end of round score. End game point tiles are then awarded based on how well you did - 2 points for the person with most points and 1 point for second place - and a new round is begun. At the end of the third round the player with the highest points on their point tiles wins.





Amy’s Final Thoughts

Troika is a game that makes you commit fairly early on to a strategy, but also be prepared to abandon it on a whim. There are only 3 of each number in the game  (except for 7), so you need to choose which it is best to aim for for your qualifying triplet. Do you aim for a low scoring tile like 1 or 10 and hope that no-one else is collecting them? Do you go for the common, but in demand 7? What can make the game harsh is that these tiles may never be flipped upright if they are in another player's private collection, you may never know that the apple of your eye is forever beyond your grasp! This is made almost unfair in a 2 player game, where a handful of tiles are outright removed from the game without anyone seeing them, there may not even be three 1s to collect!

For me it is the end of the round where Troika gets interesting. Here there becomes an element of push your luck going for that last number you need to win big, or deciding to abandon your tiles and spend the last few turns throwing away the ones you can't use. Particularly of note is the fact that putting back a face-down tile essentially extends the length of the game by 1 more turn, if you are desperate for more time there are worse things to do!

The unsaid bit there is that I therefore find the start and middle of the rounds rather dull, at this point you have little idea what is best to go for, you can bet on a few numbers and hope, but there's so little information available that you really are just filling time until you can make some educated choices. While having a mechanic where players can ultimately fail to score does, in theory, allow you to have a situation where someone who otherwise did brilliantly is doomed to failure. In practice the only victim to this was someone who didn't quite understand the distinction between the sets they were trying to collect. Putting Troika in the unfortunate position of a bit complex for non gamers and not very satisfying for gamers.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

A game of Troika involves some interesting decisions. What set of three you collect is a big decision, in particular whether you go for the abundant 7s, which could otherwise be used in high scoring runs of 7,8,9 or similar, or whether you hope that you are handed the opportunity to collect all three ones, or all three tens. There is some luck in whether you flip a really useful tile for yourself or for your opponent as the game goes by, but making the most of your luck and being able to adapt your strategy are the elements that make the game interesting. The hidden information aspect of your three face-down tiles, also means that you are pushing your luck to leave tiles on the table when you’re not quite certain of everything that other players are working towards. I found this was only a part of the strategy in a two-player game where you might focus more on your opponent. In a four player game, it was a much more solitaire experience.


Over three rounds, the game can start to feel quite repetitive as it plays out the same way. When playing with two players, we never experienced a round where someone failed to get a set of three. With four players this did happen, and it is perhaps more likely, but by the same token, there were some rules which appeared to be hard to grasp. In particular, the concept of in round points, vs. the point tokens that you are awarded at the end of the round based on how you did. It’s a game that might be easier to learn by demonstration, else there could be a frustrating first round for some players.


Ultimately, I found Troika to be interesting, but not really fun. It’s a little different from typical push your luck games, and the luck is quite interesting to calculate, although slightly harder in a two player game when ten tiles are removed. Unfortunately there just wasn’t anything very exciting about the game and it was a ‘hard sell’ to other players and isn’t one that will jump off our shelf. Its main attraction might be the aesthetics and its portability if you’re looking for a push-your-luck, set collection travel game.


You Might Like...
  • Troika has high component quality and nice looking pieces.
  • The game has an interesting take on ‘push your luck’ and definitely gives you some tactical decisions to make,
  • Like all Oink games, Troika is very compact and portable, which makes an interesting change from portable card or dice games.

You Might Not Like...
  • Although the game concept is simple, the multiple layers of ‘points’ make it harder to teach than it should be.
  • Troika doesn’t really have an interesting hook to attract players to.

The Verdict
5.5/10 - Troika is slightly more than a super light micro game. It is definitely a game where the mechanisms make you think. It’s quite interesting to explore the simple mechanisms of the game, but the fun factor feels like it is missing, as well as the longevity.


Troika was a review copy, kindly provided to us by Oink Games.

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