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Torres is a strategy board game involving the building of castles and the placement of knights within these castles. The game was first produced in 1999 in Germany by FX Schmid and is currently distributed in the United States in English by Rio Grande Games. It was designed by the prolific game design team of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. It is a game for two to four players, and can easily be played in an hour.

This game is a strategic gem. Awards it has received since its publication include the 2000 Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year (a German award given to the best strategic game published in a given year), as well as the 2000 Games Magazine Game of the Year award (given to the best game in a given year of any type). It has received numerous minor awards as well.

The goal of the game is simply to have your knights occupy the highest places in the largest castles on the board. The scoring for the game is based on the size of the castle and the respective place that your knight occupies. Thus, the strategy of the game lies in selecting your moves in order to maximize the castle sizes as well as the position of your knight within the larger castles.

The board itself consists of an 8x8 square which, at the start of the game, contains eight tower blocks distributed evenly throughout the square (each tower block is 1x1 in size) and one knight representing each player. The players, throughout the course of the game, add additional tower blocks and knights to the board; the tower blocks sit adjacent to each other and stack on top of each other to form castles.

On a given turn, a player has five action points to spend on various activities. You can spend these points however you like among the activities. These activities are:

  • Adding a knight to the board costs two action points. Having additional knights on the board offers the ability to control more spaces, both directly and indirectly, since there can only be one knight per board space and the knights are somewhat limited on how they can move.
  • Moving a knight already on the board costs one action point. This is strictly for positioning and strategic purposes, in order to prevent your opponent from moving his or her knight to a better position or to increase your own scoring potential. There are very simple rules for movement (one square in any direction or through a castle, up at most one level in a castle). It's actually quite simple once you see it in action; play the game once and it is second nature.
  • Placing a tower block costs one action point. You use this to increase the size of a castle.
  • Acquiring an "action card" costs one action point. Action cards are drawn from an additional provided deck that provide some additional powers, such as a bonus action point or two or the ability to move your knight in a special way.
  • Playing an action card is free, but you can only play one a turn.
  • Or, if all else fails, you can add 1 to your total score for one action point, increasing your score in the game.

Once each player has played their fourth turn, their seventh turn, and their tenth turn, scoring is done. The size of each castle in squares is noted. Then, see which of your knights occupies the highest position in each castle (each player does this for all of his or her knights). Count how many levels high this knight is (how many tower blocks separate it from the ground), multiply that by the size of the castle that knight resides in, and add it to your score. Whoever has the highest score after the tenth turn and its scoring wins the game.

The game, when being played, is quite simple and is loaded with strategic possibilities. The three dimensional aspect added by the stacking of the tower blocks adds a lot to the game, especially since even with three dimensions, the rules are quite simple. The ability to make a wide variety but limited amount of moves on a given turn also adds quite a lot to the appeal of this game.

The components of the game are top notch. The pieces are wooden and brightly colored, and the included cards are sturdy and clearly printed. The only exception is the board which may need some treatment before playing the first time. I recommend laying the board out flat (it comes folded twice in the box) and placing several weights on it for twenty four hours before playing the first time; board warping can wreak havoc in a game where placement and stacking of tiles is vital. The provided instruction manual is also very clear. The game comes in a small green box roughly the size of an encyclopedia volume; it can easily be stored on a bookshelf since all edges of the box are labeled with the name of the game.

Additional features worth noting is the playability of the game with two, three, or four players. The flavor of the game changes with player count, but the game remains highly enjoyable with all counts of players. Also, the included rules include several variants in case you get bored with the basic game.

This game is widely available through hobby shops and online retailers, and it is well worth picking up. Given the strategic possibilities of the game, the simple rules, and the relatively quick play time, Torres is a game I drag out of the closet on a regular basis.

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