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Inventing Torres

Wolfgang Kramer

July, 2000

M. Kiesling and I so enjoyed developing Tikal that we decided to immediately develop a similar game but one that would be three-dimensional. This was the beginning of Torres.

The two games are similar in many ways: limited action points to spend each turn, scoring during the game and at the end, a scoring border to track players' scores, and a board that is empty at the beginning and develops throughout the game, eventually becoming quite complex and so developed that at the end it is completely filled. Also like Tikal, players have few opportunities for aggression against the other players, each player has several pieces, and the game is dominated by strategy and tactics.

We developed the game from the middle of 1997 to the beginning of 1999, working on it almost exclusively full time until the beginning of 1998, and then sporadically, usually with the publishing house, to the beginning of 1999.

Theme

At first, we looked for a suitable, attractive topic and a working title. After a long search, we decided to use the King Arthur legend. The game would be set in the Middle Ages, using the castles of Cornwall. Each player would represent a prince/king, who builds castles with several knights for the protection of the country. It would be a polite building game. Our working title was Avalon. In the legend, Avalon is the faerie island to which the heavily wounded King Arthur flees to heal his wounds and from which he one day emerges to reclaim his realm and save his people.

The King Arthur legend did not make much of an impression on the publishing house. So we looked for a new topic and found Wales, specifically Gwynedd. After the time of the Romans, a powerful prince came forward to free Wales from English rule. King Edward I of England ended the independence of Wales in two campaigns. In order to bind Wales to the English crown, the king built eight castles in Gwynedd to preserve the peace (this is why Torres has eight castles). The most famous are Caernarfon, Beaumaris, and Conwy Castles. Caernarfon is the administrative seat. Since 1301, the English successors to the throne have been given the title "Prince of Wales" in solemn ceremonies at Caernarfon.

Gwynedd has been designated as one of the cultural monuments of mankind and is under the protection of UNESCO. For a short time we called our game The Castles of Gwynedd, but the publishing house decided to use Torres. Accordingly, the action moved to the castles in Spain.

Game system

The roots of Torres are found in the game Terra Turrium (Kosmos/Kramer). Torres features the following new game mechanisms:

  • Scoring points by calculating the value of knights in castles: height multiplied by surface area.
  • The rapid movement of knights through the castles: entering a castle through any door and exiting through another door on the same level costs 1 action point. This allows high mobility, particularly later in the game.
  • Bringing in new pieces to spaces adjacent to figures already in play instead of to specific spaces.
  • In the master version, there is a special scoring card, variable from game to game, which any player can use to score bonus points by accomplishing the requirements stated on the card.

The Castles. The basis for the development of the game was scoring a knight as the height of the knight times the surface area of the castle. In the early tests, each player built his own castle and placed several of his knights there.

Therefore, we introduced two new rules:

  1. Each player may only score one knight on a castle
  2. The king's castle earns special bonuses.

In order to prevent a castle from becoming very high with a small surface area, we also added the rule that a castle may never be higher than its surface area.

At the beginning of game development, the number of castles was highly variable, since players could create new castles during the game. But this was not important for the flow of the game, so to simplify the rules, we replaced the option of added castles with eight fixed castles.

TorresThe original board was large, with 10x10 spaces. After the early play-testing, we reduced it to 8x8 spaces, which made the game more compact and economical. On the larger board there were special terrain areas (forest, lake, city), which could not be built on. The reduced board eliminated these special areas. We also briefly tested a variable board that was built during the game.

Number of Players. For a long time we planned the game for up to six players. With a 10x10 or a 9x9 board, this was not a problem. Although with an 8x8 board we could play with six players, it was not optimal. A reduction to four players was necessary for cost reasons.

Action Cards. Torres also works well without the action cards. This shows that we developed the game first without them. This is how we generally proceed when developing a game. We first want to develop a simple basic game play that works well and is fun and interesting to play. Only then do we consider adding to the game to make it even more fun to play. Actually, we planned to use action cards from the beginning, but they were not fully developed and added to the game until the base game was finished.

Master Cards. These special scoring cards were added at the end of the game development.

Game Elements Not Used. We built and tested but then rejected the following items for the game:

  • Knight duels: this allowed an attack and a defense system but did not work as well as we wanted.
  • Guards for the protection of castles.
  • Building bridges to connect the castles.

Variants

TorresThree versions are described in the rules: the basic game, the extension version (where players draw three action cards, choose one, and return the other two to the deck), and the master version. Which version pleases us best? Mr. Kiesling prefers the master version, while I prefer the extension of the basic game. In the master version, I also like the "If you have knights on exactly" card, which earns points for four castles in the first scoring, five castles in the second, and six in the third.

Now it is your turn to discover which of the variants you like best!

- Wolfgang Kramer

(Translated from the German by Jay Tummelson.)

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