Targi is a stellar, stand-out two-player board game. Designed by Andreas Steiger, Targi sees two players as rival Tuareg tribe leaders. Can you build and grow the most prosperous tribe in the Sahara Desert? Can you find trade routes to locate the sweetest of deals? Gain goods, trade them for gold or points, all while expanding your tribe. But look out: there are bandits and robbers in the desert! They're constant sand in your eyes, thwarting your moves and threatening to steal your wares.
The crux of Targi lies in set collection of Tribe Cards. But how to do you earn them? How do you use your Targi figures? How do you avoid the bandits? Fear not, my friends. Today, let's learn how to play Targi. Then you too can see why it's one of the jewels in Kosmos Games' crown…
Targi: The Elevator Pitch
Imagine a worker placement game where you gain actions and goods using an X and Y grid axis. The aim? Buy up to twelve Tribe Cards, which can net you a lot of points. And in board gaming terms, what do points mean? Say it with me now: prizes! The game ends once one player has claimed their twelfth Tribe Card, or after the fourth Raid.
That's the elevator pitch for Targi if explaining it to your gaming partner. In essence, it's rather simple. It's a game that provides effortless elegance, once you've grasped the rules. That's my job here - to explain them to you! - but before we get started, let's set up the game.
Setting Up The Sahara
Separate the Tribe Cards, Goods Cards, and Border Cards into their own decks. Take the 16 border cards first, and put them into numerical order. (Numbers in the top-left.) Arrange these into a large rectangular landscape border. Start by placing number 16 on the table, landscape, in the top-left corner. Then place cards 1-4 next to it, forming a line. Beneath 4, place cards 5-8. Continue the border left of number 8, with cards 9-12. Last of all, place cards 13-15 above 12, so they reach 16.
There should be 'Raid' cards at each corner (numbers 4, 8, 12, and 16). Cards are double-sided, with iconography alone on one side, or written text on the reverse. For your first game, consider having the written text side up, for reference. You could also consider having both players sitting alongside each other. That way you can both read these cards.
This 'border' creates an empty 3x3 gap in the middle. Shuffle the Goods Cards and draw the top five. Within this 3x3 centre space, place one Goods card face-up in each of the corners, and one in the middle. (Like an 'X'.) Shuffle the Tribe Cards, and place the top four, face-up, into the remaining spaces. Now you've built a 5x5 grid of cards. The border remains the same every game, but that central 3x3 grid is modular every time.
Keep the remaining Goods and Tribes Cards face-down next to the grid. Place the square Goods chits, gold coins, and Victory Point (VP) tokens nearby. Put the grey Robber meeple on the number 1 Border Card ('Noble'). Give each player three Targi meeples of their colour, and two cylinders ('Tribe Markers'). Also give both players the same starting resources: two of each Goods type (dates, salt, pepper). Players also start with one gold coin, and four VPs (1VP and a 3VP token).
Pick a start player - the last player to have eaten dates? - and give them the First Player Marker. Now you're all set up and ready to play!
Border Control: Placing Targi Meeples
Targi takes place over, at most, 12 rounds. It's interspersed with four Raid phases, which aligns with the 16 Border Cards. The rounds are formulaic in nature, so let's break them down step at a time. Players take turns placing their three Targi meeples, one at a time, on Border Cards. Wherever you place your meeples, you'll get to take that action at the end of the round. This is a first-come, first-served basis. Only one meeple may stand on a single Border Card. This is standard worker placement fare - nothing new, here.
There are other things to consider though, with regards to how meeples get blocked. No player may place their meeple in the same space as the Robber. (In round one, that's on the 'Noble' card.) You also can't place your meeples on any of the four Raid spaces. Finally, you can't place your meeple on the Border Card opposite one with an opponent's meeple on it.
For example, Blue might place their first meeple on Border Card 2. White now cannot place their meeple on Card 1 (because of the Robber). They cannot place on Card 2 (because Blue's meeple sits there). Neither can they place on Card 10 (because that's opposite to Blue's meeple on Card 2). They can place their meeple anywhere else, providing it's not a Raid space. Let's say they place it on Card 6.
Now it's Blue's turn again. Blue could place this meeple on Card 10 if they want; it's legal to place it opposite your own meeple. (However, from a strategy point of view, this might not be the best move - I'll explain why, soon!) Blue cannot place on Card 14, because that's opposite White's meeple, sitting on Card 6. So they place their second worker somewhere else, and so on. This continues until each player has placed all three of their workers.
X and Y Targi Targets
Next, both players place their Tribe Markers into the 3x3 central grid. These sit at the points where two of their meeples meet. Think of this as a point on a graph, treating the two meeples as values on the X and Y axes. These Tribe Markers end up on either central Goods or Tribes Cards, not on the outer Border Cards. Pay close attention to what those nine cards are within the central area when placing your meeples. And if you get blocked, what other central cards appeal, as a backup option along that row/column?
With the placement of three workers, it's possible to earn two of these central cards in this manner. This is why you might want to spread your meeples out. Placing your meeples opposite one another during the worker placement phase results in one less point where X could meet Y. The result? One less Tribe Marker. After this, the first player executes all their actions, in any order of their choice. This is either four or five actions. (Three meeples on three Border Cards, and one or two Tribe Markers in the central grid.)
What do those Border Cards Mean, Anyway?
Not including the four Raid Cards, Border Cards come in two different types. Some provide specific goods: salt, pepper or olives. (Cards 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 15). If you placed a meeple on one of these cards, remove the meeple and claim the goods from the supply. Other Border Cards have an action on them (Cards 1, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14). If you placed a meeple on one of these cards, take the action and remove your meeple. The Border Card stays in place afterwards.
- (5) Trader: Exchange 3x Goods (of the same type) for 1x Gold; or 2x Goods (of the same type) for 1x other Good.
- (9) Fata Morgana: You may move one of your Tribe Markers (on one of the central cards) onto another vacant central card. This offers flexibility if your opponent/Robber prevented you aligning your meeples to get the central card you needed.
- (10) Silversmith: here you can trade goods for points. 2x Goods (of the same type) for 1x VP. 1x Gold for 2x VP. 4x Goods (of the same type) for 3x VP. 2x Gold for 4x VP. You may do this once per turn, even if you could afford to do it more.
- (13) Caravan: Draw the top Goods Card from the deck. Then you can take whatever's stated on the card: 1x or 2x Goods, or 1x Gold, or 1x VP. Then you discard the Goods Card.
- (14) Tribal Expansion: Reveal the top Tribe Card from the deck. If you can afford the stated cost, you may pay it and add it to your tableau. Or, you may take the card into your hand, providing you don't have any other 'reserved' cards like this.
Triggering Your Two Tribe Markers
If one of your Tribe Markers is on a Goods Card, claim the stated Goods from the supply. (Salt, pepper, olives, gold, or 1VP; sometimes it's a combination.) Return your marker from the card, but then remove the Goods card from the grid. Replace it with the top card from the Tribes deck, placing this card face-down in the vacant space.
If one of your Tribe Markers is on a Tribes Card, you can buy the card. The cost in Goods (and/or Gold) is in the top-right of the Card. If you cannot afford the cost (or don't want to pay it right now), you can still take the Tribe Card. You may hold one unpaid card like this, 'in reserve'. You can't claim another unpaid card in this manner, though. In such a circumstance, this second Tribe Card immediately joins a discard pile.
The only way to buy a reserved card like this is to place a meeple on the 'Noble' Border Card. The Noble's action lets you build the reserved card in your hand, or discard it. (Of course, you cannot trigger this action in the first round of Targi, because the Robber's blocking this space.) Whether you build the Tribe Card or reserve it, you replace it with the top Goods Card from the deck. It sits face-down in place, dor now. As the game progresses, these cards will continue to replenish in an alternating fashion, like this.
Targi Tableau Time
If you can afford the Tribe Card, you place it face-up in front of you, into a tableau of sorts. At the bottom-right of each Tribe Card, you'll see its value in end-game points. Some cards have text on them, which are one-off or game-long passive bonuses. Some of these offer set-collection incentives, such as owning certain types or quantities of Tribe Cards. Talking of which: there are five different types of Tribe Cards. (Camel Riders, Wells, Oases, Camps, and Targia - female Tuareg members). You'll want to pay attention to these symbols, for further end-game bonuses.
When buying a card, you place it into an imaginary 3x4 grid. (Three rows, and four columns.) You may place the card into any of these three rows, but it must sit on the left-most space. At the end of the game, you'll earn bonus points, depending on the symbols you have in a row. If the row has four symbols of the matching type, you'll earn an extra four points. If the row has four different symbols in it, that's worth two extra points. As well as this, if it doesn't meet either of the above criteria, it scores zero extra points. Likewise, if it isn't full (four cards), it doesn't score any bonus points.
The Running Robber, And Relentless Raids
Once both players have activated all their meeples and Tribe Markers, the round ends. Some Goods and Tribes Cards will be face-down in the central grid. (The ones that replaced the cards activated/bought in that round.) Turn them face-up. Give the First Player Marker to the other player. Then advance the Robber one space clockwise. So in round two, for example, it moves off the Noble Border Card and onto a 'Get 1x Date' Border Card. Now the new First Player gets to place their first meeple, and the round continues as normal.
When the Robber moves onto a 'Raid' Border Card (numbers 4, 8, 12, and 16), a Raid occurs. This is different to the regular round. Instead, the players must pay in the stated quantity of goods to the supply, or lose points. You know this is going to happen, so you can prepare for it. After both players have surrendered either good(s) or point(s), the Robber moves on. Then a regular round begins again, with the First Player placing their first meeple.
Who's The Triumphant Tuareg Tribe Leader?
The games of Targi end in one of two ways. One is if someone buys their twelfth Tribe Card, completing their 3x4 grid. In this case, both players continue until the end of that round, then add up points. The other way is if the Robber reaches Border Card 16, the fourth and final Raid space. This final Raid occurs, and then players add up their final score.
Your end-game points include any silver VP tokens you might have earned during the game. You add this to the face value of your Tribe Cards, plus any end-game bonuses they might provide. Last of all, you'll earn extra points for the Tribe Card types in your rows, as stated earlier. Whoever has the most points gets crowned the Targi top-dog!