Let me start by saying that Troyes is in my top 10 games of all time and I would give it a rating of 95%. Please bear that in mind as you read the next paragraphs.
Troyes does not give off good first impressions. The art is authentically medieval, but it is distinctly unpleasant to look at. The cover will put off 90% of gamers. The board is also horrible to look at. I know that art is subjective, but the vast majority of people will veer away from this game at high speeds just because of the look.
And then there’s the gameplay. The number of times you get to perform an action relies on a formula that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Quantum Mechanics for Experts book. Okay, that’s possibly a touch of hyperbole, but this game has more maths in it than most other games.
Now imagine you are playing a game of Troyes. You roll your group of dice and you see a fair few 5s and 6s. Brilliant! High values are great in this game. The player to your left is the first player and their first move is to buy one of your dice and use it for their action. What? The next player does the same thing, as does the next. What?! You’re now left with a depleted pool and amazingly enough, they’re all low values. Admittedly, you have quite a stash of cash now, but even so, all of that thievery smarts.
Despite all that, I love this game. Let’s tackle the points I made above. I’d never say that the art was great, but it has grown on me. It helps that the gameplay is so fantastic. Yes, it is mathsy but it doesn’t take too long to get used to. As for people thieving your dice, well, that’s where the crunchy decisions come in. You need to switch your mindset from “These are my dice” to “These are all common dice that anyone can use, but these in front of me are free.” The decisions are then all around which of your free dice you need to use up first to stop people from buying them. You know that if you use a yellow 6, but leave a red die with a 5 on it, it will undoubtedly get bought before your turn. Can you afford to lose that red die? Red dice let you do red actions, yellow dice let you do yellow actions etc. You have to be very aware of what the other players want to do and which dice they will potentially buy from you. The expansion to Troyes introduces a purple die that belongs to you and you alone. I always play with the purple die even when teaching it to new players.
Another of my favourite aspects of this game is the hidden objectives. In the base game, there are 6 objectives and one is dealt to each player at the start of the game. At the end of the game, you score not only for your objective but also for everyone else’s objectives. So you spend the game trying to work out who has got which objective. And also accusing people of having certain objectives. This happens from turn one. As soon as the first player places a cube on the cathedral, someone shouts the phrase “Well, they’ve obviously got the cathedral objective.” This is followed by strenuous denials. This banter goes on throughout the whole game. It’s great fun.
I normally shy away from games with long turns. In fact, I despise them. But here the decisions are just so crunchy, you have to give them the time they’re due. But while someone else is thinking about what they’re going to do, you can look around at the other dice and plan your next move, or try to work out who has which objective.
When I heard that a spiritual successor to Troyes was being released with artwork by Ian O’Toole and a space theme, I was incredibly giddy and preordered it instantly. But when Black Angel arrived, I was disappointed. It was to some extent a streamlined version of Troyes with extra elements added in for extra flavour, but I discovered that the rough edges of Troyes were the things I loved. Black Angel was a pale imitation lacking in banter and crunchy choices. I sold it very quickly.
The expansion, The Ladies of Troyes, while not being essential, does double the amount of content. It doubles the amount of activity cards that you can visit, adds in the purple die, more objectives, plus other modules too. It comes highly recommended.
Troyes is a game that you have to apologise for when you bring it to the table and it’s certainly not for everyone. If you like dice placement, strong player interaction, and banter at the table, give Troyes a go. It may be a game you love.