The town of Longsdale is a community with potential, and a possible site for the King’s new capital. But for this city to attract farmers, merchants, soldiers and more, it needs buildings. Lots and lots. Who’s going to construct them? The mayor of Longsdale looks to Tybor, a young local builder, to assist in the development. And that’s where you step in.
Tybor the Builder is a card drafting game, co-designed by Dennis Rappel and Alexander Pfister. The latter is a major-league designer on the board game circuit. Pfister is the genius behind titles such as Great Western Trail, Isle of Skye and Maracaibo, to name but a few. He’s better known for ‘big box’ titles, but he’s designed some excellent card games, too. One of which is Oh My Goods!, a super little engine-building, resource production number.
Oh My Goods! (yes, it has an exclam) takes place in the city of Longsdale, a thriving metropolis. Tybor the Builder, then, is a spiritual prequel of sorts. It tells the story of how Longsdale came to be, erm, Longsdale. So is Tybor a bolted-on afterthought? Compared to Oh My Goods!, can it stand its own? Grab your hammer, nails and trusty saw, and let’s examine the foundations of Tybor the Builder…
Sushi Go On Steroids
Mechanisms-wise, the crux of Tybor is card drafting and set collection. Think Sushi Go – on steroids. In Tybor, everyone starts with a hand of five multi-purpose character cards. You all pick a card to join your tableau, simultaneous. The first player reveals their card. You can play a card as a ‘worker’, where it joins your tableau for its strength (the number next to the fist icon). If that’s the case, you ignore everything else on the card.
Instead, you could play a card to join your tableau as a ‘citizen’. In that case, you ignore the strength. A citizen means you’re playing it for end-game set collection points. These differ, depending on the citizen type. (More on this, later.) Some citizens also provide a -1 discount off some, all or none of the buildings. These buildings come in yellow, red, blue and black. (Again, we’ll touch on buildings, later down!)
The third option is you can play a card as a ‘builder’. This means you intend to construct one of the buildings, worth points, available in the public flop. You discard the builder, then pay a worker (or workers) from your tableau for their strength value to take a building.
Wait… There’s A Pfister Twist
Once everyone’s played their card, you pass your hand clockwise. Exactly like Sushi Go, like 7 Wonders; like all your favourite card drafting games. Everyone picks another card, and play continues until you’ve played your fifth card. Then the flop of public buildings gets refreshed. Players then receive another five cards and you go again. You’re aiming to earn the most points over four rounds. Four rounds of five cards each means you’ll play 20 cards, over the duration.
And that’s the basics of the game, in a nutshell. And if that were it, Tybor the Builder would be an average, forgettable card game. But wait. There’s more to this card drafter than meets the eye. This is Alex Pfister we’re talking about, after all…
How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The (32) Ways
Let’s rewind back to the set-up. Tybor the Builder comes with four different Scenario cards. Each of these double-sided cards offer a different way to play, governing the flow of the four rounds. Three Scenarios offer different rewards at the end of each round. These round-long targets drive your short-game strategy.
Building costs remain constant, regardless of Scenario. In round one, a ‘little’ building costs three strength. Little buildings are worth between one to six points. Meanwhile in round one, a ‘big’, upgraded building costs seven strength. Pay this larger amount and you flip the card over. Big buildings are worth more points. The trick it, in round two, the costs for buildings increase. Little buildings then cost four strength, and big buildings cost eight. It creeps up again for rounds three and four.
That’s not all, though. Tybor the Builder comes with a series of eight Chapters. These tell the story of how Longsdale grew as a city. More important, they also provide eight unique end-game scoring opportunities:
• Chapter I offers up points if you’ve constructed as many buildings as you have placed citizens.
• II grants points if you’ve built four buildings of the same colour.
• Chapters III, IV and V offer points if you pick a certain quantity of specified citizen types.
• VI promises a whopping 10 points if you have unspent workers left at the end, with a strength of 10 or more.
• VII bucks the trend. At the end of each round, if you have the most captains, discard one captain to gain three cards. Then pick two of these to add as workers to your tableau.
• VIII provides two rewards. Earn points if you have at least two soldiers. Plus, extra points if you have amassed at least five citizens.
So, you’ll pick one Scenario card, and one Chapter card. By our maths, there are 32 different combinations to play Tybor the Builder! Oh, and did I mention? On the reverse of your player aid card is a secret goal about collect certain quantities of particular buildings types.
Introducing The Citizens Of Longsdale
There’s more! There’s end-game set collection incentives for the six different types of citizens. These won’t blow you away with their difficulty. I’ve mentioned Sushi Go, and the patterns involved feel similar. Collect four soldiers to earn eight points, for example. Earn sequential, increasing points, the more captains you draft. Whoever has the most craftsmen at the end earns six points; second-most earns two points. The stand-out from the norm are the merchants. If you’ve got four merchants, earn one point for every citizen in your tableau.
Last – almost there! – some of the buildings themselves come with end-game set collection targets. If you have the most buildings of a specific type, earn points. Earn points for every two buildings you have of a specified colour. Score if you have one of each building colour. Again, none are gut-wrenching to digest, but rather, something pleasant to chew on.
Hate Drafters Gon’ Hate
Like any card drafting game, the delight – and the agony – comes from deciding how to best employ your character cards. Worker, citizen, or builder? With smart building acquisitions, one card could contribute towards multiple scoring possibilities. You could double-down on buildings of a certain colour. Some might match your secret goal, as well as finishing sets required by your other buildings.
Once drafted/purchased, your cards become public knowledge. If players note your tableau, they can – and will – ‘hate draft’. They’ll pick a card to play that might not help them, but they can’t afford to give it to you, next turn. This ratchets up in Tybor the Builder, because turn order is crucial. It passes clockwise, along with the cards (except one Scenario, where it alternates every other round).
Storeys Of Strategy
The danger is, only a certain number of buildings get revealed. And they get wiped at the end of each round! (In two- or three-player games, rules guarantee at least one of each building colour shows up.) Going into the final rounds still needing, say, a yellow building to complete your master plan? That’s risky. If only one yellow shows up, it’s first-come, first-served.
You could look at that element of luck of the flop and bemoan turn order has screwed you. But you know when you’ll be first player, so if you go into the new round with a worker already in place, that’s insurance. That way you guarantee yourself first pick of the buildings – vital if the colours you need are meagre. Players also decide where they want to allocate their Character card in turn order. Later players in turn order get to react, seeing earlier players’ decisions. It’s little extra storeys of strategy and player interaction like that elevate Tybor the Builder towards greatness.
The building prices increase, causing a deafening crescendo of groans, round to round. This is a fantastic buffer to lock horns with, but one that you can counteract. It’s vital that you draft citizens who provide discounts off building types. If not, you corner yourself into relying on characters for their high strength. Sometimes citizens are worth the investment for their reductions alone. More than their set collection value? That’s for you to decide.
Tybor The Defenestrator
Klemens Franz’s friendly, cartoon artwork does what we’ve come to expect from his penmanship. The card stock is decent from Lookout Spiele. The Citizen cards have a structure to them, which is important due to them being multi-purpose. The strength, citizen type and possible building discounts sit in a vertical column. You can fan the cards out, while keeping them readable at-a-glance.
The iconography for the six citizen types is clear for interpretation. There’s no mistaking them for one another. The Chapter cards have flavour text alongside iconography for their specific scoring trait. Some might confuse, but the rulebook clarifies it for you. There were a couple of minor typos and printing errors in the rulebook, but nothing disruptive. The Scenario cards, housing four rounds worth of information, might intimidate some players. An easy fix, though, is to cover up the irrelevant info using the Chapter card.
The buildings cards are double-sided. The ‘little’ buildings are semi-monochrome, while on the reverse the ‘big’ side is full-blown colour. Again, the iconography on the buildings isn’t too brain-busting. I did feel the four colours of buildings was a washout, though. There’s no mention in the rulebook of what differentiates, say, the red buildings from the blue. I ended up making haphazard guesses. The black buildings appear residential. Red are military, while yellow and blue are a mix of industries and churches. The set collection doesn’t differ for constrasting colours, though. Not once during the did I mutter, “Now, do I pick the Farmhouse, or the Barracks?” Instead, you see colour, points value, or set collection.
Final Thoughts On… Tybor the Builder
There’s quite the medley of scoring opportunities going on in Tybor the Builder. It sits in that ‘gateway-plus’ bracket. The set collection mechanisms are pleasant and shouldn’t baffle. The issue is there’s lots of sets you can shoot for, so it’s the quantity – not the complexity – that might bamboozle first-timers. Perhaps then, Tybor is a gateway-plus-plus.
I love the Scenario and Chapter cards. ‘Escape From The City’ is amazing. In rounds one and three, you have seven cards; in rounds two and four you have the usual five. Despite extra cards, you have to discard a citizen or worker from your tableau at the end of each round! Which do you pick as the sacrificial lamb? It’s painful! Combine this with any Chapter and it makes certain citizens increase or slip in value, game to game. It’s got that Sushi Go Party feel to it. Every game starts with the same housing blueprint, but it soon has the capacity to feel like a unique home. The sheer volume of sets you could plump for means there’s a glut of replay-ability on offer.
There’s lots to love about Tybor. I’ve only one real bugbear about it though. Despite enjoying the quantity and quality of decisions on offer, one thing felt lacking. For a game with “the Builder” in the title, I didn’t ever feel like I’d ‘built’ anything. I wasn’t building Longsdale, as a city. Nor I was collecting groups of same-colour cards, and matching icons. But I was having a great time doing so, so I can forgive the game for offering mechanisms over theme. Besides, Tybor the Set Collector is a rubbish name, in comparison…
So, can you own both Oh My Goods! and Tybor the Builder? Absolutely. They scratch different itches. Despite being set in the same Longsdale universe, they stand together, and yet apart. To me, Tybor is a smidgeon easier to grasp, especially if you’ve played card drafting games before.