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Torres Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Michael Kiesling, Wolfgang Kramer
Artist: Alessandra Cimatoribus, Michael Menzel, Franz Vohwinkel

Publisher: IDW Games, Hutch!
Year Published: 1999
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 60

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Torres was first published back in 1999 and received the Spiel des Jahres award in 2000. Torres is an abstract-esque game of resource management and tactical worker movement.

Rules and Setup
The first time playing Torres I was all kinds of confused by the rulebook. It took a few rereads to somewhat understand a few important points of the game (i.e. Seasons). But, once I caught on and began playing, things fell into place quite nicely.

The game board (in all its glory)

To set up, players take the seven knights of their color, place one on the starting space (“0”) of the scoring track, and keep the rest in front of them, forming a supply. These knights will be placed later during each turn.

Each player also takes the 10 Action Cards of their color. Shuffle the cards and place them on the table in front of the player of that color.

Action cards

Next, find the Year Card that matches the number of players and place it where everyone can see it. This card will determine how many Tower Blocks each player receives during each Year and Season. More on that below.

The Year cards

There are eight spots on the board with a tower illustrated on it. Place one tower block on each of those spaces on the board. Then, the starting player places 1 knight on an unoccupied tower block. Proceeding clockwise, each other player also places 1 knight on an unoccupied tower block (each player only places 1 knight total in this step). The last player to place his or her knight places the King on any other unoccupied tower block.

Each player takes the amount of tower blocks as shown on the Year card for the first year, and then you’re ready to begin!

In a 2-player game, each player starts with four stacks of 3 tower blocks.

Game Play
Game play is relatively simple once you’ve played a few turns, but that doesn’t mean the game is simple. Each round (called “Seasons” in the game) consists of one turn for each player, and each turn consists of 5 action points (AP) players can use. A Year ends when all the Seasons have been completed.

Action Points are spent as follows:
  • Placing a new knight from your supply (2AP)
  • Moving a knight (1AP per movement)
  • Place a tower block (1AP per block placed)
  • Buy an action card (1AP per card purchased)
  • Play an action card (0AP)
  • Move along the scoring track (1AP per move; 1 move increases your points by 1 on the scoring track)
Each turn, a player may do any of the aforementioned actions, insomuch as that player does not exceed the 5 action point limit. Players area also limited to how many tower blocks they can place based on the year and season, as described on the Year card.

In a 3-player game, each player receives two stacks of 3 tower blocks and two stacks of 2 tower blocks for the first Year. Then, on the second Year, each player receives two stacks of 3 tower blocks and one stack of 2 tower blocks. On the third and final Year, each player once again receives two stacks of 3 tower blocks and one stack of 2 tower blocks. 

In a 2-player game, each player has four towers with 3 tower blocks per tower. Thus, each Year consists of 4 seasons. During a season, only one of the four towers may be used. Thus, in a 2-player game, each player is limited to 3 tower blocks each season (that number differs depending on the amount of players).

There are certain rules that coincide with each action that can be used, but I won’t delve into all of them. Instead, let it suffice that each player uses up their action points each turn, and once all the Seasons are over, the Year ends. Once the Year ends, and after scoring has taken place (see below for more information on scoring), the player with the least amount of points choses a new castle for the King and places the King token on an empty tower on that castle.

I will, however, explain what makes up a Castle. A Castle consists of all tower blocks connected horizontally and vertically to each other. Different Castles may not join up in this manner. In other words, a tower block cannot be placed if it would connect two castles. Castles may not have towers higher than the base. Meaning, if there are four tower blocks making up the base of the castle, a player may not place a tower block on top of the castle if that would put the height over 4 blocks high. This is important for scoring (see explanation below).

This bird's eye view shows each Castle's base count. Note how no two castles are connected by a tower block horizontally or vertically. A castle with a base of 3 tower blocks may not exceed 3 tower blocks in height (likewise, a base of 4 may not exceed a height of 4, and so on and so forth).

Each player scores points at the end of each Year. Players add up points for each Castle on which they have a knight. To score a castle, multiply the base by the highest tower on which one of your knights is standing. So, if a castle has a base of 5 tower blocks and you have a knight on the 5th level of that Castle, the equation would be 5 X 5 = 25 points. However, if your knight was on the 4th level of a castle with a base of 5 blocks, then it would be 4 X 5 = 20 points. See where we’re going with this?

Each castle is scored in this manner. Once all castles are scored, the King’s Bonus is handed out. This is where the King comes in handy. At the end of the first Year, players with a knight on the 1st level of the King’s Castle (the Castle on which the King resides) receives 5 points. At the end of the 2nd Year, each player that has a knight on the 2nd level of the King’s Castle receives 10 points. Finally, at the end of the 3rd year, players with a knight on the 3rd level of the King’s Castle receives 15 points.

While the King’s Bonus is nice, it doesn’t guarantee a win. A player may receive all three king’s bonuses while the other players receive none, and the player who received the bonuses may still lose by a fair margin. The King’s Bonus is a neat catch-up mechanic, but it doesn’t break the game.

Scoring happens in this manner after each year, and at the end of the final year, the player with the highest score wins! Woot woot!

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme behind Torres is one of rebuilding a fallen kingdom. Players must build—and then claim—the tallest and largest castles over a three-year period to prove themselves worthy of the ailing king. The theme fits the game, but to be honest, any theme could work here. Torres is, first and foremost, an abstract game, and the theme here is simply complimentary. That being said, I kinda dig it.

The mechanics range from resource management to worker placement. Players place tower blocks (“resources”) to build up castles, then they place their knights (“worker placement”) on towers and other unoccupied squares in order to climb their way to the top of the castles for the maximum amount of points. The mechanics offer lots of thought and choice, which is one of the big reasons why this game works so well.

Artwork and Components:
The artwork isn’t anything fancy, but it’s not bad. As an abstract game, artwork isn’t high on the list of priorities, yet at the same time, Torres doesn’t make it look cheap, either. I have no qualms with the artwork, as minimalistic as it is.

The components are good quality. The towers are made out of plastic and are quite light, which can be a problem if the board gets bumped (pro tip: don’t bump the board). But, anything heavier and the game would cost an arm and a leg to ship. I don’t see them breaking anytime soon, either, so I’m happy with them. The knights are small little dudes that don’t really look like knights, but they’re not generic worker tokens, so I’ll count that as a win. The knights are prone to falling over due to their narrow base (and weak ankles, I’m sure). Still, their occasional faints didn’t hinder the game, so I’m not worried about it.

The Good:
  • A good amount of strategy lies in each round.
  • The pieces are sturdy.
  • Artwork doesn’t detract from the game.
  • An all-around fun game.
  • Master Cards (not discussed) add new scoring conditions, adding to the replayability of the game.
The Bad:
  • Knights are a bit unstable.
  • Bump the board and you may cause an earthquake, thereby destroying a castle or two.
  • Rulebook was a wee bit confusing on first go.
  • There’s a bit of math, and that can hurt my head (props to all you math people out there).
Final Thoughts:
I’m a big fan of Torres. Once I got going, everything made sense, and my strategy began evolving. Each subsequent play got easier to form a strategy and adjust it as the game progressed. Torres will be a game that makes it to my table a lot, I’m sure. The rules can be easily adjusted to cater to younger children as well, making it a game the whole family can play (if nothing else, just build towers with the kiddos!).

If you’re a fan of abstract games like Element, then you may also quite enjoy Torres.

Players Who Like:
Players who like abstract games, such as Element, may very well find Torres to be right up their alley.

Check out Torres on:


About the Author:

Benjamin Kocher hails from Canada but now lives in Utah with his wife and kids. He’s a copywriter, social media manager, videographer, freelance blogger, and SFF author. When he’s not writing, Benjamin loves to lose himself in the wonderful world of tabletop games, especially those with a rich, engaging theme. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

Torres Review Torres Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on July 23, 2018 Rating: 5

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