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Board Game Review: Trajan by Stefan Feld

Name of the Game: Trajan
Designed by: Stefan Feld (insert my husband's fanboy screams here)
Published by: Ammonit Spiele
Players: 2-4
Time: 30-45 mins per player
Objective: Get power and score points.

So here we are. You're a roman (trying to impress the real Trajan, I spose) who's looking for power.
So let's get some!

As you can see, the board sets up nicely on our average kitchen table. Plenty of room for everything with space to spare. If we had to, we could squeeze 2 more peeps as well. 

Basically, you have 5 different ways to score points and you use your own rondel to select the actions you want. You can chain actions by getting Trajan tiles which allow you to get extra actions or a bonus tile when you match the colors in  your bowl to the colors on the tile. Believe me, it's a lot easier than it sounds.

As previously mentioned, I LOVE having my own player board. A LOT. Maybe I have ocd or something, or maybe I just like feeling in control of my pieces and it helps me focus. Regardless, I dig it.

The five ways to score points are also on the player board. 
1. Commodity Cards (also known as the Ship Yard) marked as the little sailing ship on the rondel. This allows you to draw cards or ship goods using an action on the main game board. You draw cards to make matches to score points, or to score points with bonus tiles in the end.
2. Military. Move your Leader (the big meeple) to different territories to get tiles to do things. Later, you can move your legionairres (the little meeples) to score the points printed on the board. This is the method I went with for our first game.
3. Trajan tiles. You place the tile under your arch on the rondel. When you match your colored bits with the color in the rondel and end your turn on that rondel, you get whatever's printed on the tile. That may be extra military dudes, a shipping action, straight points homie, or several other bonuses you will be interested in. Regardless, you always score at least a couple points for completing these so they are worth your time.
4. Senate Track. These are always points, which ain't nothin' to scoff at. But as an extra bonus, whoever controls the senate at the end of the turn (aka whoever has the most senate points) decides who gets which bonus tile. You can really set yourself up for sweet bonus points in the end. Or thwart your opponent from such bonus opportunities.
5. Construction. Move your meeples to the construction area, then to the construction site. Your first tile grants you a bonus action, and after that you get points. These tiles chain up at the end for bonus point scoring too. This is the route Andrew went. 

Here's a peek at the game about halfway through. You can see my legionnaire dudes up top, doing things. Andrew's guys are mostly in construction over to the right. Shipping is to the left. Senate track is on the bottom leading up to those two golden bonus scoring tiles. The artwork is kinda cool, no? 

Anyway, in addition to scoring points and getting power, you do have to meet demands of the people to keep them happy or whatever. Three randomly drawn resource tiles get drawn, once per turn (which is denoted by how many pieces move on the rondels collectively) and after 3 are drawn and you finish the last turn, it's time to pay up. You want to fill the needs of the people otherwise you lose points. That mechanic always and forever stresses me OUT. But I didn't find it to be crippling in this game, as it can be in other games ::cough:: Agricola ::cough::.

Here's my player board about halfway through the game. You can see I've done shipping a few times and I've gotten two bonus tiles on the golden side, which  means I was in control of the senate twice. I have a couple resources up top to fulfill needs as they come up. You can also see that my colored bits aren't evenly distributed, which means I've been moving them along the rondel to get stuff done. You move the colored bits in a mancala style, which is SO COOL. Also, I'm woefully out of Trajan tiles, so you can't see any of those. I'm sorry.

So while you score throughout the game, there is some significant end game scoring as well. You get a point for any unused shipping cards in your hand, all of your legionnaires on the board (in the military region), incomplete Trajan tiles on your rondel, matching construction tiles, and any points from bonus tiles.

While I was able to meet the demands at the end of the game, I wasn't able to do a whole lot else. I really stalled out with my military method which hurt me. As you can see from the big board picture above, I did win the next time we played by balancing shipping with construction and Trajan tiles. 

Things I liked: 
- My own player board!
- Lots of ways to score! You don't feel locked into a certain strategy. Just be careful not to spread yourself too thin or you don't get a good score engine going. I speak from experience.
- Fits on our table! This is a big deal for us. I hate lugging out our big gaming table. I mean, I'll DO IT. I just don't like to. 
- Turns are straight forward, despite lots of options. There's always potential for analysis paralysis in these types of games. However, I like having enough options that I never feel a turn is wasted. I'll take it.
- The mancala/rondel element is SO COOL and unlike any other game I've played. It's so tricky yet balanced and creative. Love it a lot.

This game errs on the medium side (versus a light game like Fleet), but it was so much fun and there's so much going on that I can guarantee this will be one that Andrew and I play lots and lots of times. I recommend it for the game player who's familiar with at least a couple worker placement games so you're not totally overwhelmed by all of the things.

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.


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