Just the other day I was talking about game themes and how well they are or are not integrated into gameplay. Cindr takes cues from a popular dating app with a similar name by requiring you to swipe cards left or right. Today I want to mention a different type of theme, and that is one of publishers. I’m sure we all have opinions about which game-making companies are known for cheap quality. Fortunately there are a few which have a reputation for giving you more than your money’s worth.
We’ve been covering games by Pencil First Games for over five years and have watched them grow from a small start-up to a company with multiple game designs in the works each year. Probably our favorite issue is Herbaceous, whose gorgeous artwork is much more advanced than you normally see in a game in this price range. Skulk Hollow has custom-cut and painted meeples as does Lift Off! Get Me Off This Planet! In my mind, I know the folks at Pencil First Games always go the extra mile to provide as much value as they can. The same can be said of their newest title, One-Hundred Torii.
One-Hundred Torii is a tile-laying game for up to four players and also has solo-mode rules. At first glance it will look very complicated, especially while punching out all the tokens from seven boards. In actuality, these are nicely upgraded pieces that could have just as easily been tiles, tokens or chits.
Setup by sorting and stacking all matching tiles together on the table. Shuffle the square tiles face-down and deal two to each player after removing some, determined by the number of players. The red-backed version is the start tile and is placed in the middle of the play area. Everyone also begins the game with two coins. A handy market board is shared among all players and we used that as a token to pass to the next person when the active player’s turn was complete.
A turn in One-Hundred Torii is broken up into two phases. First, you must decide on whether or not to hire someone from the market board. You will pay for their services with your coins or any other good collected during the game. These allow you to block off spaces on the tiles, prevent others from laying tiles in a space, let you draw two new tiles or even place a tile on top of a previously-placed one. Each time you hire a person, you will collect or flip their matching tile, awarding you points at the end of the game.
The second part of your turn is to lay a tile from your hand onto the table, connected with another tile. Tiles have landmark icons on them and you will choose one on the freshly-laid tile and score it. Trace the shortest path to a matching landmark and take note of any gates you pass through. You receive one matching landmark token for successfully completing a connection and one additional for each red gate along your path. For any blue gates, you are allowed to choose a landmark token from any other landmark!
If you collect five of one type of landmark token, you immediately exchange it for a larger token worth five points. Collect them again and flip the same token over to the “10” side. Ten is the most you can score from any one type, so be sure to spend any extra as they are worth nothing at the end of the game. Additionally, the first person to amass five of all six token types will earn a reward token worth an additional five points (three points to the second person to do so). Bonus points are awarded in the same manner if anyone is able to earn ten points in three different landmark types.
One other way of scoring when you lay a tile is to create an enclosure. This is when a path has a start and an end and contains at least two landmark icons, matching or not. When you do, take the special enclosure scoring tile, worth two points. Do it again and flip it to the four point side! If you’re the first to enclose three, you’re awarded with a custom three point tile! At the end of your turn you will draw back up to two tiles in your hand.
Players take turns in clockwise order until the last tile is drawn. All players take one last turn and then sum up their scoring tiles. The player who has the most points is the winner of One-Hundred Torii!
While the game is classified as tile-laying, there is a real abstract feel to the scoring. Many time you’ll think you’ll have the perfect tile to play, only to have someone else take your spot or lay a tile that creates a shorter path than the one you were working on (remember, you score the shortest, not the longest). While the box claims games are 45 minutes long, don’t expect it to be that short the first couple of times you play. It is prone to some analysis paralysis among first-time players. But once they got the hang of it, things smoothed out. Our third play-through was almost spot-on with the advertised length.
We enjoyed One-Hundred Torii enough to make it a recommendation in this years Holiday Gift Guide for Family Games. Pick up a copy for your family at your favorite local game store, direct from Pencil First Games on their website or via Amazon with Prime delivery. As always, be sure to follow them on Facebook or Twitter to find out what they’re working on for next year. In the meantime, pay attention to our multiple daily giveaways! We’ll be giving away a copy of One-Hundred Torii next month!
What is your favorite tile-laying game?