People like to pile things on top of other things. It’s practically interwoven in human nature. Stonehenge, The Pyramids, The Great Wall of China. We’ve reached a point where humanity stacks so many things on top of each other that we have giant machines to do the stacking for us and it’s all gotten very complicated. Well, since you’re presumably human, this game may appeal to you on that level. Granted that’s a pretty hefty generalization, but I’m going with it.
In Tournament of Towers the players take on the role of an architect in the Kingdom of Geometria. King Curvanumus and Queen Structuria are hosting a tournament amongst the best architects in the land. They’re looking for daring design choices and tall, tall towers. I know, this sounds like a gamed up version of a lost Phantom Tollbooth Sequel… Which is acutally pretty awesome. And it lives up to that.
Essentially, there are a whole bunch of shapes in front of you. Gray shapes are intermixed with yellow shapes. The most obvious difference between the two is that the yellow shapes are WAY more difficult to use than the gray. Also, you’ll have a deck of cards consisting of illustrations of every one of those pieces. Each player will also have their architect represented by a small plastic figure and a rectangle that is the base for your structure. Each player is dealt seven cards and then you select a card and pass the remainder of your hand to the Person sitting next to you. This continues until all cards are selected. What you’re doing is selecting your building material. There isn’t a free-for-all grab what you need segment of this game. Rather you carefully select your seven components THEN you have to arrange them in the order in which you will place them on your base. Once this is done, players roll a die and resolve an event, then begin building. Once their seven blocks are placed they can place their little architect somewhere on the structure. Points are scored based on the number of yellow pieces, the placement of the architect and the height of the tower. You then play a second round, having to add onto your precarious structure.
Now, there are plenty of stacking games, and if I’m honest I haven’t played many of them, but also if I’m honest they all sound very charming and fun to me. I like stacking things, especially when it has a good level of difficulty to it, I think it’s a pretty fun activity. Not much of a game, but fun nonetheless. However, Tournament does something pretty interesting to make stacking things on top of each other into a solidly fun and very competitive game. First off is the drafting of cards in the beginning. This isn’t just “build the tallest tower”. You have to plan carefully and potentially NOT win tallest tower in the first round so that you can survive to the second round. If your tower topples you get one mulligan then you’re done. You need careful planning throughout both rounds to score the most points. Then there’s those ridiculous yellow pieces. They’re made to be difficult to use, but not impossible. Their points carry over into the second round and can be the difference between victory and defeat. Planning one into your building is difficult enough, but when you’re handed one in the draft and you have no choice but to keep it, you then have to decide very carefully on your placement order.
This obviously isn’t the type of game that’s going to appeal to everyone, especially people that don’t enjoy using fine motor skills in board games. Other minor quibbles include the the fact that the little architects add little to the game other than to get a small point boost and increase chances for you to accidentally destroy your tower. Worse are the events. Sometimes they work just fine, but some might find them to be a extra random chaos in a game that already has you holding your breath due to the pressure of your extremely rickety tower, but they can add some variety to the game. I generally just opt out of using the special events all together when teaching new players, adding them in only when everyone’s comfortable. Overall it’s an impressive and fun stacking game that really gets your creativity flowing right along side the strategy needed to last two rounds. It was a hit with everyone that I played it with and I thoroughly enjoyed Tournament of Towers.
You get to stack things!
Drafting your pieces adds a really interesting layer of strategy.
Having to pre-select your build order just boosts that layer.
Quick to play and fun to look at.
It’s a blast!
If you don’t like dexterity or stacking games you won’t like this.
The events are an added layer of unnecessary chaos.