Full disclosure: A review copy of Tournament of Towers was provided by Iron Hippo Games.
Alright, this isn’t a Gen Con game or an Essen game! I know; it’s a shocker. This one was just a review request that got fulfilled, and now here we are with Tournament of Towers from Iron Hippo games!
In Tournament of Towers, the King and Queen have requested you architects build magnificent towers to their splendor and excellence. The nice thing about being a monarch is that you don’t really have to ask the architects to do it; they just have to do it because the monarch said to do so. Draft cards with pieces and then determine the order to build your tower to the heavens! Will you be able to scrape the sky? Or will it all come crashing back to the ground?
There’s not really much to set up. Give each player a foundation piece:
Very exciting. Shuffle up the cards:
Set the pieces somewhere nearby (honestly, just leave them in the box until you need them):
And take out the event die, if you’re planning to play with Events. It’s a D6, so, uh, just find it. There’s also a scorepad:
You should be all ready to go!
In Tournament of Towers, the King and Queen have tasked you architects with helping construct some fanciful towers for their realm! Unfortunately, only one can win, and they’re pretty aggressive about the tower falling over; something about hundreds dying. Anyways, build your tower over two rounds and the player with the most points wins the game! But how do you do that?
Each round, you’ll start by drafting 7 cards. To do that, deal each player 7 cards and have them take one and then pass the remainder to the left. Once every player has done this (so they have 7 cards), move on to the next step.
During this step, you’ll choose your build order. Choose and lock in an ordering of cards that will be the order in which you add pieces from the supply to your tower during this round. Once you’ve locked it in, you cannot change it.
After that, you may roll for Events. If you do, roll the Event Die and do the following based on the result:
- No event.
- No event.
- Round 1: Move the fourth card in your Build Order to the front.
Round 2: For each set of three or more of the same piece on your tower, score two extra points at the end of the round.
- Round 1: Move the first card in your Build Order to the end.
Round 2: Move a piece from the tower on your right to your tower.
- Round 1: Move all gold cards to the end of your Build Order.
Round 2: Move all gold cards to the front of your Build Order.
- Round 1: Pass one of your Build Order Cards to the player on your right.
Round 2: Draw a card from the deck and add it to your Build Order.
Now, take the pieces on your build order cards and start building! You may use both hands (unlike Catch the Moon) when building up, but you cannot move other pieces once you’ve moved on to the next one unless you use that piece to move the other pieces. If you finish placing all your pieces, you may add your Architect figure to your tower as a flourish and say “Done!”. Now, even if your tower falls, it’s fine. Technically, if before now your tower falls, you lose. Just, if you want to play our way, you can just give a score of 0 instead of knocking them out of the game. That seems a tiny bit more humane, all things considered.
Once all players have finished or fallen, you score!
- 3 points for the tallest tower;
- 1 point if your architect is at the highest point of your tower;
- 1 point if you placed a gold piece on your tower (per gold placed).
Do that, set the played cards aside, deal 7 more and repeat the round! You’ll be building on top of your existing building. Good luck!
After two rounds, the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
Honestly, there aren’t that many, really. The drafting puts more pieces in play, so in certain variances it’s possible that you get a worse draw (than average), but the same likelihood exists that you’ll get a better hand than average. Beyond that, there’s no player interaction, so I’d say it’s about the same. No preference on player count; it plays the same at any of them.
- Go for a sturdy foundation. Big heavy pieces will help weigh down your foundation, so that it won’t tip over as soon as you place anything on top of it. As you might guess, your tower falling is not quite an explicit goal if it can be avoided during the trip.
- Don’t forget to take some Gold Pieces. They’re worth points! And they’re not all garbage. They’re just … mostly garbage, if I’m being real. They’ve got weird curves and spikes and angles; you don’t need them explicitly, but having a few here and there can really turn your fortunes around if you’re not doing so hot in a round.
- Don’t underestimate the tiny pieces. They can just slide into places! Sometimes more than once! And if they’re gold you’ve just now made more real estate for not-terrible blocks (and earned a point in the process, which is obviously also a good outcome).
- Don’t overestimate them either. You should try to make a reasonably tall tower if you think you have any shot of getting those three points for having the overall tallest one.
- You don’t need to be the tallest to win. Having a lot of gold pieces, for instance, can overcome that additional bonus you’ll get from being the tallest overall tower. Just be careful that you don’t overexert yourself on gold pieces to try and win high tower.
- Plan for the next round. Don’t place a bunch of gold pieces on all your flat surfaces; you need a place to build.
- Just stuff some stuff in other stuff. There are a number of pieces that will comfortably fit inside another piece. Just watch out! They may not fit perfectly and may cause some sliding because they’re not a particularly good base.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The drafting aspect is a lot of fun. I like getting to see what everyone is going to be playing; I don’t really hate-draft, but you could I guess? That’s technically why you grab the pieces for your tower last; you don’t want too give away any extra information.
- The gold pieces are delightfully strange. They even have weird, sometimes-punny names! That’s all delightful. I just don’t ever want to use them because they always kill my tower.
- The pieces have a good weight to them. Some of them are pretty heavy, actually. It’s a fairly solid game, construction wise.
- The towers are fun to build. That’s pretty much the most important question you can ask in a stacking game, and I can confirm; it’s fun. You have to navigate all the weirdest pieces that you find if you want to be able to build a really good tower, I guess?
- It includes some suggestions for inclusively scaling the difficulty of the game. I just generally appreciate when games do that; it makes the game a lot more friendly for newer audiences, which is kind.
- It’s odd that the drafting order doesn’t change between Rounds 1 and 2. Most games just reverse it; I wonder why not, for this one? Just an odd thing I noticed in the rules.
- The egg just seems mean. I haven’t yet see anyone get it and do something useful it. A half-egg I could get behind, but the whole one seems to be kind of … cruel, if that makes sense?
- Losing the game on a fall is a bit aggressive. We’ve nerfed that in practical play to just, “you score 0 for the round” so that players aren’t left sitting out. It’s not a perfect rebalancing, but it’s a dexterity game so it’s not exactly a gigantic deal, either.
- The pieces aren’t always perfectly flush. I assume it’s some artifact of how they were made, but they’re not always perfectly flat when placed on another surface, and if you’re trying to rely on that absolutely, you may want to sand down some of the seams on pieces or maybe take a very silly dexterity game a tiny bit less seriously? I’d recommend the former.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, Tournament of Towers is solid! Pun intended, the foundation is there, and it’s got a lot of things I like about stacking games, but with even weirder pieces than Cat Tower or Rhino Hero: Super Battle. That said, I’m not a huge fan of player elimination in the slightest, and it kind of enshrines that in rules, so, that’s something I’m a bit disappointed about. It is a fun bit of drafting with some great art and a fun theme, though, so if you’re looking for a fun little dexterity game that’s maybe a bit advanced for the whole family but still a good fit for most of the family, I’d definitely recommend checking out the Tournament of Towers!