18 July 2019
Should you put a ring on it?
In Tudor, predictably, players are transported to the court of Henry VIII. But not to worry: there is no beheading in this game. In fact, except for the portraits of Henry’s wives that serve as a turn tracker, very little relates to the history of that period at all.
Tudor is supposedly all about courtly intrigue, which is really just a thematic explanation for players to send their meeples around the board to collect different faction tokens. The broad premise could work for almost any royal court, real or imaginary.
The game board, illustrated like part of the palace, is divided into several zones, but the main area is the courtroom. It is populated by a staggering number of tokens. They constitute the majority of the initial lengthy setup, but look gorgeous once all the tokens are placed on the board. Collecting them and moving up several tracks in the courtroom – which represents your growing influence – is just one of many things you will be doing in Tudor. While this is primarily a worker-placement game, there are a lot of bells and whistles to its gameplay.
One of the extra elements that stands out immediately is a mechanic that uses the placement of rings on the fingers of players’ respective noble. Rings are put on creepy cardboard hand cut-outs that double as player screens, although keeping them standing straight on the table becomes one of the biggest challenges of the game. Putting the impracticality of the setup to the side, the rings and their position on specific fingers add an interesting twist to the core gameplay. In the first two sequences of the turn, players assign their meeples to one of the three rooms on the board, which allows them to perform a specific set of actions. The rings are used to enhance those actions, making them more effective and powerful; for example, allowing players to pick up more cards or move additional spaces up on one of the tracks on the courtroom portion.
As players begin with just two rings and gain additional ones only after getting to the top of one of the court tracks, choosing the position of rings is the biggest strategic decision in the game. Players are able to enhance only one ability, so they need to decide right at the start what their goal for the first couple of rounds will be.
Especially if you are new to the game, that is a tough decision. Apart from moving up on the court board and placing the rings on cardboard fingers, there are a lot of other things to consider. Every game there is one of several scenarios, which give a bonus special action. There are several end-game bonuses that are drawn randomly at the beginning of the game. To perform actions in the three rooms, players also must follow a specific sequence of placement and activation of meeples.
Unfortunately, the iconography makes the already hard-to-remember rules and objectives even more convoluted. Unintuitive little symbols and signs present throughout every step of the turn force players to constantly refer back to the game’s rulebook, slowing the flow of the game significantly. This remains a stumbling block for a few rounds, if not for your first couple of games.
Tudor’s gameplay and core concept are done well. It fails, however, in its execution. It is not enough for components to look pretty; they need to be practical and help gameplay to run smoothly. In an attempt to stand out by looking different, Tudor's gameplay is overshadowed by flashier and less meaningful gimmicks.
PLAY IT? – NO
It may have some interesting ideas, but their poor execution leaves Tudor on the chopping block.
Designer: Jan Kirschner
Artist: Dennis Lohausen
Time: 90-120 minutes
This review originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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