04 November 2023
Put a song on the tip of your tongue with Tipperary, which gives you the chance to build a rural Irish County in this tile placement game.
When I first picked up Gunter Burkhardt’s Tipperary, my mind, jumped to the famous First World War marching song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” I had always pictured this yearned-for land, so far from the realities of war, as an imagined one, with the name chosen for its musicality perhaps. It was quite the discovery to learn that Tipperary is actually Ireland’s largest inland county, famed for much more than its wartime hit.
What is Tipperary?
In this largely cheerful tile-laying game, Tipperary evokes a similar sense of wistful longing, as players construct their square-edged simulacrums of bucolic perfection and lingering mysticism. This is a game set in a specific place at an unspecified time and, within the loose confines of abstract rules, allows players to fashion an immaculate vision of rural Ireland. Here, the worked landscapes of grain fields and sheep pastures both contrast and compliment the wild bogs, aged hallowed ruins and standing stones - coexisting in a way that gives a distinct sense of place to a game about agricultural efficiency.
At its mechanical heart is a spinner wheel atop a magical stone circle. Every turn, the landscapes of each player will be shaped by its randomised revolutions, depending on which two tiles align with their chosen family crest. One of the two will be chosen to be orthogonally added to their display, with the other being put back before the wheel is replenished. This process repeats twelve times (ten in the five-player game) whereupon final scores are tallied.
Scoring points comes solely from how tiles are placed. There are seven types of landscape features to be found on the game’s tiles, each one functioning differently, such as pastures scoring based on the number of sheep found within the largest matching contiguous group of those tiles. Furthermore, wooden sheep can be placed upon meadow spaces to extend pasture. Distilleries, on the other hand, score by bumping players’ barrels up the whiskey track each time they’re placed adjacent to a grain field or vice versa. The remaining three landscape types - ruins, bogs and stone circles - largely reward players with useful single-space tiles or 3D towers to plug any gaps, as at the end of the game, points will be awarded based on players’ largest, uninterrupted rectangular area.
Despite the random nature of how tiles are acquired, a great deal of thought needs to be put into how they’re placed. Leaving space to potentially lay down the requisite trio of sequential ruins needs to be considered if a player is relying on a tower to fill a troublesome gap. Then again, is it worth the risk if there’s the immediate opportunity to place a distillery for guaranteed points? It’s a gripping puzzle, which is lucky considering there’s little tension to be had from player interaction. Nonetheless, simply witnessing the beautiful sprawl of opposing players enlivens the game’s solitary feel somewhat.
What do we think to Tipperary?
And beautiful it is. The combination of art from Anna Block and Klemens Franz creates a pastel-hued dreamland in spite of its rural realities. It has a more freeform, painterly style in comparison to Franz’s work on Agricola, which pays off by feeling thoroughly inviting. This is key to gently easing families into the game, who may be more familiar with both the mechanic and aesthetic simplicity of games such as Kingdomino or Carcassonne. Components are a mixed bag - literally - with the stained wooden barrels and sheep fitting the game perfectly, but the tile bag just a little bit too small. This is a minor complaint though, that does little to blemish the overall pleasantness of Tipperary.
Review by Chad Wilkinson
Should you play Tipperary?
A thoroughly pleasant tile-laying game in both mechanics and aesthetic.
You should try Tipperary if you like:
A gorgeous step up from this classic kingdom-building tile-layer.
On the Box
Designer: Gunter Burkhardt
Publisher: Lookout Spiele
Time: 45 minutes
What’s in the box?
- Round Tracker River Board
- Spinner Wheel
- 60 Landscape Tiles
- 12 Bonus Tiles
- 12 Towers
- 5 Hometowns
- Largest Flock Marker
- 24 Wooden Sheep
- 6 Wooden Barrels
- Cloth Bag
- Scoring Pad
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