Trade & Troll is a game for 2-6 players designed by Emanuele Buffagni and Giulio Torlai with Art from Monica Bauleo. The game is published by Good & Evil Games and should live on Kickstarter April 25th. The game is a clever take on economic games that uses tile laying and route building to create a production engine. The rules are simple and easy to learn while still providing players with a framework to make some interesting choices.
Place closed road tiles on the board in the configuration for your player count, shuffle the building tiles (Resource, Stall, and Market) separately and make 3 stacks next to the board. Turn over 5 tiles from the Resource, Stall, and Market stacks, these are available to purchase. Each player receives 12 merchant meeples and a troll bag, 1 randomly chosen resource tile, 1 road tile (except the last player), and 5 coins. In turn players place a building with a meeple to indicate ownership and a road with the last player placing only a building.
Each game round is divided into 3 phases:
1. Troll Auction
This phase is skipped during the first round. At the beginning of the troll action the number of coins a player has is open knowledge. Players then take their coins in hand, secretly decide on a bid and reveal the bid once all the players are ready. The player who wins the auction gets a victory point token, the acquisition token and the Troll meeple, in the case of a tie no one receives any rewards. All players then put the coins they bid into their Troll Bag, once in the bag the number of coins is no longer open to the other players. At the end of the game the player with the most coins in their Troll Bag will score 3 victory points and second place will score 1 victory point.
The winning player places the troll either on an intersection to block the flow of resources or on a building to prevent it from being activated. They also place the acquisition token in front of them, this means in the next round they cannot bid on the Troll.
2. Player Actions
Players will take 2 actions (1 action at a time) from the following possible actions:
Buy and Place a Building
Buy and Place a road
Both these actions are pretty self explanatory, buy either a building tile (resource, Stall or Market) or a road tile and put it on the board according to the placement rules.
Activate a Building
This is the heart of your engine, this is how you will gain your points and win the game. On their turn a player can activate any building that has not been previously activated this round. A resource can always be activated as it has no dependency, A stall must have a clear path to the resources it requires (indicated by the colours on it’s borders), and a market must be connected to stalls of the correct type. The resources or stalls you use to activate your stalls or markets don’t need to be your own buildings you can rent buildings from other players but this will cost you 2 coins.
Activated buildings score the following amounts:
Resources – 2 Coins
One Resource Stalls – 5 Coins
Two Resource Stalls – 7 Coins
Markets – 12 Coins
Once you have activated a building you lay the merchant meeple down to indicated that it cannot be activated again this round.
3. End of Round
This is the clean up phase. The first player token moves to the left, merchant meeples are stood up, and the Troll is removed from the board if he is there.
These 3 phases are repeated round after round until the number of free spaces for buildings is equal to or less than the number of players once this happens it triggers the end game sequence. Finish the current round and then play 2 final rounds skipping the Troll Auction phase in these rounds.
Once the final two rounds are player or all the building spaces are filled players complete the final scoring. You score victory points for all buildings that could be activated (resources 1vp, stalls 2vp, markets 7vp) any placed buildings that could not be activated subtract these values, coins give the players 1 victory point for every 10 coins, and final score the troll bags 3 victory points for the player with the most coins in their troll bag and 1 vp for second.
Components and Art
I won’t speak to the quality of the components of Trade & Troll as the version I played was a print and play copy that I printed and assembled myself but I can say that the images I have seen of the design look promising. Monica Bauleo’s art is colourful and interesting but shouldn’t distract from easily analysing the current situation on the board. The design of the building tiles with the coloured borders will make reading the resource type or requirement clear and concise. I look forward to playing a production copy
I enjoyed all my plays of Trade & Troll. The game was easy to learn and to teach, the tile laying and route building is intuitive and familiar but still feels like a fresh implementation of these mechanics. Going into the game I wasn’t sure how the troll auction would play into what appeared to be a straight forward economic game but I really liked how it added player interaction. The scoring of the coins in the troll bag was also a great incentive to get people to bid even if winning the troll auction wasn’t their end goal. I played mostly 2 player but also a few 3 player games and I feel the game felt good at all counts but the sweet spot is probably around 3-4 players. Overall the game is a solid little resource management, economic euro that almost has a pick up and deliver feel without the pick up. If you like games where you build a nice little engine to score points this game is worth keeping an eye on Kickstarter for.