Previewing: Trickerion

Come! Join us one and all as we step up on to the the stage majestic and into a world of wonder and magic. From there, we’ll take you and the rest of the audience behind the curtain to see how it’s all done.

Alliance_of_Magicians

They demand to be taken seriously.

Actually, wait, you’re not part of The Alliance, right? Because you have to tell us if you are…

Alright, good. Then onward!

We know that it’s rather taboo to expose some of the secrets being the art of illusion, but in the case of Trickerion, we’re making an exception. In this breakout 2-4 player game by Mindclash Games, players enter Magoria: a city which once flourished under the guidance (and performances) of the world’s greatest illusionist. In his final show, he disappeared. Now, many years later and he has returned to pass on the torch – and his magical ability-enhancing Trickerion Stone – to the one who is best suited to restore Magoria to its former glory.

That’s where players begin. In this race to generate the most fame amongst your competitors, each player is tasked with learning new magic tricks, gathering and preparing the materials needed to conduct it, and then offering up some awe-inspiring performances.

Yes, this is a game about being magicians. But hang in there, as it gets better.

A lot better.

Prototype Shown

Prototype Shown

Quite a bit of management happens in Trickerion over a mere six rounds, but everything you’re asked to do, in one form or another, is funneled into pulling off your magic tricks. How Trickerion accomplishes this is one of the two areas that makes the game stand out amongst many other Worker Placement games.

Each player starts off with two player boards. Plural. The larger of the two boards mainly houses one of the game’s four worker placement areas: your individual Workshop. The Workshop contains which Tricks you’re perfecting and the various Components needed to pull them off. You start off with some money, two workers (your Magician and an Apprentice), a Trick of your choice (and an accompanying booklet of all of the Tricks), a material Component or two of your choice, and a Specialist…of your choice. There are three different Specialists in the game (Manager, Engineer, and Assistant) that provide you with a worker unit and a specialized action in your Workshop. And every Specialist comes with its own board. This is the first surprise for new visitors to Trickerion: between the player boards and main board itself, be prepared to have a decent amount of table space handy.

A Player Board in action. Prototype shown

A Player Board in action.
Prototype shown

Beyond that, though, choice certainly is the word to describe the initial setup. Indeed, the degree of freedom that Trickerion lets players tailor their starting conditions while still being balanced is impressive. With 28 different Tricks in the base game, each requiring some combination of 1-3 kinds of the game’s 12 different Components, as well as choosing which Specialist you want, Trickerion has no shortage of gameplay variability. This can be a little daunting for newer players, but once you’ve taken a stroll around Magoria once or twice, you adapt quickly. That said, the game also comes with a beginner’s setup if this illusion of freedom is too overwhelming at first.

Every round works in the same manner. First, the turn order is set based on the common practice of reverse VP order. Then, players must then decide and “program” where they want to send each of their workers that round. Unlike traditional worker placement games, though, where you simply place a unit and take its action, Trikerion offers a markedly different approach. In this game, both the selection and action-taking processes are done with a bit more flair.

To do this, each player uses a set of cards to secretly assign their worker units to one of the game’s four locations: Downtown, Market Row, Workshop, and Theater. Players have a finite number of these location cards, however, so you must be mindful not only of which units you want to set where, but where other players may be sending their workers as well. Once they are are all locked in, assignments are revealed.

"For my next Trick..."

“For my next Trick…”

Then the second half of Trickerion’s unique worker placement system comes into effect.

In order, players take turns choosing one of their workers and placing it on an open space at a location. Rather than placing a worker on X space to do thing Y, Trickerion instead uses an action point system for deciding your options at a location. Each unit in the game comes with a set number of action points (1 for Apprentices, 2 for Specialists, 3 for Magicians), as does your chosen unit space. The sum of these two point values determines how many action points you can spend at that location. The Downtown allows you to learn new Tricks, collect money, and get new workers. Similarly, the Market Row allows you to purchase Components in stock, order a Component that will be stocked the following round, or if you, say, really need that RopeĀ right now, you can temporarily order it up.

Three sheets of glass and some Rope will do... Prototype Shown

Three sheets of glass and some Rope will do…
Prototype Shown

This combination of the programming and action point mechanics help Trickerion create a worker placement performance all its own, giving the game a highly unique experience from a mechanical standpoint.

Yet the other truly stand out – and enticing – aspect to Trickerion is its theme. Unlike worker games that revolve around farming, pirates, or building up personal wealth of one kind or another, this one is a rendition that is wholly original. From its impressive but subdued artwork to the degree its mechanics envelop the entire turn-of-the-century illusionist concept, Trickerion is hardly a reskin or reimplementation of an existing title. Instead, it offers a Euro game experience with a stagecraft all its own. The theme alone is commendable, but the fact that the game also incorporates its theme so well makes for an excellent bit of pantomime.

This is exemplified by the way the game ‘performs’ Tricks. First, every Trick requires the player to amass the Components to pull it off. After all, if you want to saw a woman if half, you’re going to actually need a saw. Then it requires the Trick be prepared in the Workshop, which puts a number of markers on it. These markers, aside from having the nice touch of incorporating playing card symbols, represent the Trick when being performed. Then, a worker must use a Theater action to put these markers on available Performance Card spaces. Then, players have to use their Magician unit on the Performance space at the Theater to act out one of these Performance Cards. (You can’t send the intern out at showtime after all.)

Who said doing magic was easy?

A Performance Card Prototype Shown

A Performance Card
Prototype Shown

The last part of a round is the Performance, where Magicians on stage take turns in the order chosen. They select a Performance Card with at least one of their Tricks and do all of the Tricks on that card. If your Trick is performed, you get its payout in money and / or Fame, with the performing Magician potentially getting some bonuses. After six sounds of such Performances, the game is over, and the person with the most Fame (VP) is the winner.

The only real hangup to Trickerion is that the degree of symbology can be a little visually overstimulating at times. There are symbols everywhere in this game. However, half of them are simply reminders for what options you can do and what certain costs or payouts may be. The other half are only utilized when you’re adding in the game’s Dark Alley and Magician Power modules.

Trickerion can be played to full effect with just the base game as described, but whether you see these as a form of advanced play, or a fully-realized expansion, they are already incorporated into the core game and ready for play. (Update: The final game will use double sided boards to use if you aren’t utilizing the Dark Alley, which will clear the board state up substantially.) The Dark Alley adds even more depth of strategy and complexity to the game while infusing some flavorful mysticism into this mysterious world of illusion. They certainly aren’t required to enjoy Trickerion, but it’s still another example of a game with significant thought and effort put into its development. For a first-time designer, it’s a show to behold.

Although the game may be all about magic tricks, there are no illusions here: Trickerion is the real deal. The game has a remarkable amount of flavor and incorporates that flavor into the very heart of its act. Like most worker placement games, there are only a few available workers to fulfill the daunting demands so that you and your stage crew will be ready for the evening show. Yet the trick to Trickerion is that it offers an experience at once in familiar territory while providing an angle that you didn’t see coming. Between its original theme and innovative approach to action-taking, this game puts on a performance worth seeing. To catch a matinee showing, tickets currently on sale over on Kickstarter!

This project has earned the Seal of the Republic

Seal of the Republic

 

Photo Credits: Arrested Development by 20th Century Fox; Gonzo by Walt Disney Pictures.