Monday, 9 June 2014

Templar The Secret Treasure

Templar Reviewed by Todd Barker on : Templar: The Secret Treasure is a area control and role selection board game for 2-5 players from Queen Games. In my review I will cover how to play Templar, how well it scales up to 5 players and who I think should buy the boardgame.

Objective: Your goal is to gain the most victory points by hiding treasure inside of the Abbey and scoring them via the abbot Remigius. In addition at the end of the game you will gain victory points for the number of different rooms you have treasure hidden in, as well as any face up signet rings remaining hidden inside the abbey.
End game look at Templar by Queen Games
Approaching end game, dreaded cell phone at the table.

How To Play: Playing is relatively simple and Templar is actually labeled as a family game which I am still not sure is right. The rules are simple enough but the strategy can be hard to grasp and it took a few games before anyone scored near 80 (max on the score board). Templar could be considered an abstract strategy game in the sense that you could have any or no theme at all and everyone has the same starting pieces / position. Templar is also entirely language neutral with no required text and the game comes with rules in five different languages.

On their turn each player selects 1 card from their hand that is not currently face up in front of any other player and plays it on top of his discard pile. Each card represents a character that allows your to perform a specific action. With a selection of 10 available cards it can be a bit daunting to learn but luckily in order to introduce the concept of the game you only really need to know 5 cards and 3 of them function the same way.

The Cards: Here is a list of each card and what they do in the order I think they should be explained.

Monk cards Templar: Queen Games
Anselmus, Josua, Lucas: The Monks from fat to skinny.
When each one of these monks is played you are able to take your personal treasure supply and stash it inside the abbey. The type of treasure depends on the type of spaces available in the room, the number of treasures you get to hide and how many spaces you can move depends on which monk you played. The fattest monk moves only 1 room but can hide 3 treasures, Josua is able to move up to 2 rooms and hide 2 treasures and Lucas can move up to 3 rooms but only hide 1 treasure.

Remigius Templar: Queen Games
Remigius the Abbot
Playing Remigius, the white card allows you to move the Abbot meeple up to two rooms and then score all the treasure inside of the room which is your primary way of getting points.Signet Rings are worth 2 points,Books are worth 3 points and Grails are worth 5 points.
Whenever Remigius scores a room players only turn one of their signet rings face down and leave the others to be scored if Remigius ever re enters that room or as extra points at the end of the game.

Maria Templar: Queen Games
Maria Your Sister
Harbour Templar The Secret Treasure Queen GamesPlaying Maria allows you to take your choice of valuables from the Harbour. After playing Maria take your player token and place it on the section of the harbour which you wish to collect treasure from. Exchange the brown tokens from that harbour space for treasure of your colour and add them to your stash to be hidden in the room. At the start of your next turn you must leave the harbour and return to the abbey either through the front or the side entrance. 

Once you have explained these 5 cards I believe you are ready to jump into a game as players are going to keep asking what each other card does repeatedly regardless so for now just stick to the basics. The rest of the cards are explained below.
Severus, Porticus and the Bells cards. Templar: Queen Games
Severus, Porticus and the Bells cards.
These are the next most important cards as they control situations in the game other than hiding / scoring treasure.

Severus allows you to move Prior Severus who stops any actions which effect treasures from taking place in the same room (this includes hiding, moving and scoring).

Porticus allows you to move the door to anywhere on the board you wish, only the spy can pass through the door. Playing both of these cards awards you with 1 point.

Bells is a bit more complicated card as it effects two parts of the game. First you refill the harbour. The number of treasure tokens that get added to the harbour depends on the number in the top right of the card you played previously. Next you get to pick up all of your previously played cards giving you a fresh selection to choose from (also pick up bells)

Note: There can never be two Grails on the same harbour space. This is nice because it helps minimize the luck / turn order factor.
Bit tight on space, our harbour had to hang off the table. You can see by the end of the game no one cared to put the tokens on the board straight.

Stephanus and Benjamin cards from Templar: Queen Games
Stephanus and Benjamin
Stephanus and Benjamin are both cards that will help players form their own strategy and often do not get played unless a player has few other choices. I do not think you should cover these cards until someone asks about them and what they do as you will just overload the players you are explaining to.

Stephanus moves your colour token up to two rooms away and then awards you 1 point for each other character in the room, this includes all player and non player controlled characters.

Benjamin allows you to move signet rings around the abbey. You can pick up a ring at any point during your 3 room movement but you must hide it in the room you end your turn in. You can move other players`rings except for on the final game turn after someone has already triggered the end of game.

Important Notes:

When you play a card you are unable to re-enter a room you have been in during that turn with the exception of Benjamin.

Spy Vitus: does not have a card and instead moves to the last known location of Remigius every time Remigius changes rooms. Remigius cannot move into or through a room with Spy Vitus unless he has no other choice at which point you still only pass through and cannot end with both the spy and the abbot in the same room.

Game End: 
The game ends one of two ways, if you cannot refill the harbour as there are no brown tokens left in the bag or once one player has succesfully placed treasure into each of the 13 rooms. In both cases all players including whoever caused the game end is allowed to have 1 more turn.

End Game Scoring:
Every player adds 2 points for each face up signet ring hidden inside the abbey to their current score.

Each player adds a number of points based on how many different rooms they have treasure hidden in to their total score.
Rooms to points score card. Templar: Queen Games
Rooms to points score card

I really enjoyed the way the components are in Templar, they included custom wooden meeples when generic ones of different colours would have worked. I also really like how the card backs match a players` colour so well and this is one of the few games where I really don`t care which colour I end up playing as.
Green`s Pieces, he has no treasure available to hide hence playing his Stephanus card.

My main complaint about each player`s individual pieces is the mechanic or system of having access to only part of your pieces at a time. I understand this is a key part to the game`s mechanics and I have seen this system in more than a couple other games, I just find it to be fiddly. Our solution has been to use the scoring card with room to points ration on it as a barrier between your available treasure and those that you still have to claim from the harbour.

The game board is attractive although a bit hard to follow in some spots but I really like how Poriticus and the door interact with the game board.
Templar: The Secret Treasure by Queen Games = Board

How Does it Scale 2 - 5 players?

Two Players: Two player uses a dummy player acting as a third player, although only for the purpose of stopping roles from being selected. I find Templar to be a very tight two player game with a lot of meta / head game going on of trying to predict your opponent's next move. The dummy player adds a luck element that I find is not present with other player sizes because you usually have a pretty good idea of what someone is going to be played especially if you can keep track of what is in their discard. Two player Templar does end pretty quickly because turns go around very quickly and there is a shorter learning curve for introducing new players.

Three Players: Three players is okay, not my favourite format but I do enjoy it more than with the dummy. The games pace is still fairly quick and you will have an easier time forming a strategy than in the two player game. It is important to note that your location on the board matters more now that there are three players although I do not think it is worth stressing about yet.

Four Players: This is where Templar shines, with four players there is a lot going on. You really have to think ahead for what cards you are going to be able to play so you have to try to remember what cards everyone has used up. At the same time the door and severus move around a lot more and your location on the board is extremely important. Four player is where blocking and screwing your opponents shines the most and most importantly to me in a four player game you have the most options for strategy.

Five Players: Things start to get a bit chaotic and it can be hard to form a plan. Although if you are good at watching cards you can create amazing strategies and use your opponents moves in your favour. The main reason to why I dislike five players is sometimes you are very limited in what you can do and your strategy is forced to adjust instead of catering to your play style. In addition not being in full control of your strategy can cause the game to drag and we have debated packing in early on more than one occasion.

Who is Templar: The Secret Treasure best suited for?

Family Gamers: On BGG you will see Templar fall into the family game category, although the rules are easy enough and there is no violence at all, I am not entirely sure this is where it best fits. My main issue is that I feel younger players will have a hard time developing a strategy and could likely lose interest as a result. The game also takes a little bit longer than what I would consider family game material. That being said I do not think Templar is any more challenging than say Carcassonne if you approach it the right way.

Casual Gamers: Because you are restricted to what cards you are allowed to play turns tend to go around quickly, instead of considering a plethora of moves players only have to consider a few options especially when you start playing with more players. It is also easy to not pay attention to other players' moves and still play Templar, you probably wont win but it gives you the option to play the board game in a more social atmosphere.

Gamer Gamers: I think Templar is much more suited for serious gamers than it is to family gamers. It is one of those games with easy to learn rules but takes a lot to master. I also feel that games with a meta / head game are much better suited towards avid gamers because they give an option to really get into the game. Having to track what your opponents played may seem just like card counting but once you get good at it you can not only use your opponents moves to your advantage but plan further ahead than most games without having to worry about something another player does screwing it up. The game has almost felt scripted on a few occasions where someone has set up a grand finale and if you are someone who likes trying to pull off that last turn jaw dropper Templar is a great game for you.

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