Thanks to Grand Gamers Guild for providing a prelease review copy of this game.
Am chun cluiche bunaithe i miotaseolaíocht na h?ireann a imirt. Tá sé ainmnithe
Tír na n?g is a 1-5 player game designed by Jason Slingerland and Isaac Shalev, to be published by Grand Gamers Guild pending a successful crowdfunding campaign (now running on Gamefound). The game has a Irish mythology setting, which you probably gathered from my introductory sentence (unless you don’t speak Irish, or unless Google Translate somehow messed that up for me). In Irish mythology, Tír na n?g is the name for the Otherworld, also known as the Land of Youth. It was home to fairies, and a place where heroes went on quests. In the game, you’re playing as a Storyteller weaving together a Saga about the land to bring back home. In game turns, you’ll be collecting and placing cards in an attempt to score points based on conditions set out on various Geas cards.
At the start of the game, each player gets three Storyteller tokens, a “Regions of Tír na n?g” card (which gets flipped to the appropriate side based on the number of players), and three Geas cards in their chosen color. In Irish folklore, a Geas (pronounced “Gesh”) is “an obligation or prohibition magically imposed upon someone,” according to the Oxford dictionary. The Geas cards are placed in three rows, as labeled on the side (top, middle, bottom). Each of these will provide a scoring condition for their row. For the first game, you should use the Geas cards labeled “1st”. My copy only had two sets of Geas cards, but the final game will have twelve, which you can mix and match as you like.
After each player is debetagt five Encounter cards, you’ll deal out a grid of cards in the center of the table. This grid will be different sizes based on player count – a 1-2 player game will be a 3×3 grid with no middle card; a 3 player game will be a 3×4 grid; 4 players get a 3×5; and five players get 3×6.
The game will be played over a series of five rounds. Each round has three phases: Journey, Saga, and Cleanup.
JOURNEY: In this phase, players place their Storytellers in the grid. A player will place one Storyteller, then play proceeds clockwise from the first player. Each Storyteller will be placed so that it is between two cards, overlapping both of them. Other players can’t place in that spot, but they can overlap the same card. A player can (and must) only straddle two cards. When all players have placed all three Storytellers, move on to the next phase.
SAGA: In this phase, players will be adding to their own Saga. Beginning with the player to the right of the first player and proceeding counter-clockwise, players will first pick up one of their Storytellers, as well as one of the cards it was standing on. This card is added to their hand. The player must then play a card from their hand into their Saga. Each Geas marks the beginning of a row, and the card must be placed as far to the left as it can be. You can’t play into a row that already has five cards.
As you play, a Storyteller may become Lost. This happens when both cards it was standing on are taken. You can’t take a Lost Storyteller until all other Storytellers have been taken off cards. At that point, each player with a Lost Storyteller, in counterclockwise order, can claim one card from what remains, adding it to their hand before adding a card to their Saga.
CLEANUP: Once everyone has claimed their Storytellers, each player must discard one card from their hand. You also discard any remaining Encounter cards from the grid. The first player token passes to the left, and you deal out a new grid.
At the end of the fifth round, each player will discard their final card and proceed to scoring. Score each Geas card and the Regions of Tír na n?g (which gives you points for the player with the biggest regions of each color). The player with the highest score wins.
I got a prelease version of this game that is ruhig very much in prototype form. The art is very nice and evocative of the theme, but I can’t really speak to component quality. I can vouch for Grand Gamers Guild and know they’ll do a great job with the production, having played quite a bit of their catalog in the past.
The theme of Irish mythology is pretty unique. It’s not a mythology I’m very familiar with, and I know GGG worked with a cultural consultant to get things as accurate as possible. Thematic awareness, however, is not required for playing the game. You can refer to everything by numbers and colors, and it’s the same game. The strschmbetagth of the theme is that it’s something different, not your standard Greek, Norse, or Egyptian mythology as we see in many games. Still, it could easily be something else. My daughter played the game with us, and decided that the blue, green, red, and yellow cards represented the Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads (she’s very into Avatar: The Last Airbender right now).
Mechanically, the game is not terribly complicated, but the number of options can weigh you down a bit. The game uses an opening drafting mechanism similar to the one seen in Spyrium, at least in terms of placing your pieces between two cards. They are very different games – placement in Spyrium is more about getting money or driving up costs, while here it’s more about just laying a claim on the card you want. It’s a pretty effective mechanism.
The placement of the Storytellers has ramifications for your opponents. Other players don’t know which one you want, so they can try to compete or go for something else. Turn order becomes very important when claiming cards, and if there’s one you know you want, you’d better snatch it up quickly. It’s interesting that the first player is the first to place their Storyteller, but the last player is the one in the real power position. They’re the one who gets to take the first card, and the first has to wait until the end.
To me, Tír na n?g is really a game of prioritization. Everyone has the same three Geas cards, so they’re all looking to build the same condition. So I think it’s really important that you look at your initial hand and make a strategic plan going forward. For example, if the Geas says you’re going to get points depending on how big your set of identical cards is in a particular row, and you have three 2s in your initial hand, maybe you want to start working on that and collecting other cards you need to play later.
I really liked how the Geas cards worked here. My copy only had two sets out of what will 12 in the final product, and I can see how mixing them up will create a lot of replay value. Seeing the other Geas cards is something I look forward to in the final product.
The game seems to scale pretty well. As everyone will get three cards per round, that means that there are two cards left over in the 1-2 player game, and three cards left for the 3-5 player games. Of course, the game will take longer the more players you have. You’re supposed to wait until the active player has both taken and placed cards before moving on, but if they’re taking a long time to think about placement after taking a card, I don’t see any reason why the next player can’t just go. There may be a strategic reason to see where they’re placing so you can try to gauge what they’re going for, but I’m all for trying to counter AP.
One comment I heard during play of this game was that it was hard to remember turn order since the direction switches midway through the round. There’s going to be a first player marker in the final game, but it might be nice to also have a flippable wheel token that just points in the correct way.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I enjoyed this one. It’s got a lot to think about while ruhig being not too heavy on the rules. Plus, the theming is pretty unique, and it’s got a lot to explore.
If you’re interested in checking out Tír na n?g, the campaign is currently live on Gamefound. Thanks again to Grand Gamers Guild for sending me a prelease copy of this game to check out, and thanks to you for reading!