Tournament of Towers: A Sophisticated Game of Dexterity and Planning
The king and queen of Geometria have declared a tournament to build a great monument. Will you favor the careful construction of Queen Structura, or the bold creativity of King Curvanimus?
In Tournament of Towers, designed by Donovan Eberling and Jeff James of Iron Hippo Games, your goal is to build a tower that is the tallest, while also the most aesthetically pleasing. Build your tower with a combination of grey “stone” pieces and yellow “gold” pieces.
Players play Tournament of Towers in two rounds. Each player drafts a hand of 7 building cards (select a card, pass the remaining cards to the player on the left), then determine the build order. One player then rolls an “event” die which may alter the build order for all players. After the event has been resolved, each player takes the pieces pictured on their cards, and adds them to their tower as specified in the build order. A player may also place their “architect” figure somewhere on the tower for extra points.
Players score their towers at the end of the round. Towers score points for each gold piece and for the architect figurine. The tallest tower scores an additional three points.
In the second round, the players do it all again, building on top of the tower they built in the first round, and scoring the towers again.
Winning Tournament of Towers is harder than it looks. Building a 14 component tower according to the official rules is very difficult. The gold pieces are designed to be hard to build, full of curved surfaces and odd angles. Even the gray pieces, though more structural, have odd dimensions or angles that don’t quite line up with the way they “should” go. Gold pieces are the best way to get points, but also the hardest to use in the middle of a structure.
Thankfully, the rule book also includes several variations that can reduce the difficulty. More on this later.
I hated Tournament of Towers the first time I played it. It seemed impossible to use 14 of these weird pieces to build a tower that would not topple. However, it also compelled me to try again.
As I continued to play, I discovered new little tricks each time, allowing me to build in new ways. I also began to get more creative in my building as I realized that failing and trying again are built into the structure of the game. If seven pieces per round is too hard, try five. If players keep knocking pieces off, allow more “mulligans” (rebuild a fallen tower) or let them hold onto the existing tower while adding new pieces.
Although the stated age range for Tournament of Towers is 6 and up, younger children can still easily play. Within our own family, we explored rule-shifting with Tournament when different ages were playing. We tried things like forcing older players to use more gold pieces, allowing younger players to tear down and rebuild, and more.
Most children enjoy simply building with the pieces; adults feel compelled by the challenge to make a tower that meets the requirements to win the game. It is perhaps in this childlike enjoyment that we can learn a wonderful lesson about why we should play games. We should be playing games to have fun, and not only to win.
The beauty of Tournament is in its difficulty. The pieces were intentionally designed to be difficult to use for building boring towers. Once I realized that, I embraced the difficulty; rather than trying to build the tallest tower, I began trying to build the most interesting tower instead. Instead of having a rigid idea of the “right way” to build the tallest tower to win the game, embracing creativity and thinking outside the box resulted in much more beautiful and visually engaging towers, while opening up our imagination to use the gold pieces in more creative ways.
It is this simple shape dynamic that belies a stronger lesson for us. There is immense value in creativity that we owe it to ourselves not to abandon. When our minds are more open to many possibilities, we can create beautifully unique things. That’s what Tournament of Towers is all about.
For more on Tournament of Towers, you can listen to our interview with Donovan and Jeff, episode 51 of The Family Gamers Podcast. You can also find more information on the Kickstarter campaign, which is live until June 25th.
The Family Gamers received a prototype of Tournament of Towers for this review.
Tournament of Towers
Number of Players: 1-4
Age Range: 6-Adult (we say 3+ with minor rule shifting)
Playtime: 15-30 minutes