Tower of London Review - A filler game with depth
- Game Type – Area Control
- Number of Players – 3 – 5
- Mechanics – Area Control, Card Selection
- Difficulty – Easy
- Release – 2017
- MSRP - $24.99
Whenever game night rolls around, most of the groups that I play with like to start with something lighter and quicker, a “filler” game if you will. Nobody ever wants to jump head first into a strategy heavy game right away, well nobody except for me that is. With this in mind you can imagine I was pretty excited after reading the rules for Tower of London. It seemed like I had on my hands a quicker, “filler” style game with some nice thinky, strategic elements, but would it live up to my expectations? Lets find out.
In Tower of London each player has a deck of cards and a pool of cubes representing guards (or beefeaters, as they are hilariously referred to in this game). The game is played over three rounds with each round consisting of three turns, meaning each player gets nine turns in which to place “beefeaters” on the board and take actions. The goal of each round is to have the majority of beefeaters in the most buildings in the three different colored sections. Players gain ravens at the end of the round for each of the three different color sections they control.
Each round starts with an event being played that changes the game in some fashion and players shuffling their deck and drawing six cards. They then secretly place two cards face down and then reveal them in turn order. Every card has three numbers at the top that correspond to a building in each of the three different sectors. All cards also have an action that lets a players do various things such as move, remove, and add “beefeaters”. When a player reveals their first card they pick one of the numbers as a space to place a “beefeater” on. The second card allows them to use that cards action. At the end of each round players get to remove three cards from their deck making it more focused next round. After three rounds the player with the most ravens wins.
While I did have trouble finding a key term or two the first game, it was nothing that really slowed things down. Outside of that minor hiccup, the rules were easy to follow and the rulebook was filled to the brim with picture examples.
The theme here is kind of weird. Place beefeaters to corral ravens in the Tower of London to keep it from falling to enemy forces is not really a common board game trope. This isn't a bad thing though, I'd rather have an oddball theme then Cthulhu zombie traders in the Mediterranean (actually I'd probably play that game in a heartbeat now that I talk about it).
The game conveys the theme pretty well too. Even though the design is fairly minimal the way the board is laid out is pretty evocative of a medieval castle and the wonderful components (see below) also are a big help.
Very quick set up if you separate all the different colored cubes and decks ahead of time. I put them all in their own zip lock bags so I could just pass them out to the players and get started, but the game just comes with one big bag that has all the cubes and ravens in it. It would have been nice to have some more baggies, but honestly that's a pretty small gripe.
Even though the art on the cards and board are pretty minimalist, it's still pleasing to the eye. Let's talk about the star of the show though, the raven meeples. These things are fantastic. WizKids could have easy just had slightly larger cubes or something along those lines for tracking points but they included 31 cool looking raven meeples (reeples?). They even have little red eyes painted on! Even if I ended up not liking this game (spoiler alert: It's pretty good), I wouldn't feel bad since I have a bunch awesome little raven pieces.
Then of course you know I couldn't go one without at least a passing mention to the sturdiness the box. I feel like I've been harping on box quality in my recent reviews, it's because crappy boxes are a pet peeve so it's nice reviewing three games in a row with well designed boxes.
So by this point you may have picked up on the fact that I'm a fan of this game. It plays quick enough to act as a good warm-up or palate cleanser, but it still has enough strategy to keep the heavier gamers in the group happy. There are some interesting mechanics at play here and while it seems simple at first, by round three everyone will be intensely staring at their cards trying to plot out victory.
While the term “filler game” may sound dismissive, in the board game world it's really just used in reference to games that are easy to teach and quick to play. Most of the time filler games involve players yelling about who's a traitor or trying to guess which friend would date a sexy werewolf or some other nonsense. With that said, I'm happy to say that players who constantly crave games on the heavier end of the spectrum finally have a filler to call their own.