Targi Review

TargiSPECS

For centuries, the Tuareg are living in the Sahara region. The men, veiled, and the women, who are very important, have a nomadic lifestyle, living in tents and heavily depending on trade, livestock breeding and agriculture. Salt is an important commodity and dates and dried meat are too.

Overview

What you get for your money

Cards: 45 tribal cards, 19 commodity cards and 16 border cards. Date, salt and pepper tokens, ten of each. 8 Gold and 15 victory point tokens. 1 starting player amulet. 6 Targi pawns, 3 blue and 3 white. 4 Tribal pawns, 2 blue and 2 white. A robber pawn and the rules.

How do you play the game

You are the chief of a Tuareg tribe and you are sending your people out to trade dates, salt and pepper for gold and silver jewellery. You want your tribe to become richer and more influential in the region. Marry women with high status, get control over more oases and water resources and protect everything you own. The one who does it best or quickest, wins Targi.
It’s a two player only game. Both receive 3 Targi pawns and 2 tribal pawns in one colour. You also receive 2 dates, 2 salt and 2 pepper tokens as starting commodities and 1 gold and 4 victory points (silver jewellery).
The board consists of 16 border cards in a fixed order in a five by five grid. Then 5 commodity cards and 4 tribal cards are drawn and are put down in the middle of the grid. Lastly, the robber is placed in the left corner of the board, on the card with the number 16 on it. Let the game begin!
Targi1
Players take turns and put one of their three Targi pawns on a border card. At the intersection of two of your Targi pawn (if there is an intersection) you put a tribal pawn. The Targi pawns always go on the border cards and the tribal pawns on the commodity or tribal cards in the middle. A Targi pawn of one colour can never be placed opposite a Targi pawn of another player. You can place a Targi pawn opposite your own, but then you get to place only one tribal pawn.
 
The commodity cards are goods you can get: salt, dates, pepper and gold. There are five different types of tribal cards: a tent, a Tuareg woman, a camel rider, a well and an oasis. The tribal cards all earn you points at the end of the game. On these card you can perform certain actions, like “take a blind commodity card and then take the goods” or “exchange commodities for gold” or “exchange gold for points”  or you just take certain commodities.
Every player takes his five pawns from the board in the order he likes, starting with the starting player.
If you want to buy a tribal card, you have to pay for it in commodities. You then place that card in your territory (three rows of (potentially) four cards). These cards can have special actions or benefits on them, like: “from now on you can build tents for one commodity less” or “at the end of the game you get 1 point for every 2 Tuareg woman in you territory”.
The way you organize your territory is also important. You get four points extra when you have four of the same type of cards (like, 4 wells) in one row. You get three extra points when you have four different types in one row. Once you’ve placed a card, you cannot change its location.
When you can’t pay for a tribal card, you can keep it in your hand. Remember, your hand limit is one.
On the board, every used tribal card is replaced with a commodity card and vice versa.
After every round, the robber is moved one card further and no one can place a Targi pawn on that card. When he gets to a corner, a robbery takes place and everybody has to hand in commodities or points.
The game ends when the robber made a full round or a player has 12 cards in his or her territory (3 rows of four cards).
Everybody counts their point from the tokens, cards, card texts and order of the cards in your territory and the player with the most points wins Targi.

Review

Theme

The game wants you to feel like a Tuareg chief, sending out you tribesmen into the dessert or surrounding areas to gather commodities. There are all sorts of ‘items’ that are important for the Tuareg in the game: salt, dates, camels, tents, wells and the Tuareg women and they do give the game a nice Tuareg flavour.
However, the actions in the game and interactions between the commodities and the cards do not feel thematic at all. The way you place your tribal cards in your territory also seems to be more about creating competition between the players than it makes thematically sense.
They sprinkled a little Tuareg flavour over the game, but it isn’t nearly enough to make the theme stand out.

Gameplay

The rules are quite easy, although the rulebook could’ve been designed a little better. It seems a bit unstructured and overwhelming at first sight, so you think the game must be difficult, but it isn’t.
The main mechanism is worker placement mechanism, but with a twist. You place three workers (Targi pawns) and you get, as it were, two additional actions (tribal pawns).
The restriction that you can’t place a Targi pawn opposite of a pawn of another colour makes the planning aspect more interesting and more difficult, but the game also feels more random this way. Maybe random is the wrong word. You feel less in-control.
Most of the times you just can’t do what you initially wanted to do when you placed your first Targi pawn. Sometimes because of your opponent. He or she can easily claim rows and columns where cards are you want. The Fata Morgana action (you can move one of your own tribal pawns to any card on the table that isn’t already taken) is in this way very powerful. Sometimes because you have to choose useless border actions to claim a tribal card in the middle.
You can really mess with your opponent. It is not that you’ll be attacking one another, but you can try to figure out his or her next move and block it.
The fact that you still want to and need to plan a little ahead, because you just want that specific Tent card, and your opponent has a big influence on the success of your plan, adds a lot of tension to the game.
Throughout the whole game you will be choosing between two things: “Do I want to block my opponent and not get exactly what I want” or  “Ignore my opponent and try to get what I want”.  You can’t do both, most of the times.
The modular board seems interesting, but the game plays and feels the same every time. The card/action combination you can make in your territory do differ every time, but, still, the feel remains the same.
While playing, the changing board is more interesting. The game makes sure there is always a nice balance between commodities and tribal cards, because one type is replaced with the other type when a card is used.
The fact that the commodity and tribal cards are drawn, adds more randomness. So you can’t plan very far ahead when it comes to the order of the tribal cards in your territory. Sometimes you just aren’t lucky enough and that fourth Tuareg womanis not drawn.
 
One aspect of the robber has an impact on the game. You have to plan around the robber when placing Targi pawns, because you can’t occupy the card he is on.
However, the robberies do not have a major effect on the gameplay. Most of the time you have enough commodities or do not really care when you have to hand in one point, because you can easily recover from this loss in my opinion.
Yes, it is a worker placement game, but don’t expect long term planning, instead go with the flow or plan only one turn ahead, there are too many moving parts to take into account.

Looks

Very earthy colours. The illustrations are quite nice. There is not a lot of variation in illustrations though and because of the earthiness of the colours I find the whole game look a bit bland when it’s on the table.
The colours are probably chosen this way because the game is set in the dessert, but still.
It would’ve been nice when the tribal card illustrations were different.

Quality of the components

The card quality is OK. The wooden pawns are good. The cardboard tokens are quite good, but there are not enough. It can happen that you need tokens more than there are in the supply and that cannot be dismissed with a: “Just write the amount you need on a piece of paper”.  Just give me enough tokens!

Fun

Although the game feels a bit random at times, Targi is quite fun. You have to be able to stand the idea that it is worker placement with limits. You cannot only place a worker on a spot where another worker is, but you also can’t place it opposite another coloured worker.
I think you have to be able to adjust your strategy and make the most out of what you get. You have to make many sacrifices.
There is quite a lot of interaction between players as you place the workers. Some card actions are disadvantageous for the other player as well, like when your opponent only can place two Targi pawns next turn.
The box says the playtime is one hour, but I think it is no more than forty-five minutes.
It is a fun, two player only, strategy game, a lighter one and one that brings something different to the table than other two player games. A lot of game for a very nice price.
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