Playing the Board Game Tigris and Euphrates

Tigris and Euphrates Board Game RulesTigris & Euphrates is a tile placement strategy board game designed by Reiner Knizia in 1997 for Hans im Gluck, a German board games company. Mayfair Games later released an English-language version and a Second Edition. Many people consider Tigris and Euphrates to be the game-designing masterpiece of Reiner Knizia, who has designed a trilogy of tile-laying games (Through the Desert, Samurai). Other games designed by Mr. Knizia include Lord of the Rings, Keltis, Lost Cities, Medici, Ingenious (Einfach Genial), and Taj Majal.

Ancient Mesopotamia

Tigris & Euphrates is set in ancient Mesopotamia, though the region was never called that until the British Empire named it as such. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are the two rivers on which ancient civilizations like Sumeria and Babylon were centered, and on which modern Iraq is located. Because the Sumeria ruler Hammarabi (or his scholars) designed the first written language in human history, this region is known as the "Cradle of Civilization." It's the players goal to take over a small civilization somewhere along the banks of the Tigris River or Euphrates River and foster in in four key areas: Government, Religion, Farming, and Trading.

Tigris & Euphrates Rules

Each player is given a leader from these four categories, so it becomes your goal to build up victory points based on the accomplishments of your leaders in Farming, Trade, Government, and Religion. This is where most gamers would start considering which of the four is most important or which they would prefer to build up, but the twist in this game is the winner is determined not by the player's combined victory point total or the leader with the most victory points, but it's based on the player's lowest-scoring leader's victory points. You can't neglect any aspect of your civilization or you're certain to lose. The old nautical saying is the fleet isn't as fast as its fastest ship, but instead its slowest ship. That logic applies to Reiner Knizia's Tigris & Euphrates.

You'll need to become familiar with the rules for both external conflict and internal conflict in Tigris & Euphrates. When you get into a major war with an opponent, you can lose one or more of your leaders (one of you is certain to lose), so guard against losing your leaders for no good reason. Also, understand luck has a big role in this game.

Tigris and Euphrates Instructions and Setup

Since tile placement is a big mechanic in Tigris & Euphrates, much of the board setup will be done once the game has started. When starting the game, plan your next moves, so place your leader where you can get to a couple of treasures easily. Consider placing leaders in Zone A or Zone B, because they have natural defensive advantages.

Don't be as concerned about early monuments as late monuments. The early monuments are going to give up to two colors, but that leaves two other colors he'll need. When he or she builds a late monument, these can be built to order, so it gives them exactly what they need. Attack these within a round or two (preferably one) of being built.

Tigris & Euphrates Strategy

Unlike so many of the successful games of the last 10 years or so, Tigris & Euphrates is not about resource management or building an economy. Instead, T&E is more about confrontation and territorial control. Also, Tigris & Euphrates is suggested for 3 to 4 players, though it's playable in the 2-player mode. The reason for this is a player cannot dominate the board in a strict head-to-head fashion in a 3-player or 4-player game. If you start going after one opponent's territory too aggressively, you might open yourself up for attacks by one or more of your other opponents. Often, this dynamic doesn't exist in a two-player version of Tigris & Euphrates, so keep this in mind.

Always use all of your calamities. These are bullets in a gun, so use them. (I know that's a violent analogy, but this is a game about war.) Speaking of war, if you start a wear between other players, but sure to take sides. At the same time, if someone uses a calamity on you, don't waste all your time getting revenge. The best revenge is living well, so win the game and show them.

Pay attention to your neighbors and move against them when it makes sense. Tigris & Euphrates is a competitive game, so tender to your own business and getting the colors you need isn't going to cut it. Find ways to get the colors you need while undermining an enemy at the same time.

Don't give treasures away. If you leave a treasure unattended (not near your green leader) and it's within 2 spaces of a kingdom, they're going to be able to collect that treasure with little trouble. So be sure to keep unattended treasures at least 3 spaces away from a nearby kingdom.

Don't give your opponents kingdoms easily. When a leader is out of the game and you need a particular color, it's tempting to create a kingdom near a free starting temple or treasure. But if this is near other hostile kingdoms already established, you're almost certainly giving a point away.

Winning at Tigris & Euphrates

Remember the key to winning is balance. Many new players get caught up in the game and forget they are only as strong as their weakest attribute. Even veteran players sometimes forget this obvious fact. Remember to always to strengthen your weakness when possible, because your lowest score is your highest score. It might be more fun to start wars and unleash calamities, but if it's better to forgo such hostilities to work on something missing from your portfolio, forgo it.

In a time when so many of the great games out there are about resource management and building up an economy or production abilities, it's refreshing to have a game about acquisition of territory and military strategy. Tigris & Euphrates gives you the entertainment of confrontation while providing some new and novel mechanics for doing so.