With a loosely applied theme set around this Baltic city in the medieval period, Tallinn is a majority-scoring card game using domino-like cards that have different numbers of knights, merchants or monks at each end. The game is designed by Stefan Risthaus, with art by Christian Fiore, and it is published by Ostia Spiele.
The 2-4 players each have identical decks of 10 cards from which they draw a starting hand of three. Players simultaneously reveal the card and which end of the card they are playing and they add their card to their individual tableau. Some cards mandate scoring for a particular faction (ie: knights, monks or merchants). Play a card with the half that mandates scoring knights, for example, and you score 2 points for every player over whom you have a majority of knights. You get 1 point for any player with whom you are tied. At the end of each round, players can choose to flip one of the cards in their tableau or play another card from their hand so that it shows its reverse side - a tower. Flipping cards to their tower side may well reduce your chance of winning in-game majorities but you are upping your prospects of reaping a large end-game score.
There's a final round of double-value scoring for knights, monks and merchants (majorities score 4 points, with 2 points for ties) and then the towers are scored. Each player turns over all the tower cards they've played and they tot up the total on those cards (both halves) for each faction. Players compare their largest faction with the largest factions from the towers of other players, scoring 6 points for each opponent over whom they have a majority, with 3 points for a tie.
Tallinn then is a straightforward, fast-playing card game. It works as a quick two-player game but it's much better with three or four because the higher player counts call for more subtle hand management choices. And even with four players you can expect to complete a game in no more than 15 minutes.
Ostia Spiele have incorporated two mini-expansions that can shake up and vary play. The Chronicles mini-expansion comprises six cards that give rise to additional scoring conditions. The Emperor's Envoy comprises just four cards: one for each player to add to their deck. The extra card has one of each factions on one half but on the other half it has two envoy icons and an unspecified scoring symbol. If you play the card showing that half, you get to score for any one faction and you add the two envoys to that faction's total for that one piece of scoring. In final or tower scoring, the envoys are added to a player's smallest faction. The only other change is that the Emperor's Envoy allow you to redraw cards but at a cost of 1 point for each card exchanged. We found in our Board's Eye View plays that the cost of taking this action meant that it was rarely used.
We've not seen them so we haven't had a chance to test them out but there are apparently five other mini-expansions that have been published in addition to the two included with the base game. A further expansion adds cards that take the player count up to six. It would certainly be interesting to test that out to see how the higher player counts alters the game's dynamics. The availability of all these mini-expansion tweaks attests to the versatility of this simple but elegant game design.
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