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TOTEZ Early Review: Fun for the Ages

The Festival of Tokens is upon us, here in the grand Totezca Empire on the continent of Melixavar. Now is the time when all the High Priests of the Stars gather together to pay tribute to and gain the favor of the gods–but hey, there’s no reason it can’t be turned into a little bit of friendly competition, yeah? Why not a card game?

TOTEZ is a bluffing-and-stealing card game by Calgary-based Le Grudge & Rugged. Video game fans may know them as the developers of KRUNCH,  a demanding and hardcore indie platformer. Now they’re trying their hand at tabletop games and they need folk’s help to do it. The Kickstarter campaign for TOTEZ is nearing its end on September 12.

So how does the game stack up? While still in development, with rules and other aspects bound to be changed, its current prototype state shows a lot of promise.

Components

For a prototype, TOTEZ is quite impressive. Card quality was already nice, though hopefully they’ll be a little more textured in the final print. My opponent tended to grab multiple cards by accident due to a relative absence of friction.

There was also the feeling that these cards would eventually have to be sleeved to avoid further damage to the corners and sides, as they bent easily and felt prone to fraying. Obviously a smart move for any tabletop player looking to keep their cards in the best possible condition, but it’d be a real shame with such a gorgeous game.

The artwork is absolutely fantastic! All the different gods have so much character to them, and I was blown away when each had a different face when upside down. Attention to small details like that is real swell, and makes the geometric, Meosamerican style stand out.

There should be, however, more consideration for players who are colorblind or have other vision issues, especially concerning the ‘Action’ and ‘Utility’ cards. The text is quite small, and the cards are not easily discernible from each other at a glance. Luckily the God cards don’t face the same problem as much due to the large numerical values.

The tokens are serviceable, made from a cheap cardboard. The art from the cards did translate magnificently though! Though the edges again are prone to fraying, the art itself remains vibrant. When not playing, it’s tempting to pile them all up into one big Mesoamerican rainbow.

Image: Another Castle

Image: Another Castle

Set-Up

As a card game with tokens, set up isn’t incredibly complicated. Shuffle all the cards together into one deck and pass out four to each player. Everyone then chooses one card to reveal to their opponents as one card must always remain visible. This first card also helps decide who goes first–the player with the highest value on their card is the Leader and gets the grey TOTEZ token as a reminder.

Following that, simply take the remaining tokens and sort them into separate piles. These should be easily accessible to everyone playing. Make sure to leave some space next to the deck for the discard pile.

Gameplay

What’s neat about TOTEZ is that its win condition is actually determined by the number of players. For four-to-six players, a minimum score must be reached. For two or three, the special Favour tokens are of maximum importance.

Now, there’s several different types of cards. There’s five different types of God cards, each one having a point value. There’s also a sixth type that will be explained further on. These are your main currency as a player.

On your turn, you can choose to do one of three different things: collect cards, play Action cards, or trade cards for tokens. If you decide to collect, you can either draw a card from the Field (the deck) or steal one from an opponent. You could be blocked from stealing however, if your opponent decides to play a Denial card, a Utility type of card that can be used defensively.

If a player chooses to play an Action card, they can play one of three different kinds: Hoard, Pillage, Vision. These all have sneaky little effects that let you get one up on an opponent.

Finally, if you have three matching God cards, or two and the Shadow Utility card (basically, a ‘wild card’), you can trade those in (i.e., discard them) for an Idol token. These are what grant players points for end of the game scoring.

Now we’ll discuss that sixth God card type. The Teualnatoc cards act just like the others, except instead of trading them for tokens worth points, they’re traded for Favor tokens. In a 2-3 player game, once a player collects two of these, the game ends and they’re declared the winner.

This isn’t the only way to gain a Favor token though! Once the deck runs out, players count up all the points, and to the victor goes a Favor token! If no one’s won yet, all the cards are reshuffled, and it’s on to the next round!

Image: Another Castle

Image: Another Castle

Overall

TOTEZ has all the makings of a fun, light party game. It’s got simple rules, vibrant artwork, and superb “take-that!” mechanics that always get a laugh out of any group. For a game of 4-6, this could also potentially be a perfect filler game while setting up something larger, but it struggled when played by only two.

Favor tokens are an incredibly clever way to mix up more conventional win states, but the sheer size of the deck made for a 30-40 minute affair. That’s not bad, per se, if you’re a huge fan of this kind of game, but for the average person, realizing they might have to play again to decide the official winner is likely to put them off a lot.

After my opponent got their first Favor token and the deck ran out, we ended up actually tieing for points and, quite honestly, didn’t want to go for a second round. Unless it’s streamlined for faster rounds, this is a game that’s pretty skewed towards larger groups.

That said, TOTEZ has lots of potential to be a great party game. If you’re interested in grabbing a copy, check out the Kickstarter!

Cover image via

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming

Author:Rito

Professional grump. Writes media criticism at WURRWALF.net. Whines on Twitter a lot. Likes rice.

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