Monday was all about one game. Sure there were a couple of fillers (Love Letter and Age of War) but the main event was an intense battle between a quintet of greedy powermongers intent on influencing naïve immigrants to further their own ambitions. Glorious. Somehow Tammany Hall took over an hour longer than the suggested 90 minutes but it went by in a flash of coloured cubes and dashed hopes.
Players: 5 (3-5)
Duration: 2.5 hours
Ever since I have been into the whole tabletop thing I have wanted to play Tammany Hall. Playing scrupulous politicians manipulating immigrants in the wards of 1860s Manhattan appealed to my love of big boards and skulduggery. It was a real ‘grail game’ for me for quite a while as even though it had been re-released a couple of times, print runs were small and second hand copies were fetching ludicrous prices. Well, thankfully it was re-released a couple of months ago just in time for Santa’s elves to put it on his sleigh and get it to me in time for Christmas. Was it worth the wait?
In Tammany Hall players are trying to get points by winning elections across 15 wards in south Manhattan. The game takes place over 4 terms each consisting of 4 turns/years (there was some confusion over the use of term and turn) with an election at the end. Each year, players place either two of their ward bosses on the board or one ward boss and an immigrant cube (they don’t have to be in the same ward). If they do the latter they also receive an influence chip matching the immigrant cube which are in 4 different colours (green for Irish, white for English, orange for German and blue for Italian).
After 4 years there is an election phase which consists of 4 parts. First there are individual ward elections where players count up their ward bosses and spend influence chips in a blind bid to up their score. After each ward election all ward bosses are taken out the ward except for one in the winning candidates colour. Judging how many chips to spend is a tense affair and you can only spend chips in a colour that match immigrant cubes in that ward. You can make deals with other players if you want but they are not binding so there is a chance for some gleeful backstabbing at this stage! After the ward elections, players count how many of each immigrant colour they now control and the one with the most gets 3 matching bonus chips. Then come the points. Players get one point for each ward they have just won and the one with the most becomes the mayor who receives 3 bonus points. Finally the mayor assigns special roles (e.g. Chief of police, Deputy Mayor etc.) to each of the other players.
After the first term the game changes slightly, players still place ward bosses or immigrant cubes on the board but they can also use the special ability that their new role brings which might be removing/moving cubes, gaining influence or locking wards. In addition, players get the opportunity to slander another player once per term which gives them the chance to remove opponent’s ward bosses from the board. However it costs influence to do so and each unused slander is worth a point at the end. After the fourth and final election phase, players receive bonus points if they have the most chips in a colour and the player with the most points overall is the winner.
This game was a lot of fun. Despite my lengthy description, gameplay is simple but with plenty of opportunity for strategic thinking. Having a good group really helped too and everyone got into the spirit of merrily slandering each other and breaking agreements (well, mostly me although it didn’t get me anywhere, I was dead last) and although I can imagine some might get offended with such nastiness we all seemed to have a good time. There was a definite noise bell curve as increasingly louder jokes about the mayor and his unnaturally close relationship with his dog gave way to a quietly tense concentration towards the end. Just the right side of stressful and totally absorbing. The Tammany Hall experience was best summed up by the player that said he enjoyed it and would definitely play it again … but perhaps not next week!