Tallinn is the largest and capital city of Estonia and also the second game in the Ostia Spiele series of Baltic city games. In the 14th century Tallinn (then called Reval) was an important city within the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns spanning the modern day countries of Estonia, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Sweden. In Tallinn, the game, you are trying to gain influence over the merchants, monasteries and knights that live in and surround the important city.
What is Tallinn like?
To win the game of Tallinn you need to be the most influential person in the city. In order to do that you have to use your resources wisely and time your contests (influence check) to sway the groups at the most opportune time.
To start the game, each player receives a start card that has different starting faction symbols on it, giving the players an unique beginning position. Then each player takes their deck of 10 influence cards, shuffles them and draws 3. Each influence card has a number of icons depicting one of the three factions and some also contain a coin.
To start each round the players select an influence card and playing it in their faction row to the right of their previously played cards (including the start card). Each card consists of two halves and the player must choose one half of one card to play in each round. After selecting their card and orientation they place it face down in front of them and then once all players have selected they flip them over and place them in their faction row with the selected half showing and the other half placed underneath the previously played card.
If a player places a card with a coin on it then they trigger a contest. All players then count up the number of faction symbols on all of their cards that are the same as the one on the card with the coin. The player who played the coin card then compares their total with every other player’s and they score 2 points if they have more than or 1 point if they have the same number as each other opponent.
After the contest(s) are resolved then any player who played a contest may flip an already played card over to the tower side or, alternatively, place a card from their hand tower side up and add it to the row. Then play continues by all players drawing one card and choosing which one they want to play in the next round.
Once every player plays all 10 of their cards the game ends and final scoring occurs. Each player performs a contest for each of the factions with a higher pay out of 4 points for a majority and 2 points for a tie. Then players count the number of faction symbols that were on the cards (both sides) they used to create their towers. Similar to the contests, the players score against each other player and gain 6 points for a majority or 3 points for a tie.
For a quick playing game, Tallinn is solid. The game won’t blow you away with innovative mechanics or deep strategy, but as a filler game, it can provide some decent strategy. Tallinn is a filler game that travels easily and could provide a warm-up for a bigger game or an introduction to deeper hand management or set collection style games.
My two favorite aspects of Tallinn involve the unique round structure and the tower building decisions. The game says it lasts “up to 10” rounds and at first read, you might be wondering why, but whenever you build a tower you can choose to play a card from your hand, thereby removing one of your ten cards without ever having it played for the faction side. All that means that some players may be playing a card or two even after all other players have 0 cards remaining. That gives them a lot of potential power. I also love that when you build a tower you choose what card to flip over. When you flip a card over you lose the faction symbol for future contests, but gain a faction symbol towards the end game scoring. That is probably the best decision of the game.
- Quick and simple turns that limit potential AP and lead to an overall fast game
- The decisions behind when to play contest cards and playing towers provide surprisingly good choices in an otherwise simple game.
- The fiddliness of flipping cards in the middle of the row to the tower side can be annoying for some
- Luck of the draw with certain set collection aspects and for contest cards
The game is not difficult in the slightest. Each turn consists of playing one of three cards from the player’s hand. The rules are straightforward and could be picked up by most people in the recommended age range and even some younger than 10 as well.
- Players: 2 – 4
- Playing time: 10 – 20 minutes
- Suggested age: 10+