Designer: Jun Sasaki
Publisher: Oink Games
2-5 20 minutes ages 7+
In Troika, You are a fortune seeker, hoping to cash in on a recent discovery. On a distant planet, scientists have found a type of stone, which when combined properly, can yield great riches.
You’ve traveled to the planet, but now you’ve been told that getting these gems won’t be enough. You must also gather the right kind of stones to provide enough fuel to get you back to Earth. Gems and fuel. Anything less and your mission will be judged a failure.
As with all Oink Games, the fun in Troika is packed into a small, portable box.
Troika comes with 49 Stone tiles. The tiles are numbered from 1 to 15. Each number is represented three times(three ‘5’ tiles, three ‘6’ tiles, etc.) except for the ‘7’ tile, which has exactly seven copies. The tiles show their number on one side only, with a dark blue reverse.
The game also comes with 20 scoring chips in denominations of 2, 1, and -1.
In Troika, each adventurer must gather sets of exactly 3 stones to combine as either gems or fuel. Gems will give you the riches you desire. But without fuel, you aren’t leaving the planet to enjoy life back on Earth.
A set of three consecutively numbered stones (4,5,6, for example) become a gem. To make fuel, you must collect three of the same number. You put your sets together at the end of a round, so plan carefully what you keep.
To begin a round, turn all the Stone tiles face down in the center of the table. Give them a good shuffle, and each player takes one tile at random. This tile goes face down in front of the player in their Hand.
Now, from the remaining tiles, turn one tile face up for all to see. Choose a starting player, and begin your adventure.
Each player’s turn starts exactly the same: Turn face up one of the Stone tiles in the center of the table. Now the player has two choices: Take a tile from the center of the table(face up or face down) or return a tile they’ve previously collected back to the center area.
If you take a face up tile, it goes in front of you, and is visible for all to see. This area is your Container.
If you take a face down tile, it goes into your Hand, and is kept secret from the other players. But you can hold no more than three tiles in your hand. If your hand is full, you can’t choose this option.
The other choice is to return a tile back to the middle. If you do this, a face up tile goes back face up. A tile from your Hand goes back face down. To understand why you’d choose this option, you need to know how a hand scores.
Remember, you are collecting sets of three. Three ‘7’s, for example, will complete a fuel set. A fuel set counts 0 value toward your overall score for the round. But fail to collect a fuel set, and you will lose the round.
A gem set is made of exactly three tiles in consecutive order. A set with a 3, 4, 5 or an 11, 12, 13, for example. A gem set is worth whatever is the last digit in the set. Three points for a 3, or eight points for an 8. Five points for a 15. Zero points for a 10.
But each tile which doesn’t fit into either a fuel set or a gem set is considered Trash, and will cost you one point from your score. This means sometimes the correct decision on your turn is to take out the trash by returning a tile to the middle of the table.
Play continues around the table, with each player on their turn first turning up a tile in the center, and then either taking, or putting back a tile.
Or, maybe, at the start of your turn, you might shout out, “Troika” to escape the planet.
You may only declare Troika if:
- you have at least 5 face up tiles in front of you (your container),
- you already have a fuel set (a set of 3 matching numbered tiles)
- you have no Trash tiles (extra tiles that don’t make gems or fuel) in your hand or container.
If you declare “Troika,” you will stop playing for the round. Your turn is skipped, and you hide their tiles from others until round end.
The first player to declare “Troika” will have five points added to the value of their hand at round end. Be careful, though! If you shout “Troika” without meeting the requirements, you automatically lose the round.
The round ends when all tiles in the center of the table have been turned face up, or when all players except one have declared Troika. Now, players assemble their sets for scoring.
Add the values of the last digits of any gem sets you’ve collected (you might have more than one!).Subtract one point for each junk tile. Add five points if you were the first to declare Troika. A fuel set scores 0.
Players now compare their totals. Highest total gets a 2 point score chip. Second highest receives a 1 point chip. Nothing for anyone else. EXCEPT… if you failed to get both a fuel set and a gem set, you get a minus 1 chip.
Set up for another round and play 3 total. Highest total score on your chips is the boldest and best adventurer!
Troika offers a twist on the classic genre of set collection. Here, you must collect two sets of opposing natures. You will find the interests of amassing three consecutive numbers and three alike numbers bumping heads regularly. Especially when you figure in the intent of others at the table.
Trying to use 3 tens as a fuel set? Just wait until Aunt Sylvia grabs one of them to go with the eleven and twelve she has as a gem set. Now, your tens are trash. You’d better make other plans.
Of course, you can see to a degree what others are collecting. But some tiles are in the player’s hands and not open knowledge. You’ve got to watch carefully what others take, and try to infer what else they might hold in their hands.
The fact that the game has of all the numbers, but seven 7s is clever. Sevens seem like an easy source of fuel. Just get three of them. BUT… of course, everyone wants sevens for that reason. AND… the the most valuable gem set you can make is the 7-8-9 (nine points!). Don’t expect the sevens to just build up on the table, waiting for you to grab them.
Troika packs a delicious tension into every game. You must turn up one tile on your turn. Since the round ends when all the tiles are face up, the clock is always ticking. The only thing you can do to hold off time is return a face down tile from your hand to the pool.
And adding to the tension is the allure of “Troika” itself. By shouting it out first, you are staking claim to a perfect hand and its reward of a five point bonus. But will that be enough? Maybe another player will complete two gem sets and surpass your total, even with the bonus points. It’s a gamble, but it may be just enough to put you first.
With Troika, Oink Games enters the arena of other games in the Rummy family. The appeal is the same as any other classic Rummy game: collect sets to outscore your opponent. But here the clock is ticking from the very start, and the fun is compacted into a quick, but challenging experience.
Troika stands as a classic with a whimsical Oink twist. A twist that carries over to the tiles themselves. They are septagons.
Written by: Doug Richardson