Targi – The Expansion review

Targi is a two-player-only action selection game, released in 2016 (and reviewed by me earlier this year). It is the top-ranked game in the well-regarded Kosmos two-player range, sitting just outside the Board Game Geek Top 100.

The original game sees players placing their pieces on the outside cards of 5×5 grid. You place three pieces, giving you the (static) actions on the outside cards. But you also get to claim up to two (constantly changing) cards at the grid references made by those pieces.

On one level, it’s a simple tableau building game. You collect resources to claim cards that give you bonuses and end game victory points. But the nip-and-tuck of the placement and all open knowledge see it come alive. Because denial can be as important as getting what you need in a tight resource market. It’s a game I very much like, but after 50-odd plays (many online at Yucata) it did start to lose a little of its shine. There’s nothing like a good expansion to breathe life back into a classic. So, did this do just that?

Targi - the expansion in action, including the Targia meeple

What does Targi – The Expansion bring to the party?

Probably the most significant change is the addition of Sand Dune cards. They’re in a new deck that sits aside from the others, with 1-3 cards turned face up. On your turn you may place a meeple on one of these instead of an edge card. They’re very powerful, but you miss out on the cross-section bonus action you’d have got from normal placement. The actions you get vary from basic (take a few things) to more complex, but don’t add anything too technical to proceedings.

The expansion also introduces a new resource; water. This is a ‘wild’ resource, with a 2-1/3-1 ratio for resources/gold. You can do this transfer at any time, making it a little easier to play those trickier Tribe cards. Also, some of the new Tribe cards (see below) have two options of how to pay. When they do, one of them usually involves using water. Like gold, water is a separate resource with its own rules: you can hold up to 10 without penalty.

Next up is the Targia meeple. She starts on space 16 and moves in the opposite direction to the robber. Unlike the robber, she doesn’t block the space she is on – quite the opposite. Going on her space gives you an extra resource of your choice. Or, you can discard/gamble a resource to flip the top card of the resource deck and take that reward instead. This makes for another interesting decision, as it can turn a ‘meh’ space into a genuine contender.

New Tribe and border cards

You also get a replacement deck of Tribe cards. You’ll recognise some from the original set, but al have a handy symbol denoting when they are useful: immediately, all game or end game. In addition, there’s a new type – indicated by a triangle symbol. these are activated just once, but you choose when (little triangular activation tokens are included). Generally we’ve found that, overall, the cards are a little more interesting. And the simple addition of the symbols makes them much easier to remember and use properly.

Due to all the new mechanisms, 10 new border cars are also included – so you’ll need six of the original ones. The four robber spaces are trickier, needing more specific goods for payment. While Fata Morgana now limits you to moving to an adjacent space. The Tribal Expansion and Noble cards offer a little more freedom. While the ‘take the top resource card’ space is replaced by a ‘take water’ card. But don’t worry, gamblers – you can still get your card-flipping thrills by choosing to place with the Targia meeple (above).

Finally, you’ll find five (mainly water) goods cards to add to the original deck, plus a few extra resource tokens. Presumably to cover the fact you always seem to be a little better off when playing this version (see below). This are just mixed in with the originals. The new cards are all marked with a small symbol, so it’s easy enough to separate them back out if required.

How much does it change the game?

All the Targi – The Expansion review pieces I’ve read come to a similar conclusion. It manages to give with one hand, take with the other, but leave you with so much more. Thanks to water allowing you to exchange goods, and the generous Sand Dune cards, you always feel a bit better off. But the robber spaces are a little tougher and, of course, your opponent is also benefitting from this extra generosity. And taking the things you want! We’ve found the game never goes to the end now. At least one of us always finished our tableau before (or on) the final turn. But importantly it is always tight and always goes close.

One part of this may be the fact we use our Tribe cards better now! The mess of text on the originals isn’t much better here. But the symbols denoting the type of bonus each has is a real game-changer for idiots such as myself. Even near the end of the game, a quick scan of my tableau shows which have powers I need to remember to use! It’s a small thing, but makes a big difference. All the new elements feel as if they’re there to help the players. But they don’t make it ‘easier’. The difficulty level, as it should be in a great two-player game, is governed by the skill of your opponent.

In the base game, you could guarantee turns where you placed for the sake of it. Either it was the only space left, or you didn’t care about your options. That is much rarer now. While you could argue this again shows the game is easier, I’d argue having more interesting choices is better than no/pointless choices. Sure, Sand Dunes feel powerful sometimes. But you lose two actions to gain one benefit. And while water adds flexibility, you need more of it to do the same things. It’s still agonising. And you’ll still be cursing your opponent for blocking your best moves.

The new Sand Dune cards from Targi - The Expansion

Is Targi – The Expansion value for money?

At less than £20, I think so yes. Sure, it costs almost as much as the original game. But you get almost as much in the box: 80 cards, 36 tokens and one lonely meeple. I guess you need to ask yourself a question. Is Targi a game you play often enough to spend £30-40 on in total? That’s an easy choice for me. Personally, I’d rather have a great game than a pointless box of single use plastic.

Is the expansion essential?

I may get some stick for this, but what the hell. Yes. When I sat down to write this Targi – The Expansion review, I was sure the answer would be ‘no’. You don’t play a base game 50 times and suddenly say the expansion is ‘essential’. But for me it is. I genuinely can’t see a time when I won’t use all the expansion pieces in every play.

Of course, some will play the original Targi forever and enjoy it. But this makes every aspect of the game better. Knowing that, why not get it straight away? I only wish I’d picked it up it sooner and enjoyed those earlier plays more. So sure, if you’re on a budget you should probably spend the money on food. Otherwise, if you like the base game, get yee to the shops and pick this up pronto.

… and does it fit in the original Targi box?

It does, beautifully. You don’t even have to throw away the insert. It’s a snug fit, but it all goes in. I put the original tribe cards in a baggy to keep setup simple. I was tempted to just chuck them away, but who knows? Maybe one day I’ll meet someone who’s only interested in playing the original version. But I doubt it…

* Thanks to Kosmos for providing a copy for review.
* If you enjoyed my Targi – The Expansion review check out 150+ more like it over at my reviews page.

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