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Tenby Card Game Preview

This is a prototype version of the game and does not represent the final quality or look of the game.

At the time of writing in April 2024, Tenby is currently live on Kickstarter right now. You can check it out here. In fact, it just hit its goal! So, if you want to play this game, it will be a reality soon! But do you want to play it? What is Tenby anyway? Let's get it to the table and find out.

Tenby Card Game Preview

Tenby is a picturesque little Harbour Town in South West Wales, in the UK. It is the holiday destination for many families in the area; especially in the 80s, before low-cost airlines changed the way we travel. One such visitor to this charming little summer spot was first-time game designer, Benjie Talbott. Inspired by the charm and aesthetics, Benji set about to honour this once favoured childhood spot, and now regular relaxation spot, in the form of cardboard and tokens.

At its heart, Tenby is an open-drafting tableau builder. Nothing outrageously new there. But what sets this apart is two key things. The scoring. And the charm. Let's look at the scoring first; it's way more objective. But first, a quick overview of the game.

Tenby Card Game Preview

First up, I want to say how good the rule book is for this game. From a first-time designer, playing a game that is not in its finished state yet, I am always a little apprehensive about how the game will be, and importantly, how clear the rule book will be. But this game has one of the most clear, well-laid-out, and coherent rule books I have seen in a long time.

Tenby is played over a series of ten rounds, clearly shown by the round tracker. Each round, players will choose which day card they want to take. Day cards will show a series of symbols that will allow them to take town cards, resident cards, and/or life ring tokens. The cards can be added to their town that they build up through the game. The tokens can be exchanged for extra cards, moving cards in your town that have already been placed, or increasing your choices of cards when taking one from your display to add to your town.

Each round, players will add more cards to their town this way, building up streets of cards. Cards must be placed in a way that their edges match any neighbouring cards. Buildings must go next to other buildings. Harbours next to harbours. You can end streets with specific cards to form a finished complete street, which will assist end-game scoring. But then of course, it cannot be added to anymore during the course of the game.

Tenby Card Game Preview

You can create as many streets as you like. Starting a new one with a card you just took, or you can add to another unfinished street so long as you match the edges of the card.

When you take a resident card, you can choose between two cards, discarding the other. This will then provide a new way of scoring for you this game. Such as rewarding you with points for every building of a certain colour. Or points for specific features in your street like window blinds, flower boxes, or viewing binoculars. But this is not the clever scoring I mentioned above. No, that resides on the cards themselves.

Each card has the image of the street, featuring buildings, piers, shops, and various features. But on the bottom, it will also show points or a scoring condition. These are mostly to do with buildings that are next to it, on the same street, or within one or two houses from its own placement. Cards will score you points for neighbouring lights, dustbins, benches, door frames, chimneys... all sorts! There is a huge variety. And the puzzle in the game is to figure out how to make cards work well together within your linear tableau. One card may need to be next to a blue house, and you have just drafted a card with a blue house. But that new card with the blue house perhaps would score more efficiently if next to a different card as its own scoring condition doesn't work with the first cards. Do you sacrifice the second card's scoring, hoping to get a better card to go next to the other side; knowing it will help the first card, or do you put it elsewhere, maybe even starting a new street with it, hoping to find a better blue house later in the game.

Tenby Card Game Preview

It's a delightful, absorbing, and highly rewarding puzzle that you will be fully obsessed with for the entire game. But thankfully, as the choices are never that great, it won't slow the game down that much. Although, there are a few occasions where choices can be tight and players will need a moment. But hopefully the other players will have their own things to be thinking about and doing when this occurs.

Players take it in turns to choose their day cards, and then in turn, their town cards to pick from each round. But then once this is done, the next player can go ahead and make their choice whilst the previous player thinks about where to place their newly acquired cards. There is a bit of overlap if you want to speed it up a bit. Just be sure the previous player is done before you take any cards as they may wish to use their life rings to do something unexpected.

Tenby Card Game Preview

So, onto the more subjective charm of this game. There are lots of card games in small boxes like this that do similar things. Ecosystem for one is a game that comes to mind thinking about the mechanics. But there is something about Tenby that feels alluringly unique. I have never been to Tenby. Although, like most who play this, I now do! But I have been to similar harbour towns in the UK and always fell in love with them. There is something just calming, but also exciting about these places to me. The adventures to seafaring fishermen had throughout the years. The stories told in the pubs every night. The gossip, scandal, and outrage of the local communities. The history, families, and lives, lived. It feels like a beautifully self-contained history that I get to dip into, be a part of for a short time, but then always have to leave. Like the fridge magnets I buy and postcards I send, I always want to keep a part of these towns with me when I leave. I don't feel like that when I play most tableau-building card games. But I do when I play Tenby.

As I said, the above point is very subjective. And may not mean anything to you. However, if that is the case, I guess you stopped reading this a long time ago. If you are still with me and currently have images of your own summer vacation spots from your own childhood, I would encourage you to check this game out.

Now, where are my swim shorts and sunglasses? I need to book a weekend away to Tenby!

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