Review: Telos (Jolly Dutch) – English

Some time ago Jolly Dutch brought us Herrlof, an ode to trick taking games, but aimed at two players. Appropriately, the name Herrlof translates into praise or honor won in battle. Recently, Jolly Dutch released their second battle game, called Telos. Whereas the Vikings in Herrlof mainly tried to achieve honor in a physical fight, the ancient Greeks had somewhat higher goals. Telos is a Greek philosophical concept that stands for the goal that all humans and animals strive for. Do you know how to achieve the divine? Then put on your toga and go to the theater in Telos!

In recent years, there has been a real renaissance as far as trick taking games are concerned. Many game authors have already ventured to bring renewal to the classic genre. This resurrection brought us, among others, the Crew and many others. Telos is also a trick taking game. The active player plays a card and the other players must follow and in this way tricks are won. Telos contains a number of twists on the genre. For example, colors only play a role in sorting the cards and you do not have to follow the color of the card played. In addition, a player must always play a card with a higher value than the previous card. If a player cannot follow, then this player must play the lowest card. No problem, you might think, but in this game you try to lose the last trick at all costs, because if you win the last trick in a round, you get penalty points equal to the card you played. In a new round, players all get as many cards in hand as the value at which the last trick of the previous round was “won”. 

In addition to cards of a certain value, there are Zeus cards with special effects that also count as a higher card in a trick. A player can also choose to start a trick with several cards. These cards must all be of the same value. The next player must then play as many cards of a higher value or again only his lowest cards if he cannot follow through. In this way you can try to corner other players and make sure that players have to play their lowest cards. 

Telos offers enough value for the biggest fans of trick taking games, but it sometimes feels like the game mostly plays out the same way. Players play their highest cards and hope to play low cards in the final round. Because the game is played with a very large deck of cards, the distribution of different values is statistically fair, but luck does play a large role as a result. Therefore, it also feels like players have less influence over the course of the game. This is a lesser problem with short games, but Telos has a pretty long playing time for what should be a smooth card game. Also, the very concise rules are unfortunately not always clear. In principle, Telos offers nice new twists on the trick taking game mechanism, but due to the foregoing, it does not (yet) feel fully developed. Due to the sheer volume of different trick taking games out there, there are a lot of fun trick taking games that one can play and add to their collect, and unfortunately Telos doesn’t manage to earn a unique spot because of the sheer volume of other games. Recommended mostly for diehard trick takers.