When i wanted to play Trickerion: Legends of Illusion with friends at a board game conference, it took me a solid 45 minutes to explain the game! Since then, i have wanted to make a How to Play video to get that time down. 28 minutes was the best i could do, but there are a few jokes peppered throughout, as usual. Please enjoy!

(click to view transcript)

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is i, the great and magnificent.. Ryan… from Nights Around a Table. i have here Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, a primarily worker placement game for 2-4 players.Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. It is i, the great and magnificent.. Ryan… from Nights Around a Table. i have here Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, a primarily worker placement game for 2-4 players.
Now I say “primarily” because there are a lot of different mechanics sprinkled throughout the game, and i don’t feel that my version of the instruction manual did such a great job at explaining them. Some of the naming conventions are a little bit weird, and i found some of the rules in the game a little bit counterintuitive.
Whenever one of these weird rules pops up, you’re gonna see this rule gremlin creep onto the screen. So be ever vigilant for weird rules!
This is the video that i wish i had when i was learning how to play Trickerion. So let’s dive in, and i’ll show you how to play!
In Trickerion, you and your friends play rival magicians in a sort of dark, vaguely steampunky vision of the Victorian era that may remind you of the 2006 Christopher Nolan movie The Prestige, except that it sort of makes sense. The famous magician Dahlgaard is retiring, and you have five weeks to prove to him that you’re the magician worthy of inheriting all of his stuff, including the Trickerion stone, a big yellow gem that’s rumored to give Dahlgaard supernatural powers.
Your goal is to learn tricks, buy the stuff you need to perform them, practice the tricks, stage them in the theatre, and then perform them for Fame points. Whichever magician scores the most Fame points by the end of the fifth week wins the game.
This is one of those games that has an “expansion” inside the box, which is kind of the developers’ way of saying “ehh… this game got a little too hairy. Let’s carve it into the easy version and the hard version and let players sort out how far into the weeds they wanna get. The expansion is called the Dark Alley, and we’ll take a look at it after we talk about the base game.
There are four different categories of illusion in Trickerion: Mechanical, Spiritual, Escape, and Optical. The game features a cast of magician characters you can play as, and each magician prefers one of those four categories of tricks.
Illusions, Ryan. A Trick is something a wh… (record scratch)
Starting with the player who most recently wore a top hat…
Wait… did i read that right? (reading) Starting with the player who most recently wore a top hat…?
Uh starting with… that player and going clockwise, everyone chooses a magician card. Each magician has to prefer an unchosen illusion category.
When everyone has chosen, you all get your magician’s card, your poster, a starting trick card of your choice from your magician’s preferred school of magic, and some Components to practice your tricks with, worth no more than 2 coins. If you choose all the components your starting trick requires, you get to set that trick up for free at this point… but that makes no sense to you because you don’t even know how to play the game, so forget I said anything.
Everyone also gets an identical hand of these 9 Assignment cards. You also get to choose one out of three Specialist co-workers, and depending on which Specialist you choose, you get extra stuff – extra components worth two bucks, an extra level 1 trick from any school after everyone else has chosen, or an extra Apprentice who works for free. You get one shard chipped off from the magical Trickerion stone, and a stack of trick and symbol markers in your player colour, and 10 coins. Finally, you get some Character Disks: one of them represents your magician, one represents a lackey Apprentice, and one represents whichever specialist you chose. Remember, the Assistant gets you an extra Apprentice off the top of the game.
That’s a LOT of stuff, and a lot of decisions to make off the top of the game before you even know what the heck is going on. But thank goodness: the manual comes to your rescue by describing a beginner setup, but not until you turn the page… (sarcastic laugh, muttering) a-heh heh heh you rassa-frassin’ little so-and-so…
Each player has a couple of little cylinders. One of these goes on the Fame Track here in the Theatre, on the number 5. It IS possible to lose fame in this game. 
Shake up the rest of the cylinders and place them randomly on these turn order spots for the first week. In a 2-player game, you only use the first and third slots. If you don’t end up first player in this lottery, you get an additional 2, 4, or 6 coins to start the game. 
If you’re playing a 2 or 3-player game, be sure to knock out some of the spots to make for a more competitive game.
Super! Have we started the game yet? No? Okay! How ’bout we do that?
Each of the five rounds represents one week. At the beginning of every week, roll these six dice and place them on the square spaces up here. 
If this is the second week or beyond, rearrange yourselves on the Initiative Order track so that the player with the fewest Fame points is at the top, and so on down the line until the player with the most Fame points is at the bottom. (gremlin) If there’s a tie anywhere, reverse the order of the tied players on the Initiative Track so that whoever was higher on the turn order track last week gets a lower placement this week. 
Now, if you’ve got money to burn, you can advertise what an amazing magician you are. The cost to advertise is here, depending on which slot your cylinder occupies. By advertising, you earn 2 Fame points. Put your poster on the board, and collect the points by moving your marker on the Fame Track in the theatre.
You have three Character disks at your disposal, or four disks if you chose the Assistant as your Specialist. This is a worker placement game at its heart, and these are the workers you’re placing. There are four different areas where you can place them: Downtown, Market Row, your own Workshop, and the Theat-ah.
Generally speaking, this is where you get new workers, money, and tricks, this is where you buy materials to practice your tricks, this is where you actually practice your tricks, and this is where you stage and perform your tricks.
The confusing language the game uses is “learn a trick,” “prepare a trick,” and “set up a trick.” i mean, those two are so close in meaning! It helps me to think of it as getting, practicing, and staging a trick. Each of your Character Disks has a little half-circle on the bottom with a number in it. The disk that represents you, the magician, has the biggest number, followed by your Specialist, and then your Apprentice.
Then see here on the board: the Locations all have circles where you can place your Character Disks, and each one has a smaller circle with a number in it that completes the picture. These numbers represent Action Points. The more Action Points you have, the more stuff you get to do at each location.
If you put your Magician disk down on this spot, you get 3 Action Points, plus another 2, for 5 total Action Points. Putting your Specialist here will get you 4 Action Points, and if you use your Apprentice, you only get 3 Action Points.
Now this is what you have to keep in mind when performing the next step of the round, which is deciding where your Characters will go. You do this by placing an Assignment card face-down beneath each one of your Character Disks, to pre-program their placement. So if you want your magician to go to Market Row, you put the Market Row card beneath the magician token on your board.  All players assign their Characters to locations simultaneously and secretly. Once you’ve all done this, everybody flips over their Assignment cards for the Big Reveal. If you don’t place a card beneath a disk, that Character doesn’t get to go anywhere.
Now, you loop through each player in Initiative Order. Each player gets to place one Character Disk of their choice in the Location matching the assignment card beneath that Character Disk, and – you know – do… stuff. Then, you loop around again in initiative order, and everybody places a second Character Disk, and so on, until everybody’s out of Character Disks with an Assignment Card beneath them. Putting your people to work like this is going to cost you wages at the end of the round. If you’re going broke, or if all the spots at your chosen location are taken, you can make your character idle. Flip over that character’s Assignment card. That character doesn’t get to do anything this round, but the one bright spot is that you don’t have pay your idle Characters later on.
When you place a Character in a location, you can take as many of the available actions as you can afford, according to how many action points that character has. That means you can do a thing more than once with a single character. Let’s take a closer look at the stuff you can do, starting with Downtown.
When you’re Downtown, you can learn a trick, hire a character, take money out from the bank, or mess around with the dice.
To learn a trick from creepy old Dahlgaard, spend 3 action points and take one of the trick cards if its category icon matches one of these dice faces. In this example, you can either learn a mechanical illusion or a spiritual illusion, OR, since your magician’s favourite category is optical illusions, you can take one of those. The only unavailable trick type in this example is the escape category – it’s not on the dice, and it’s not your preferred school of magic. The tricks have one of two Fame thresholds in the bottom corner: 1 point, or 16 points. You have to have at least this many Fame points to learn a given trick, but if you fall short, you can pay the difference in coins.
Now even though the trick cards may be piled in a certain order, you do not have to learn the trick that’s on the top of the pile – you can fish through the deck and learn the trick that best supports your strategy. 
When you learn a trick, you flip the corresponding die to its X face, in order to pull up the ladder from any magician who tries to follow you. If you grab a trick from your magician’s preferred school that’s not on one of the dice faces, you choose one of the dice to flip to its X face.
Place your newly-learned trick in your workshop, and assign one of your symbol markers to it. Later in the game, if you don’t have any spaces left for this trick, or if you’re just feeling wasteful, you can always kick a trick out of your Workshop, but you have to get rid of every tile associated with it across the board, and return the trick to dirty old Dahlgaard’s house downtown.
It costs 3 action points to hire another Character. The available Characters are on the dice. As before, flip the corresponding die to its X face. In magic circles, this is what we call “bein’ a jerk.” Place the new Character Disk on the board so you don’t get confused at the end of the round and end up paying wages to a freeloader who hasn’t done any work for you yet. You can only hire one of each Specialist. 
You can spend 3 action points to withdraw money from the bank. The amounts you can withdraw show up on these dice faces. Choose the biggest amount – natch – and then flip the die to the X to screw over your fellow magicians. Abracadouchebag!
If you don’t like the dice, you can spend 1 Action point to reroll 1 die. If you don’t like to gamble, you can spend 2 action points to force a die to show whatever face you want. Hocus poc… gggrrr….get… ungh … ha! …. tada!
Each trick requires you to have certain pieces of stuff in your Workshop. For example, the Linking Rings trick needs two sheets of metal.
In Market Row, you can Buy stuff for your tricks, Bargain the price down, order new stuff for later, or order new stuff for right now. 
When you buy stuff, you spend 1 Action point. Then you choose 1 of these available components, and buy up to 3 instances of them. The components come in three different price ranges: 
Wood, glass, metal, and fabric all cost 1 coin apieceRope, petroleum, saws, and animals cost 2 coins apieceAnd padlocks, mirrors, disguises, and cogs will run you 3 coins apiece
More expensive components help you perform more impressive tricks, which earn you more Fame points.
When you buy your components, you don’t take them off the board – you take them from the supply beside the board. You can think of Market Row as, like, a catalogue of available goods.
And y – get back here  – you can up to 3 of each type of component. If you already have 3 hunks of metal in your workshop, you can’t buy any more metal in Market Row… nor would you want to!
When you buy components, you can spend extra action points to bargain the price down.  You reduce the combined cost of your purchase by one coin for every action point you spend bargaining. Note, that’s a discount on the combined cost. So if you spend 1 action point to buy 2 padlocks, you’re spending 3 plus 3 equals six coins, minus 1 coin that you bargained down for an action point, for a grand total of 5 coins. The bargain discount doesn’t apply to each individual component tile that you buy. And you can never bargain your payment down to 0 … 1 coin is the minimum you can ever pay. 
Sometimes, the components you need aren’t available in Market Row. That’s when you might spend 1 action point to queue up a component so that it will show up in the store next week. You choose which empty slot the component takes up, and this is important, because next week when it arrives in the store, it kicks out whatever component is currently in that corresponding slot.  
If you absolutely, positively MUST purchase a certain component this week, you can spend 2 action points to put a Component in this Quick Order slot. If any component is already there, you just kick it out and replace it with the thing you want. This just makes the component available to purchase – in order to actually purchase it, you still need to spend 1 Action point on a Buy Action. Add to that the fact that anything in the Quick Order slot costs an extra coin to purchase. 
Where do you think you’re going? Get back here! This part’s confusing!
So if you wanted to buy 3 animals, you’d normally pay 2 plus 2 plus 2 equals six coins, but if you’re buying from the Quick Order slot, you’re paying 3 plus 3 plus 3, or 9 coins for those same animals. Quick Order adds a buck to each. If that’s not brutal enough, when you spend actions to quick order something, anyone competing magician who visits Market Row after you can order from that slot! AND at the end of the week, this Quick Order slot gets cleared out!
You can also place Characters in your own magician’s workshop.
To prepare a trick so that it’s ready to take to the stage, place one of your Character Disks here. If you own all of the components a trick requires, and in the right quantities, you can successfully prep the trick. Spend the action points the trick requires, and then populate that trick card with trick marker tiles matching the symbol you assigned when you first learned the trick. So if you assigned the club symbol to the trick when you learned it, put your club markers on it. The number of trick markers you get to place is right here on the trick card: two markers go on this trick when you prep it, but this trick only gets one marker. If you’ve already got markers on a trick, you can’t prep it.
Okay. Here we go: this is possibly the biggest rule gremlin in the game: when you prep a trick, you do not spend your components. If the trick requires 2 metal, and you’ve got 2 metal, you can prep that trick, and you get to keep the metal for the rest of the game! Does this make sense? No. But it still makes more sense than the 2006 Christopher Nolan movie The Prestige.
Each of the three specialists you can hire in the game has a different special ability, and a different action you can take.
The Engineer has an extra trick slot. You can spend 1 action point to move one of your tricks there, or exchange tricks with one that’s already in the slot. If you prep a trick on the Engineer’s board, you get one bonus trick marker.
The Manager has two Multi-Component slots. Any component in these slots is considered to have an extra bonus component tile on it. So if you have 2 glass on a multi-component slot, it actually counts as 3 glass. Note that if this is the case, you can’t buy more glass, because the upper limit for any component type is 3.
If you spend 1 Action Point, you can move a component tile to one of these special slots, or exchange a component tile with what’s already in there.
The Assistant has an extra slot for an Apprentice. You can spend 1 Action point to permanently move an Apprentice into this slot, along with the Assignment card below the Apprentice if applicable. This is like having an unpaid intern: at the end of the week, you don’t have to pay wages to the Apprentice who resides in this slot. Note that the bonus goods, the extra trick, and extra Apprentice that these specialists give you are only available off the top of the the game; if you hire these Specialists midway through, you don’t get any of that extra stuff. 
The game designers decided to call this an Assistant, and this an Apprentice. The words are very similar they’re so easy to get confused with one another, and i have no idea why they did this. It makes NO sense to me. But at least it makes more sense than.. Yeah – you get it. 
In any of those three standard locations – Downtown, Market Row, and your Workshop – you can spend one Trickerion shard once, when you place your character, for one extra Action Point.
The last Location where you can place your characters is the Theatre, and it works a little differently than the other Locations. First of all, it’s important to understand that “the” theatre is actually representative of various different theatres. Just think of it as one of many buildings where you can perform magic.
Second, the placement circles are grouped by day: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you place a Character in the theatre on a certain day, you’ve locked that day down. For the rest of the week, no other player can place a character anywhere on that day, and any other characters you place in the theatre have to be placed on that day you chose.
You can’t spend Trickerion shards in the Theatre for extra action points in the theatre. Just what do you think this is – a place of magic? Begone! Your magic is ineffective here in this magical theatre where magic is performed. 
These top hat slots are reserved for magicians only. You’ll see why shortly.
During setup, you stack two random Grand Magorian Cards under two random Riverside Theatre cards, and fill the remaining slots with player count minus one Riverside cards.
This action lets you stage a trick so that it’s ready to perform. You spend 1 action point to move a trick token from your workshop to one of the Performance cards. You can think of these cards as playbills that list the various tricks that will be performed in a single show. Each trick you stage has to be unique – you can’t have, like, two blue spade tokens on a single card. A magician never performs the same trick twice!
When you place the trick marker, the corner with the trick’s corresponding school of magic has to be touching one of the circles. So the Enchanted Butterflies trick is from the Optical Illusion school. That means that the corner with the eyeball can go here, or here, or here, but not here, because it’s not inside a circle.
If you stage a trick, and one of its corners matches the corner of another trick token inside the circle, the two tricks are now linked, and your show is going to flow better. If you pull this off, you get 1 Fame or 1 Coin for a 1-threshold trick, or your choice of 2 Fame or Coins for a 16-threshold trick. And if there’s a Trickerion Shard inside the circle, anyone with a trick token inside that circle gets a Shard. But if both tricks are yours, you only get one Shard.
This reschedule space lets you spend an action point to move a trick token to an empty space, whether on the same Performance Card or a different one. If you link tricks while doing this, they don’t count for any bonuses.
Finally, the special magician-only performance slots mean you’re ready to put on a show! Once all of the turns are finished and all of the characters have been placed, the lights are dimmed, a hush falls on the crowd, and it’s showtime!
Initiative order is ignored when it’s time to perform. Starting on Thursday and going through to Sunday, each magician in a performance slot gets to choose a performance card that has at least one of his or her trick markers on it, and performs that show. Every trick on the card gets performed, whether it belongs to you or one of your opponents. This is how you really rack up money and fame in Trickerion. 
For each trick that gets performed, the magician who owns the trick gets the stuff listed on the corresponding trick card. So here’s the green heart marker, which corresponds to the green heart token on the green player’s Burning Mummy trick, which nets 2 fame and 2 coins for the green player, even though the red magician is headlining the show.
Now let’s talk about Yield Modifiers. 
Thursday is a lousy night to put on a show. Sunday is great. If you have any characters on Thursday, even if you have nobody performing and just one or two people backstage, if any of your tricks are performed on any day, you’re going to lose 1 fame and 1 coin per trick. So if you placed your assistant or apprentice or your magician anywhere in this Thursday column, and Joe Slick Magician shows up on Sunday and performs this playbill, which has your Enchanted Butterflies trick on it, you’re only getting 1 Fame instead of 2. And since you only stand to gain zero coins from the trick, your payment stays there. Yield Modifiers can’t make you go below zero on either fame or money.
Conversely on Sunday, the Yield Modifier gets you an additional coin and fame for any of your tricks that get performed on any day, if you have at least one character working on Sunday. So it’s a toss-up: you get more action points on Thursday but a worse Yield Modifier, and fewer action points on Sunday but a better Yield Modifier. Friday and Saturday are the safe spots, straight down the middle. Incidentally, if your trick gets performed and you don’t have anyone in the theatre, your Yield Modifier is the same as the performing magician’s.
What’s the point of performing a playbill if everyone’s tricks get paid out? Well, as the performing magician, you get special bonuses: 1 fame for every trick link in the show, 2 Fame, 3 Coins, or 1 Shard if you have your Assistant, Manager, or Engineer backstage, and whatever bonus is listed at the bottom of the performance card: in this case, 1 fame and 1 coin.
When a trick gets performed, the marker comes off the card, and is returned to the player’s supply (not back to the Trick card).
When the week’s performances have ended, you have to pay 1 buck to each of your apprentices (except the slave labourer on your assistant board, if you have one), and 2 coins to each of your Specialists (that’s the Assistant, Manager, and Engineer). If you’re strapped for cash, you have to lose 2 Fame for each coin you can’t pay in wages, cuz word gets around that you’re kind of a dirtbag employer. If you have the money to pay your people, you have to pay your people; you can’t opt to lose the fame instead. 
Take all your character disks back, and add your new assistant token or Specialist board and tokenif you hired anyone this round.
Anything in the Order Up area bumps out the existing stock in the Marketplace. Anything in the Quick Order slot vanishes, maaaagically.
The Performance Cards chug along like a conveyor belt, with bigger and better cards filling the gap. They disappear from the game here, here, or here, depending on whether you’re playing with 2, 3, or 4 players. And yes, that means that any trick tokens on it get wasted. The show must go … off!
Everyone who advertised gets their poster back, and the turn counter moves. Reroll and place the dice, take your assignment cards back… and it’s time for another week in the magical city of Magoria! 
After the fifth week has finished, you can still rack up a few more Fame points. 1 Fame point for each leftover shard and for every 3 coins, 2 Fame for each Apprentice, and 3 Fame for each Specialist – that’s Assistant, Manager, or Engineer. Initiative order breaks any ties.
At the end of the game, the most famous magician gets to m…marry Claudia Schiffer! … somehow(?)
The so-called “expansion,” The Dark Alley, add seven more complexity to an already hairy game, but – you know – in for a penny, in for a pound. We might as well cover it.
The Dark Alley pumps the game up to 7 weeks instead of 5. It adds a third level of trick cards to the deck, with a huge fame threshold of 36 points. If you learn these tricks, and you have the components they require by the end of the game, each trick grants you bonus points in a different way.
The more complex Magnus Pantheon cards get added to the Performance Card deck – 2 Magnus Pantheon, 2 Grand Magorian, and 2 Riverside Theatre cards. Each magician gets a special ability, which you can find on the black cat side of the card. And most importantly, there’s a whole new area in town to visit on the flip side of the board: the titular “dark alley.” One of your three Theatre assignment cards is replaced with a Dark Alley assignment.
Three pending prophecy tokens get dealt at random into the crystal ball. The Dark Alley also gets these Special Assignment cards that confer special abilities to you later on. 
When you visit the Dark Alley, you can take this action to draw the top card from one of the Special Assignment decks. You use the Special Assignment cards just like your regular assignment cards, but they’re single-use, and in almost every case, they only apply to a single action. If you use a Special Assignment card, but decide not use its ability, you can juice it for an extra action point. At the end of the round, you get rid of your used Special Assignment cards, except any that you kept face-down to idle a character. Then, the Special Assignment cards in the Dark Alley get cycled, with the top cards getting sunk to the bottom of their respective decks. At the end of the game, any unused Special Assignment cards get you 2 Fame points. And with the Dark Alley expansion, you no longer get any fame for having Specialists.
Place a worker on this space to draw additional Special Assignment cards at a cost of 2 action points apiece.
Take this action to rotate the prophecies. At the end of the round, the prophecy in this slot will become active, so here’s your chance to influence the future in your favour.
The active prophecy breaks a game rule for the entire round that it’s active. So for example, this one lets everyone spend one Trickerion shard in the theatre to gain an extra action point, where that’s normally not allowed. And this one lets everyone place two Character Disks on their turn, instead of just one.
The special abilities for the magicians are described here in the instruction book, and the special endgame bonuses you get for the big fancy level three tricks are right next to them. Strangely, the explanation of all the prophecies is at the back of the Magician Workbook, where all the spells are listed.
Am i going to go over every single one of them? No! i mean, you can read. …can’t you? Is that why you’re watching a video instead of looking at rulebook? Oh i’m … i’m … i’m sorry. i didn’t kn… Ugh! i feel like an idiot. Hey: by way of apology, i want you to have this BluRay. 
What? What did you think it was gonna be?
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Addenda

At 26:04, i incorrectly depict the number of assignment cards you start with when playing with the Dark Alley expansion. Each player should receive 2 Theatre cards, 1 Workshop, 1 Market Row, 1 Downtown, and 1 Dark Alley card to begin the game. Thanks to YouTube viewer dani82HUN for the correction!

At 21:06, the green magician’s Burning Mummy trick marker is oriented illegally. Since it’s an escape trick, the trick marker’s escape symbol needs to be inside one of the circles on the performance card. Thanks to YouTube viewer Eric Viola for catching that!

Get Your Own Copy of Trickerion: Legends of Illusion

There’s a lot to think about when you’re playing Trickerion, and the Dark Alley “expansion” turns an already brain-burning game into a next-level experience. If you like your games heavy with lots of options and paths to victory, shop for your copy on Amazon so that we get a few pennies from your purchase:

Trickerion: Legends of Illusion


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