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Subject: TVB - 2P - We take the SDJ winner out for a spin. rss

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Richard Pardoe
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Dave was the only person available for games tonight, so we decided to try out a few new games that had yet to be played by the group.

The first is this year's winner of the Spiel des Jahres: THURN UND TAXIS.

The name "Thurn und Taxis" is the name of the family that held the virtual monopoly on imperial communications in Europe in the 16th century establishing what would become the postal system in the area. The players in the game try to replicate that success by establishing branch offices in various cities shown on the gameboard and developing longer and longer postal routes between cities. Both of these activities yield victory points with the eventual game winner being the player with the most points.

The game play itself appears simple. Players must draw a card and then must play a card. Afterwards, the players may (if they wish) to score their cards. But the game itself comes from the options and limitations that these simple actions offer. When drawing a card, players can choose from 1 of the 6 face up cards offered on the board or the topmost card of the face-down draw deck. When playing a card, players are attempting to make routes between the cities shown on the board. Each card depicts one of the cities on the gameboard and a valid route is a series of cards that proceeds from adjacent city to adjacent city. If a player can't play a valid connection, all the cards played in front of the person are discarded and a new route started. As a result, players should not only be considering their play for this turn, but also giving some thought to a likely play next turn. Specifically, it is usually a wise choice to have the next card play in hand rather than trust the "luck of the draw" to get that desired card.

Finally, if desired, a player may score their route if it is at least 3 cards in length. The length of the route results in points two ways. First, the longest route a person has played is represented by a mail carriage for that length. Higher (ie longer route) carriages are worth more points. Whenever a player builds a route longer than their current carriage, they take the next carriage. There are also points awarded for routes of length 5, 6, and 7, but the most points are scored by being the first to score a route of that length. Subsequent points are less. The second way routes score points is by establishing branch offices in the cities that are part of the route. Each of the cities on the map are divided into various geographic regions. When scoring a route, a person may add a branch office to all the cities in their route in 1 region (or) add 1 branch office to each of the regions in their route. Similar to route length, there are points awarded for the establishing branch offices in all the cities in a particular region, but again a declining point value for the subsequent players that score that bonus.

Additionally, once per turn, each play may invoke a special character to gain a special power. These powers are to draw 2 cards (or) play 2 cards (or) replace all 6 face-up cards (or) add 2 cities to your route length when upgrading your mail carriage. The game will end either at the end of the round wherein the first player has claimed the 7 city mail carriage (or) a player has played all their branches to the board. Ending the game is worth 1 additional victory point.

Player's scores are then calculated by taking the value of their carriage adding in all the length and regional bonuses and subtracting any unplayed branches in their supply. The player with the most points wins.

Dave started the game by playing from Passau; while Rich started at Sigmaringen. Dave then had to scrap his early route and built up nice route of 4 (Kempten-Augsburg-Ingolstadt-München). Rich matched the length with Sigmaringen-Ulm-Augsburg-München. But Dave's route nicely allowed him to play 4 branch offices in Baiern while Rich's route was 3 branches (1 branch in each region depicted). Both these routes let Rich and Dave gain the 3 Carriage (the lowest carriage route available).

Rich then built a 5 route (Augsburg-Innsbruck-Salzburg-Passau-Linz) to promote to a 4 carriage while playing an additional 3 branches. But Dave scores a nice 7 route (Lodz-Pilsen-Nürnberg-Stuttgart-Sigmaringen-Freiburg-Bassal) which not only scored the first 7 route bonus but also let Dave play 7 branches as each city is in a different region! So, 2 routes into the game, Dave has played half of his branches!

Rich tried to respond with a 6 route (Wurzburg-Stuttgart-Ulm-Ingolstadt-Munchen-Regensburg) but Dave played to the southeast with Innsbruck-Salzburg-Passau-Linz-Budweis which allowed him to score the outside of Baiern bonus. Rich tried again with Lodz-Pilsen-Regensburg-Passau-Budweis-Linz-Salzburg, but Dave worked the Eastern edge with Zürich-Freiburg-Carlsruhe-Stuttgart-Ulm. A With only 2 houses left to play, Dave played Regensburg-Nürnberg-Würzburg to place his last two branches and end the game. All Rich could do was play Kempten-Ulm-Stuttgart to claim a regional bonus.

Adding up the scores:

Dave had 5 points for his 5 carriage to which we add 5+6+3 (14 points) for regional bonuses and 4+1 (5 points) for route length bonuses and 1 point for ending the game. As Dave ended the game playing all his branches, he had no negative points and a total of 25 points.

Rich had 7 points for his 6 carriage to which we add 2 points in regional bonuses and 3+2+2 (7 points) for route length bonuses. But from this 16 points, we need to subtract 5 for Rich's unplayed branch offices for a total of 11 points.

An overwhelming victory for Dave. But this game does point out some key aspects of the game. Racing to the 7 carriage while a nice point bonus is not the only path to victory. Dave did quite well scoring 6 points for having a branch in each region outside of Baiern and 5 ponts for having a branch in each city in Baiern. By not keeping pace with Dave's branch placement, Rich also was hurt by 5 points for unplayed branches.

Could I have done anything differently? Perhaps. I do feel that the routes I played seemed to offer themselves more readily than the routes I might have played (eg to the Western side of the board to gain the outside Baiern bonus). But I was looking to get to the 7 carriage and it's 10 points quickly, so I might have overlooked routes that were shorter but might have helped me place more houses and/or gain regional bonuses. But having learned the hard way how valuable such bonuses might be, I will be more vigilant in my next game.

Despite the loss, I liked TuT almost immediately. I believe it is a well deserved winner of the Spiel des Jahres. There are multiple paths to points so players not only need to watch what they are doing, but also what their opponents might be striving for. As the special ability can be used only once per turn, there is a nice bit of decision making to be made each turn. Do I draw two cards? Do I wipe the board to gain better choices? Do I wipe the face-up cards to get rid of that card my opponent might be after? Do I build two cards now to finish a route quickly? While not each decision comes to bear each turn, I hope one can appreciate some of the thoughts that might go into a typical turn.

The game plays fairly quickly. Dave and I finished in less than an hour including the rules explanation and Dave has already added this game to his wish list for desired games to receive. I certainly am looking for a chance to play this game again.

 
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Karl Schmit
United States
Menomonee Falls
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RPardoe wrote:
But Dave scores a nice 7 route (Lodz-Pilsen-Würzburg-Stuttgart-Sigmaringen-Freiburg-Bassal) which not only scored the first 7 route bonus but also let Dave play 7 branches as each city is in a different region!

Oops, Pilsen doesn't actually connect to Würzburg.

Substitute Nurnburg for Würzburg and you have what I call the "killer route" in the game.
 
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Richard Pardoe
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Dave did play correctly. Checking my notes, I see Nürnberg where I mistakenly wrote Würzburg above (My penmenship when jotting notes quickly during a game isn't that neat). I have corrected the report above.
 
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