Love live the Empress!
For the Motherland!
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…
And there’s plenty of games out there people want to buy for their loved ones (and themselves). This is a great time of year to buy a game that can be fun for the whole family to play the day the gift is opened, but you also want a game that will be enjoyed after it’s taken home by the recipient. With the convention season, including Gen Con and Essen, having just passed, there’s no shortage of games out there. Today’s review will be a fairly new game, but this review will come with a twist.
This game has gotten a lot of comparisons to Ticket to Ride (TtR), and while there are some similarities, after more than a dozen plays, I can tell you there are some significant differences. In addition to the normal categories of Pros and Cons, I will also be comparing it to TtR so you can make the decision which one (or both) may be right for you.
Title: Thurn & Taxis
Overview: It’s the height of the German empire and communication is a must. Players compete during this era to establish the first, and best, postal system in 19th century Germany.
Components: Rio Grande knows it’s players prefer a quick set up time, and rightfully so. They have designed a box about the size of the Carcassonne box with individual dividers for all the pieces. The board is fairly small compared to most modern day games, about half the size of the TtR board. But no more is really needed. It is also gorgeous. Each city is hand-drawn with a piece of significant architecture for that city in real life. The game even comes with a short pamphlet explaining the history of the era and the cities. Each player, which can be 2-4, receives about 25 wooden postal stations, which look similar to the Settlers of Cantan settlements. Each player also gets a “cheat sheet” about the size of a normal playing card made of high quality cardboard; these are easy to read and make referring to the main rulebook almost never needed. There are also quite a few city cards. These cards are identical in size and shape to the TtR train cards, meaning they are about half the size of standard playing card. In TtR, however, you are typically holding more cards and this size adjustment is needed. In T&T, you are playing cards every turn, and the cards probably could’ve been a little bigger. There are also ‘Carriage House’ cards, which go along the top of the board, which are the same size as the city cards. Finally, there are victory point chits. These chits are about 1 inch square, made of the same hard cardboard like material the board is, and stack neatly on the board without any problem.
Pros: Smaller board fits easily onto a kitchen table. Well done cheat sheet. Nice “fluff” to explain the era and cities for those who like history.
Cons: The city cards are a bit smaller than I would’ve expected.
How it compares to TtR: It’s got a smaller board and box. The pieces are wooden, instead of TtR’s plastic. The length of the ruleset is about the same.
Mechanics: The object of the game is to have the most points at the end of the game, which represents your control of the postal system in the Germanic empire. Each player starts with no city cards, and places the smallest carriage house next to them (having no numerical value). Then, each player takes his turn and does the following 3 things:
-The player must draw a city card. There are 2 ways this can be done. (1) From the face down deck. (2) From the 6 face-up cards on the table. If the 2nd is chosen, then it is immediately replaced by the top card in the face down deck.
-The player must play a city card in front of him on the table, face up. Cards are laid next to one another in a line, representing a postal route. Note: each player has his own “string of city cards”. When a player plays his 1st card, it can be any card from his hand. If there is already a card on the table in front of him, he must follow 2 rules when playing a card. (1) It must go on the “end” of the string. That is, on the left side or right side of the cards already down. (2) When looking at the map, it must be a city that adjacent to the city you are playing it next to. For example, Pilsner is adjacent to Budweis on the map. If Budweis is on the end of the string of cities you have down, you can play Pilser next to it. If a player cannot play a city card, then the entire string of cards is wiped out, an he must start a new route.
-The player may score a route. In order to score a route, the route must have at least 3 cards on the table. You then choose to place a post office wooden piece on EITHER (1)All the cities of one region that you have cards down for, OR (2) one city from each region you have cards down for. Remove your plain cards, discard your hand down to 3 cards, and you are done.
Scoring point is done as follows: You get points for being the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc person to get a post office in every city in a region; the points decrease for each subsequent player to do this. You get points if you are the first to get a post office in every region (again, decreasing points from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.). You get points as you build longer, and longer routes. This last one allows you to build bigger carriage houses. The first time you score a 3-city route, you get the 3-city carriage house. Then, when you score a 4-city route, you get a 4-city house. This continues up to a 7-city route. The bigger the carriage house, the more points. You have to claim these in order, though. No skipping carriage houses. E.g. Even if you have 7 cities down, if you have a 3-city carriage house, you will get only get a 4-city carriage house. There are strategic reasons you might do this.
The twist: You can break 1 rule per turn. You can:
(1) Draw 2 city cards
(2) Play 2 city cards
(3) Wipe all 6 face up cards off the board and replace them with ones from the deck
(4) For purposes of the carriage house, add 2 to the city length with scoring a route. E.g. If you have 4 cities down, you can “score” it as a 6-city route for the carriage house.
The game ends when the 1st player builds the 7-city carriage house OR 1 player runs out of houses. This signals the end-game, which means the current turn is the last turn.
Winner: Total points minus the number of post offices you haven’t placed yet. Highest=winner.
Pros: The rules are quickly explained and your cheat sheet covers pretty much all of them, once you hear the rules once.
Cons: It’s easier to explain as you go, especially when explaining how to lay down adjacent cities. This could potentially frustrate the new player.
How it compares to TtR: There are a lot similarity in the rules. But I’ll focus on the biggest differences. The fact that instead of drawing for cards that go BETWEEN cities, you are drawing cities themselves to complete routes is different. You also can change the face up cards if you don’t like them, which you cannot do in TtR. Multiple players can also occupy a single city; in TtR, only one player per train route is allowed. In terms of ease of rule learning, they are about the same.
Strategy: This game is essentially a race with risks. In TtR, the race component is determined by whether you want to risk taking more time to get longer route in the hope that you are not blocked in the process. In T&T, you are weighing whether to hold off scoring on a route or not based on if you can be the first. You can still score if you are not the first, but you certainly won’t be the highest. In addition, you need to decide whether to go for multiple regions, a single region, a number of long routes, a number of short routes, or be the first to complete the carriage house. Finally, the decision of which rule to break. This is absolutely 75% of the strategy to the game since you can speed up drawing, playing, or scoring dramatically. But by playing a card or scoring too quickly, you run the risk of not being able to play a card of an adjacent city (remember, you play a card BEFORE you score). In this regard, T&T is more of a true race game compared to TtR. TtR has a minimal amount more “block the other guy” to it, since you can block the essential route that one player needs. That does not exist in T&T.
Pros: It’s a race with half a dozen ways to win. There is almost no aggressive style to this game
Cons: If you like some aggression in your game and the ability to thwart another person’s plans, this game may not fill your need.
How this compares to TtR: It’s more “friendly” (although I wouldn’t classify TtR as a aggressive style game…I’m just comparing the two), and acts more like a true race without a defensive component to it.
Will it work for few (i.e. 2) players as well as many (i.e.3-4) players?: It works exceedingly well with 2 player insomuch that the race is even tighter at the end of the game. Since the game’s strategy thrives on the fact that you get more points if you are the first player to complete an “objective” (e.g. a post office in every region), it’s only a 1 point difference between 1st and 2nd place in a two player game. That being said, multiple player mean you have to monopolize on a certain objective to really hit that high score. So it all depends on how you like to play.
How this compares to TtR: TtR has more blocking of routes with more players, thus making it more relying on completing your destination tickets to achieve the win in 2-3 player games. In 4-5 player games of TtR, the game’s strategy adds the defensive, and hence a bit more aggressive, component. T&T’s race mechanic remains the same, but the lower number of players means you can win easier as a “jack of all trades.”
Will my non-gaming spouse/friends like it?: Absolutely. The game won the Spiel des Jahres, which means it can be easily be enjoyed by non-gamers.
How this compares to TtR?: Both games are equally enjoyed by non-gamers.
Good for kids?: Yes. The map is well-drawn, but easy to see how routes become adjacent. There’s a little history section in one of the pamphlets, as well as some geography outside the USA, and facilitating learning is never a bad thing.
How this compares to TtR?: There’s a bit more abstractedness that TtR, meaning it might take a slightly older child to play T&T. Otherwise, there are about the same.
Should I buy it?: Criteria to buy this include: (1) Do you enjoy the “race to the finish” style game. (2) Realizing there is next to no aggressive blocking strategy, but instead a true race, can you still enjoy it? (3) If you own TtR, can you appreciate the difference enough (less aggression, more ways to achieve victory points, a different change in style of play as you add more players) to warrant spending $32.95 MSRP on it. If you can say “Yes”, I would strongly recommend this game.
Great Review - I have just purchased this game. I enjoy TtR alot and look forward to playing T&T. I love the different options this game has, as you pointed out in your review. Thanks again.
Loved the review! Out of all the reviews on T&T, this is the first that lets me really grasp the game. Very well written!
Makes me wonder if it has some elements of Web Of Power in it? Being 1st, 2nd, etc. to claim cities within one region?
- Last edited Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:00 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Wed Mar 19, 2008 6:00 pm