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Subject: Corey rambles about Thurn and Taxis rss

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Corey Hopkins
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Review in a nutshell: This is the best game about the development of the German postal system that I've ever played!

Deep Background

Usually in my reviews I start by talking about when and why I got the game in the first place, just in case anyone reading happens to be in the same frame of mind (God help you). For Thurn and Taxis, I'd had my eye on it for a while and then decided to buy it. Cool story right? I think part of it was Andreas Seyfarth, the designer of Puerto Rico (which I like but don't love); the other part was that it won the SdJ in 2006.

For some reason I see T&T getting compared to Ticket to Ride more than any other game. I makes some sense I guess. They both feature route-building by way of set collection. Beyond that, they're pretty different.

Ticket to Ride is a gigantic hit (I mean you can find it in Target! Who buys games at Target?!). Thurn and Taxis is somewhat well-known among board game enthusiasts.

You can bring out Ticket to Ride at family gatherings and talk people into playing. "You lay railroad track across the country!" This is a little harder with Thurn and Taxis. "You develop the most efficient network of post offices in Renaissance Germany!"

In a lot of ways, Thurn and Taxis seems to be Ticket to Ride's more nerdy, less charismatic younger brother. Which is probably why I like it better. cool

Stuff I Like

d10-1 Theme: Boom. That just happened. Let me tell you what I mean before you close the tab. Have you ever heard of another game with this theme? If you have, you might need to get some counseling for BGG addiction. Usually, when people complain about theme in Euro games, it's, "Ugh, another game about being a merchant in the Renaissance." Well this ain't that. It's way more boring.

Also, the theme is kind of integrated into the rules. You get points for being in little pockets (so post offices are closer to the people they serve), and you get points for being in all the areas of the board (mail can be delivered across the country). Plus, like in many Euros, efficiency is a huge part of the game; efficiency is also important if you're going to run a nation-wide mail delivery service.

d10-2 Simple Turns: This is a big deal to me in games. I don't mind if the game itself is complex, but what you actually do in a single turn should be quick and simple. In Thurn and Taxis, your turn is, "Take a card, then play a card, then (optionally) close your route." Except that isn't quite all of it, which leads to...

d10-3 Decisions: Each turn you have a decision to make that will affect part of your turn. You can take two cards, play two cards (one of these is usually what happens), clear out the card display and redraw, or pretend your route is two cities longer than it is for the purpose of gaining the next carraige card. I think this in an excellent twist on a simple system that adds a nice rhythm to the game. It also forces the players to plan ahead, so they don't end up wasting these special abilities.

The other simple-but-awesome decision point in the game comes when you close your route. You can't put your houses in all the cities of your route; you have to choose between putting multiple houses in a single color or putting a single house in each color. This little wrinkle means that almost none of the region bonus tiles in the game can be grabbed in someone's first route closure.

d10-4 Art / Components: First off, this is another great board by Michael Menzel. The details of actual buildings in the different cities (on the board and cards) is a fantastic touch. It may seem drab, but the muted colors help you see the game state clearly where a more colorful board might distract the eye. I love how the brightly-colored houses pop at the end of the game, so I always try to get a picture when it's over! Speaking of the houses, have you ever seen a cuter little wooden house in a board game? No, you haven't.

Stuff that's Whatever

d10-1 Scripted: This is my main issue with the game. There are these carriage cards that you get when you close a route, depending on the length. Your first route (since they have to be at least three cities long anyway) will get you the level three carriage. If your next route is at least four cites long, it will get you the level four carriage. And so on. You get points at the end of the game for the highest level you achieved. Also, if someone gets the level seven carriage, they have triggered the end of the game.

This means that there is a kind of race to work your way through the levels, which I think limits players strategically. Do you see a way to get a seven city route at the beginning of the game? Too bad! By the time you finish your opponents will be ahead of you on carriages so you better just make a short route like everyone else. This issue is totally fixed (in my opinion) by the Power and Glory expansion. Will I ever get around to reviewing expansions? Who knows!

d10-2 Lost Progress: On your turn, you MUST play a card to your route. If you do not have a playable card, then the route you are working on must be discarded and you start a new one. Now, I know that this usually comes about by poor planning and that you just shouldn't leave yourself in this situation, but it still feels pretty harsh when it happens. Another issue that does not come up when playing with the Power and Glory expansion.

d10-3 Sudden Death: I'm not too bothered by this one but I know that some people are so I'll mention it. If a player gets a level seven carriage OR puts down their last house, the end of the game is triggered. The current round is played to the end, and that's it. So take players A, B, C and D. A takes his turn, building up a route but not scoring it. B takes her turn, scoring a route and triggering the end of the game. C and D take their turns, each scoring the routes they were working on to try and scrounge a few more points. A feels like they got screwed out of a turn even though he should have just been paying attention to what B was doing and planning for it. Seriously, A, you need to grow up. Stop taking board games so personally, A; we're just here to have fun!

Sorry about that. Player A just really gets on my nerves sometimes, you know?

The Last Part of the Review

Thurn and Taxis, while not the most exiting game ever, will always have a place in my collection. It's a simple, solid little game without a lot of fluff or frills. To me, it does have a couple of flaws, but they have never stopped me from playing it (they just stopped me from winning it! ) As I've said, the Power and Glory expansion improves the game for me (providing a whole new map, if nothing else), and I wish they had made more "map packs" a la Ticket to Ride. Why can't I develop the Canadian postal system, or the Brazilian postal system? If they ever make these, Reader, be sure to let me know. I'll have my "Shut up and take my money!" meme waiting.

Corey Rambles about... Review Geeklist

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Lucas Smith
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Re: Corey Rambles about Thurn and Taxis
This game is mainly a race: put your opponents under time pressure by advancing the carriages as fast as you can.
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Space Trucker
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Re: Corey Rambles about Thurn and Taxis
chopkins828 wrote:

d10-2 Lost Progress: On your turn, you MUST play a card to your route. If you do not have a playable card, then the route you are working on must be discarded and you start a new one. Now, I know that this usually comes about by poor planning and that you just shouldn't leave yourself in this situation, but it still feels pretty harsh when it happens. Another issue that does not come up when playing with the Power and Glory expansion.

Yeah, overall it's not the type of game that only gives you either a big reward or a small reward (even if you fail hard). Somebody who's already hurt by that should probably be very careful when choosing gams as many other games may be way more mean and way less suited for touchy people.

smithlucas wrote:
This game is mainly a race: put your opponents under time pressure by advancing the carriages as fast as you can.

I'd rather say it's game about efficency. Using your cards efficiently by getting a maximum of coaches, bonus tiles, houses on the map.
It's also a bit about longterm planing, not to leave out to many spots you can't fill effectivly afterwards.

It's a nice gateway game, not too deep, quite some luck, but not really trivial, too.
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Alex Drazen
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Re: Corey Rambles about Thurn and Taxis
Good review, but want to address one thing...

smithlucas wrote:
This game is mainly a race: put your opponents under time pressure by advancing the carriages as fast as you can.


Quote:
Do you see a way to get a seven city route at the beginning of the game? Too bad!


You can win with a carriage rush or long route strategy. The catch with the long route strategy is that you HAVE to get the Rainbow tile and a few high point value regions.

There is a minimum length to the game because you can only take or play two cards and start with nothing. I think the game has to last at least fourteen turns if playing for carriage rush:

Actions (Hand Size)

Take 2 - play 1 (1)
Take 1 - play 2, close for 3C (0)
Take 2 - play 1 (1)
Take 2 - play 1 (2) --- "A"
Take 1 - play 1, close, Cartwright for 4C (2)
Take 1 - play 2 (1)
Take 1 - play 1, close, Cartwright for 5C (1)
Take 2 - play 1 (2) --- "B"
Take 1 - play 2 (1)
Take 1 - play 1, close, Cartwright for 6C (1) -- "C2"
Take 1 - play 2 (0)
Take 2 - play 1 (1) --- "C1"
Take 1 - play 2 (0)
Take 1 - play 1, close, Cartwright for 7C (0) --- "C3"

Building a 7 route takes at least four turns. You need to draw at least 7 cards which you can do as, say, 2-2-1-1-2. You need to play 7 cards which you can do over four turns as 1-1-2-2-1, carrying over one card. So in theory you can build at least three 7 routes (more likely two 7's and a 6).

Build the right ones and grab the bonus chips -- people rushing the carriages often have a hard time getting decent bonus tiles because it's difficult to get the exact 3 routes you need to complete things.

Also you don't need to build ALL long routes. Two take eight turns, but the game last for fourteen. If you build two long routes in eight turns you have a four carriage and six turns to burn out two short routes. So you should have at least a 5 carriage (only a 5 point difference) and possibly a 6 carriage if you get a little lucky. I marked this off with points A, B, and C1/C2/C3 on the list above. C1 is if you build three long routes, C2/C3 are if you build two long routes and switch to shorter ones.

Yes, it's a race, but I see plenty of people win with long routes. The risk/reward is in the card draw -- will you actually be able to get the route and place the houses efficiently? If you do it perfectly, you can empty your supply of 20 post offices before the carriage rushers can get the 7 carriage. This is rare, but possible, and if a carriage rusher tries to stop you by grabbing cards you need, he has to slow down, giving you extra turns to collect.
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