Monday, August 13, 2012

Thurn and Taxis

Thurn and Taxis
Designed by Andreas and Karen Seyfarth

I absolutely love this game and it is definitely joining my top 10 (bumping out Slide 5) and making 5 out of my top 10 games now Rio Grande Games. A big SHOUT OUT to Rio Grande Games for making this review possible. This is actually going to be part 1 of a 3 part series. I will also be reviewing the 2 expansions to Thurn and Taxis as well: 1) Power and Glory. 2) All Roads Lead to Rome. Look for these reviews in the coming weeks.

Thurn and Taxis actually came out in 2006, 2 years after the successful game Ticket to Ride. While there are some similarities between the two games (one being that they both received the great Spiel des Jahres award for their release year), Thurn and Taxis is by far the more enjoyable game in my opinion and some have even nicknamed Thurn and Taxis the "Ticket to Ride Killer." The game is for 2 to 4 players and it takes about an hour or a bit less to play. The only reason I don't think that this has become as popular as Ticket to Ride in the U.S. is because the map is not of America and people just haven't heard about it.

In Thurn and Taxis, players are building postal systems by building different postal routes, post offices, and by collecting carriages. The game play is learned quickly and is very easy grasp. A player draws one card and then has to play one card.  There are six face up city cards available to choose from along with the draw stack (you can choose to take the top card if you wish). The player then has the option to close and score their current route (if at least three cities long) or keep it for the next turn.

The player also has the ability to use some help from postal officials. The player has the option of using one of the four special abilities each turn. The player can: 1) draw two cards instead of just one, 2) play two cards instead of just one, 3) discard the current six face up cards and replace them with new ones, or 4) obtain some help with getting carriages (I'll explain this a little bit later).

Each turn you are playing city cards down in front of you in a continuous fashion. If you are unable to play a city that is adjacent to what your route is currently, you have to discard your route and start all over. So, there is a lot of strategy in choosing the right cities and being able to play a card each turn. As you build longer routes, you can obtain higher valued carriages. The game ends when someone runs out of their cities (everyone has 20) or someone obtains a 7 carriage. I like this element of the game, because the pace of the game is dictated by the players. One player can advance the game more quickly by upgrading his carriage faster or by playing more of his cities. Players get certain bonuses throughout the game for building in certain areas first (there are runner up bonuses for those who get there second etc.).

The scoring for each player comes from their highest valued carriage card and any of the bonus tiles received throughout the game. Players also subtract from their score for each unused city remaining in their supply. I don't want to get into the rules in greater detail, but you can for yourself here.

The game components are really great quality and the illustrations and everything is great. The game has little cards (similar to the size in Ticket to Ride) which isn't my favorite, but they shuffle great and seem to me that they will hold up very well. The game as I said is very easy to learn and play, but has a nice depth of strategy to it as well. The game is not overly interactive (you can't block routes or anything like that, but you can take a face up card that you know your opponent would like etc.), but you are trying to work the board so that you can obtain the best bonus tiles before everyone else. I like the fact everyone really has the same objective and same bonuses available, nothing is really secret. A lot less luck factor than Ticket to Ride with the ticket cards etc. One thing that I think could have been better is the color differences. I think playing the game might be a bit tricky for a color blind player with the subtle change in colors.

I played the game with The Wife, just the two of us, and it played very well with just two players. The game is a good length allowing for a quick rematch, or if you just need a shorter and not so complex game. I highly recommend this game to everyone and I can't wait to try out the expansions as well (stay tuned for Power and Glory and All Roads Lead to Rome)!

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