Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thurn And Taxis: Going Postal!

Postal delivery has seldom been a popular game theme, so the choices for a prospective postmaster-in-training are few and far between. Still, someone has to delivery the mail…and it certainly isn't going to be the lackadaisical talent sitting across from you at the table!

After all the chaff is removed from the post-office genre, one sparkling board game jewel remains, and that is Thurn and Taxi. A thurn is an archaic German device for delivering mail, and a taxi takes its name of course from the delivery vehicle. Or I could be entirely incorrect on that, my dictionary doesn't see to be particularly useful in this case.

If you have ever played Ticket to Ride, you will find the game a good starting point for the mechanics of Thurn. Instead of drawing colors of trains, players draw city names from a face-up row of cards replenished after every draw. Playing a card stakes your claim to a city, allowing you to start a mail route there.

Putting down a post office on a city does not block other players from taking the city, but there are bonuses to getting post offices down in specific spots. Filling one region entirely gets you points. Get at least one office in each region (there are 9 of them, if you look close) will score you some more points. Building longer routes increases your "carriage" number, which is like levels in an RPG. At the end of the game, your carriage number is

Whatever you do during your turn, one thing you must do is place at least one city. And because of the strange permitting requirements back in ancient Bavaria, you can only build one postal route at a time. Once you decide to work on a non-connecting city, your previous route needs to be closed and scored before any more progress can be made.

Similar to Puerto Rico, there is also a small role selection mechanic, as each turn you can choose from several super powers represented by Bavarian villagers. The postal carrier lets you add a second city to your route on top of the first. The post master lets you draw an extra card. The administrator lets you refresh the card selection with 6 new face-up cards. Finally, the cartwright lets you upgrade your "carriage" even if you are 1 or 2 cities behind when you close a route.

As to strategy, thinking ahead very important. Long-range planning must be used, and you must also make the room to take advantage of the random face-up cards made available by the time your turn comes around again.

Taking a card the person next in line obviously needs for their route is always a popular choice if you can afford to do it. On the other side, choosing to draw from the top of the deck instead of the faced-up selections allows you to conceal your card from your opponents (otherwise drawn cards are open information) and these can prove quite valuable in disguising how far along your plans might be.

But the overaching path to victory is always being able to go in 2 directions at once. Working on 2 or 3 different goals, and then completing whichever one your cards allow you to do. Being able to capitalize quickly on some sudden luck is essential, because your adversaries can always jump ahead a few cities if they really need to, thanks to the meddling postal carrier.

And sometimes you just lose, because someone else happens to get all the cards they need for route perfection.

End game with 3 players

If you like Ticket to Ride, Thurn and Taxis should be a shoe-in to your collection. Game play is also relatively fast, since information is revealed during other people's turns and most everything is open. When your turn comes around, you should have a pretty good idea what to do.

If there is one fault I can give Thurn and Taxis, I would say the game could use just a little more theme. Like I said before, the postal route genre is pretty slim pickings. Let's try to add some actual postal delivery among all the usual route building. But that's a bit of a nit to pick.

Play Thurn and Taxis online for the glorious price of FREE at Yucata.

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