Thurn Und Taxis
Teaching Time: 10 mins
Playing Time: 60 mins
Setup Time: 5 mins
Value For Money: Low
Firstly, a note on the price and value in the round up there. Thurn Und Taxis is currently out of print so prices are inevitably massively inflated when it is available on Amazon or Ebay, which is not often. As such, it’s value for money is practically zero to any but collectors. Its quite odd that Thurn und Taxis is not more widely available actually, its more recent than many SDJ winners that remain in print, and has a range of expansions supporting it.
Thurn und Taxis is a Euro game, and its theme couldn’t be more Euro if it tried. Players build up postal routes in the area that would become modern Germany in the 17th century. Its gameplay is classic Euro also, players draw cards and play them to create routes for the mail, once a route is long enough it can be claimed and have meeples placed on bits of it. Points are earned by claiming routes of increasing length first and then for a range of other scoring conditions.
There are a couple of features that are Euro to the core, firstly, if a card cannot be played on a player’s turn, then they have to reset their route. As such gameplay is based around forward planning and risk management, in that respect it has much of the feel of later winner Kingdom Builder. Secondly, actually claiming a route, and the parts thereof is meaningless for long-term scoring, only the locations with meeples placed on them have any meaning for the final totals. Remembering odd little unintuitive scoring quirks is a feature as Euro as pushing around little coloured wooden blocks.
Simpler and more elegant Euros are often known as “German” games, many SDJ winners fall into this category, Kingdom Builder for one. Thurn und Taxis, I would say, is just on the point of falling into the Euro slot. It would generally feel borderline if not for how Euro the rest of the game feels. It is, however, only just over the borderline, its simple enough to not constantly feel gotcha’d by the rules or the lack of overlap between theme and rules.
Interaction is of the typical “competition over limited resources” of most Euros rather than anything direct. Its not even possible to block other people’s routes as it would be in Ticket to Ride, only to steal or dump the location cards they wanted, and tracking who wants what requires some careful tracking of what cards have already been drawn, which can be impossible due to face down draws. As such, any sort of conflict is near impossible and rarely rewarding. Other players essentially provide a moving score marker, game timer and random market refresh mechanic.
The game itself is quite fun and satisfying. Planning ahead has a good level of satisfaction, and if done well can’t be stopped by the efforts of others. Markets can come particularly good and offer the elements to give extra rewards to a well-planned route, but success will go to the best planner and risk manipulator. Its nothing that stands out hugely for a light to mid-weight Euro though.
As an SDJ winner it doesn’t really fit in with any of the normal identifying factors. The designers have pedigree, having previously won with Manhatten, but that aside, the game lacks significant table presence, is on the heavier end of SDJ winners and isn’t particularly the prime example of a genre. That last one is probably the most significant point for Thurn und Taxis, and is most likely the answer to the question I posed before as to why it isn’t seen around more often. Which is to say, it’s an SDJ winning route builder, but much like Elfenland and Railway Rivals, its very much not the SDJ winning route builder. Much like those other two games, the main reason that Thurn und Taxis misses out is quite simply, Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride has a little more conflict, but not too much, its scoring is simpler but has more player agency and ending impact and its generally easier to explain and grasp. Thurn and Taxis is fine, but its no-one’s first choice, it even came out two years after Ticket to Ride. Frankly, its not even the collector’s second choice with Railway Rivals being both more popular with those in the know and far more difficult and exciting to track down in its roll-map form.
If you have the chance to pick up Turn und Taxis for a reasonable price, around the £30 mark, and you have the slot in your collection open, then go ahead and pick it up. If nothing else, you’ve got a pretty good chance at that point of making some profit when you re-sell it.