Saturday, January 14, 2012

The dissection of Thurn and Taxis

I took a break from the long days at work to go play some games last night.  I went to my friend Bryan's place and when I got there they were half way though a game of 7 Wonders.  I helped a newer player with his first game.  After that I drank way too much Rum and got my but kicked in Thurn and Taxis and Cargo Noir.  I should have stayed at work.
I am going to try something a little different.  Being that I am a game designer and an aspiring board game designer, it feels like I am doing myself and anyone interested in reading my ramblings a disservice.  From now on, I am going to attempt to give a re-cap the rules of the game and then dissect the game mechanics.  I think this will be a lot more interesting than what I have been doing.

Thurn and Taxis
This is a typical Euro game where you are building the first mail routes in Germany during the 16th century.  It has a similar feel to Ticket to Ride and shares some similar mechanics.  It is a light game at first and gets closer to a medium game as the game progresses.

At the start of a turn, Players MUST draw a city card and MUST play a city card each turn.  Players can draw a random City Card from the top of the deck or one of the 6 of the available cards out on the board.  Players may also use the special ability of one of 4 of the helping characters.  They give the ability to: Draw 2 Cards, Play 2 Cards, Discard and replace the 6 Cards on the Board, or Gain a carragie with less cities than normally needed (The carriages are point cards you gain when you close a mail route and have enough citires in a route).  After drawing and playing cards, the player can close his route to score, or pass his turn.

The entire game is a Perfect Knowledge game with the exception of the Cards.  This means that you can see everything every player is doing with the exception of the cards in other players hands.  The Cards is the only Randomness in the game, but its enough.  It makes it hard to build a stratagy or plan based on the cards that are on the board because by the time it comes around to you, the cards on the table are not very likely to be there.  Because the game is almost Perfect Knowledge, you sit and wait while the other players contemplate the best cards they can take for themselves while damaging your visible routes. This makes for longer turns and longer wait times for the other players.
Bryan teaches us the rules to Thurn an Taxis
Building a route is done by laying Cards in front of you.  This MUST be done every turn or you loose your entire route and do not score any points.  This is called a Press your Luck or Risk Reward Mechanic.  You keep adding onto something for as long as you want, but each time you do, you risk loosing more.  If you Score the longer routes you get Bonus Score Tokens, and can collect Carriages that required longer route to collect, but must be collected in order.  This creates an exciting sensation of risk for the player, they have to choose when to cash in or loose it all.  Basicly, it's gambling!  It also has a good chance of making players upset and feel disgruntled about their gaming experience.  In T&T it felt wrong, what is the reason for loosing the mail route if you don't add another city?  Don't know!  But thats the way it works because the designer decided it would be a good place to shoehorn this mechanic.
Early on I was doing very well, then I got unlucky and fell way behind.
Each City Card in the route must connect to the neighboring city on the board.  Once you have placed a City Card, you can only place another connecting City Card.  You can place Cards on ether end of the route as long as the Card connects to the adjacent city.  This is a modified version of a Mechanic called Pairing.  Players are trying to collect sets or runs of items.  This is most recognizable in games like Poker.  In T&T, players are trying to collect runs of Cities that must be connected by roads on the board.  This was the most interesting mechanic to me.
John, Bryan, and Ryan
Scoring happens when a player closes his route.  Before I explain this part of the game I should explain that the Cities on the Board are divided into regions that are colored.  Each colored area has a number of cities and a stack of Score Tokens.  In  addition, SOME of the colored areas are divided into two shades of the color (i.e. light blue and dark blue).
Note the colors of the province that each City is in.
To collect  the Score Tokens you must have a house in all Cities in an area.  When you close your route, you may choose to place a House 1 of Cities your route hits in each region your route passes through or, all of the Cities in a single region your route touches.  This includes the division of colored regions.  So, for example, if you choose to put all your houses in the green region, you will have to choose if it will be the light green or dark green part of the that region.  Are you confused about why the designer added this layer of complication to this game?  I am not 100% sure, but if I had to guess, I would say that the designer noticed that people would just focus on one region at a time, complete that, then move on to the next.  This would force players to use both mechanics of placing all houses in a single region and 1 house on each city in a region.
Thankfully nearing the end of the Game!
This was out first game and there were a few rules that we botched.  Because of that, I misunderstood a few things and as a result made several critical errors.  The distinction between the different colored regions was not explained very well and there were some mistakes made there as well.  This resulted in 3 bad turns in a row and loosing a route.  Because of this I spent the rest of the game trying to catch up.  By the end of the game I was feeling very frustrated.  The mistakes I made and the bad luck that caused me to loose my route made me wish for the end of the game to come quickly.  All in all not a bad game, but some of the arbitrary mechanics makes this game feel (despite there very specific theme) a bit abstract.  It would not be a game I seek to play again, but would play if asked.
Later we played Cargo Noir which, since this post went longer than I planed, I will cover in my next write up tomorrow.  I will try to have something up on this by Monday since I want to try and find time to work on Taipan, spend time with the girlfriend, and do this dissection as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment