As the game is named after the post empire family Thurn und Taxis, players are building post office chains in 17th century Bavaria and the surrounding countries. They do this by playing cards to form postal routes, which are then filled with post offices.
Drafting for cities
The cards are drafted: there’s a pool of six open cards and a closed deck to draw cards from. Each turn players must draw one and play one card. The card must continue the current route from one end. Routes must follow the roads printed on the board, which limits the options. If player can’t continue a route, it’s discarded.
Whenever player has at least three cards played on a route, it can be scored. There’s a clever limitation of playing the offices: player can choose to either build one house in each country on the route, or a house in every city in one country. As most of the countries are small (except Bavaria), this makes for some route-planning or tough decisions when placing offices.
It is this single detail that makes the game, I think, that really elevates it above the masses of nice, but not special games. Thurn und Taxis is fairly simple and probably not a solid classic for the years, but right now I’d say it’s somewhere near Web of Power in complexity and swiftness.
Points are accumulated by playing offices in certain combinations (fill a country or a pair of countries, have one office in every country outside Bavaria), building longer routes, placing as many offices as possible and having a good wagon (you get better wagons if you build consecutively longer routes).
Game ends when someone plays their final office or gets a wagon seven. The round is finished and the game end scoring happens. There’s a penalty for unplayed offices, so swiftness is good. As usual in games where players can control the end condition, being the one to end the game is a good thing.
The game scales well from two to four (well, I haven’t tried with four but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work) and while the game is a bit solitare-like (there’s no direct interaction on the board, just some competition for points and cards), it’s quite an entertaining ride for such a light game. There’s enough strategy and tactics to keep one’s mind involved, but the game is light enough to enjoy from the first match.