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Coming the Week of July 15th (12 Jul 2019)
Seal Team Flix and Campy Creatures Reviews, a second look at Tiny Towns, Brainwaves Podcast on Megagames, Tank & DPS News and more TBA.
We Need to Talk about Thurn and Taxis
2006 was a weird time in retrospect, and really a turning point...games at that point were still kind of in a decline...I remember reading that in 2005 or 2006 that over half the B&M game shops in the US closed. Even the big players in publishing were quite small at that time, there was nothing like Asmodee happening. And you couldn’t buy Catan at Target. Games were still kind of esoteric, and the notion of a game about the German postal system was still pretty weird.
So I think Thurn & Taxis, 2006 SDJ, is emblematic of its time. It does represent how the European designers were sort of at a dead end- slapping a tepid version of PR’s role selection on TTR’s simple route-building was enough to win an award. But really, what else was there? Buccaneer? Kramer’s terrible Australia?
However, as Sagrilarus says it was very pretty. And maybe if someone discovered it now, without all the hype, they would find it to be a solid family game.
I've played T&T a couple times and, while I appreciated the intent, it never really sold me on being "fun". Maybe it was too similar to so much other stuff at the time? Maybe, as MB said, it was a cobbled-together attempt at winning a prize? I'll spare you my rant about the SDJ deciding games like Shadows Over Camelot were "too complex" for the award, since that decision was less about complexity and more about style (the question of "style" often having to do with publisher; as in, was it published by Ravensburger or Kosmos? Then it's eligible!)
There are similar "Who?" moments around that time. Anyone remember Keltis, the winner from 2008? How about Niagara from 2005? I think the SDJ has always been too confined by the question of style, rather than what the actual "best game" is, from a more objective perspective. Unfortunately, I'd lump T&T in the first category.
If if picked up a copy, it would likely end up in the closet forgotten about for years and barely played. Does anyone still play the 2005-2008 stretch of SdJ winners? Niagra, this, Zooloretto (more complicated version of a simple card game), Keltis (more complicated version of a simple card game) all seem like what someone would present as a generic euro game to use in the background of a movie.
dysjunct wrote: Niagara is way more fun than T&T. I've never seen the river flowing mechanism anywhere else, and it was a great and evocative way to bring the theme in. Played it a bunch of times before moving it on, played a friend's copy of T&T once and was glad I hadn't bought it myself.
The kid's game Marrakesh uses it as well. It's a great mechanic, would love to see something similar used more often.
But this one was a rare miss for the committee. It's not just forgettable, it's frankly not that much fun. Blue Moon City would have been a much better choice. I think Michael is on to something about this being a consolation prize for Seyfarth. It was also, I believe, his first published game since Puerto Rico, so I think it was crowned sight unseen.
It's technically proficient, but it feels rote. There's no spark there. It also has the dubious honor of being one of the first games I traded away.
That's overly harsh. First off, most people acknowledge that SdJ winners are generally good games... so what's wrong with trying to design a game generally regarded as good?
hotseatgames wrote: ...I would like to say that if anyone is actually designing something specifically to try to get a SDJ award... well fuck that.
Secondly, and more pragmatically, in the 2006-era, even a good game might sell only 5-10 thousand copies. A SdJ winner would almost certainly sell 150+ thousand. It's such a huge jump in sales that it's bound to have an effect on designers and publishers. I've chatted with Stefan Brueck (of Alea) about this and he confirmed that he more-or-less had to try to win the award for his company to remain viable.
Frohike wrote: Nate's story mirrors mine... with Zooloretto. This was not a good era for the SdJ.
Amen brother. Zooloretto is a turd, didn’t even win evening gown. Don’t understand what people see in it. It’s not that it’s bad . . . it's just . . . harmless.
Which is worse, Zooloretto or Thurns & Taxis? (Seriously, don’t answer that.)