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We Need to Talk about Thurn and Taxis

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10 Jan 2019 22:13 #289762 by WadeMonnig

Dude, look! It’s Budweis! And Pilsen!

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10 Jan 2019 22:14 #289763 by Michael Barnes
A rare bad choice from the SDJ jury...it almost felt like a consolation prizr for Seyfarth, having been snubbed for Puerto Rico. It’s a forgettable, uninteresting game that would have faded into obscurity if not for the accolade. but 2006 was also the year that Eurogames kind of bottomed out. If you look at the shortlist only Blue Moon City is above average at best, and it is a lesser Knizia that wouldn’t normally be a SDJ noted title. Really, Shadows Over Camelot should have won, but even it is a bit more complicated than most SDJ fare. It was a dismal year for European design (remember Australia?) and I think a lot of it has to do with it being at the peak of the BGG forums’ influence on design. This was the year of Caylus for most hobbyists at the time. But also, the AT thing really exploded in 2006 with FFG hitting its stride and a growing demand for hybrid designs, genre settings, and more competitive, interactive concepts. This is also why co-ops started to blow up at this time on the heels of SoC and Arkham Horror.

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?
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10 Jan 2019 22:20 #289765 by Sagrilarus
Somebody jumped the gun.

I think Thurns may be one of the prettiest euros to ever hit a table. Didn't win the talent contest, but it nailed evening gown. Sure didn't hurt it any.
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11 Jul 2019 09:26 #299544 by ubarose
Thurn and Taxis was a disappointment. There was so much hype about it, and then when I played it was, as Michael says "slapping a tepid version of PR’s role selection on TTR."

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.
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11 Jul 2019 09:48 #299547 by hotseatgames
I've never played this, but I would like to say that if anyone is actually designing something specifically to try to get a SDJ award... well fuck that.
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11 Jul 2019 10:10 #299550 by Jackwraith
Excellent piece. Having just recently returned from Germany, might I suggest that "beer enthusiasts" may not be the best associated audience for this game. Everywhere we went were pilsners and weisbiers. That's it. The craft beer phenomenon really hasn't reached Germany, since they already had so many local breweries that were making... pilsners and weisbiers. Ask someone for a porter and they're likely to look at you like you just set yourself on fire. That's a very minor quibble, though.

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.
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11 Jul 2019 10:57 #299554 by barrowdown
I like Thurn and Taxis, but until I read this article I had completely forgotten about it. I think the design is fine, the art is fine, and everything is just fine. It does not do anything special though so it is remarkably easy to forget.

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.

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11 Jul 2019 11:32 #299556 by RobertB
Played it once a long time ago, thought it was pretty meh. I don't think it caught on at the club in the same way that Amun-Re or Goa (similar time period) did. Granted, the club was into complexity back before complexity was cool, and I don't remember Thurn and Taxis being all that complicated.

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11 Jul 2019 13:35 #299559 by dysjunct
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.
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11 Jul 2019 16:25 #299567 by Sagrilarus

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.

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11 Jul 2019 21:16 #299580 by san il defanso
Catan was my introduction to hobby games, but T&T was the first game I got after being introduced to the idea that gaming could be a hobby at all. I bought it because it was the most recent SdJ winner, since I even now generally believe that the award goes to good stuff.

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.

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11 Jul 2019 22:28 #299581 by Frohike
Nate's story mirrors mine... with Zooloretto. This was not a good era for the SdJ.
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11 Jul 2019 22:32 #299582 by Greg Aleknevicus

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.

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?

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.
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11 Jul 2019 22:36 - 16 Jul 2019 21:53 #299583 by Sagrilarus

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.)
Last edit: 16 Jul 2019 21:53 by Sagrilarus.
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11 Jul 2019 22:38 #299584 by san il defanso
Thurn & Taxis, and I don't think it's close. I kind of liked Zooloretto, though not enough to keep it around. I found myself disliking Thurn & Taxis though.

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