#3 ALBS, English language edition of Tadsch Mahal
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Control of India at the beginning of the 18th century is up for grabs. The 200 year long rule of the Grand Moguls is collapsing, but they still have some power. Now is the time for the Maharishis and princes to take control of the Indian subcontinent. The players use strategy and cunning to win influence over northwestern India, province by province and city by city. The most successful player (and the winner) is the one who establishes the most magnificent palaces and has the most power in the end.
The board is divided into 12 Indian provinces. In the game, the players will visit each of the provinces just once. In each visit, the players compete, using their cards, for the influence available in the current province. Each visit consists of several rounds and in each round, the players, in turn order, can either play 1 or 2 cards or completely withdraw from the visit. When a player withdraws, he compares the cards he has played in the visit with those played by his opponents. The player wins influence in forces that he has more symbols for on his cards than any other player. There are two important targets for the players:
- Winning the right to rule the province, symbolized by the elephant, adds the economic power of the province to the player.
- Winning control over the prominent forces, like Vizier or Monk, gives the player rule of individual cities and their spheres of influence, which may extend beyond the borders of the province.
In both ways, players may score influence points in each province.
After all twelve provinces have been visited, the player with the most influence points is the winner.
Players: 3 - 5
Time: 75 - 100 minutes
Ages: 12 and up
Est. time to learn: 20-30 minutes
Weight: 1,098 grams
Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.
- 1 game board
- 100 palaces
- 5 scoring markers
- 2 black figures
- 100 cards
- 2 gold rings (crowns)
- 12 octagonal province tiles
- 24 oval influence tiles
- 16 bonus tiles (15 square & 1 Taj Mahal)
Average Rating: 4.7 in 20 reviews
I brought this game after reading the reviews and was not disappointed. The rules are pretty complicated if you don't have anyone to help you out with. When I played this first, we did get some of the rules wrong but now they don't seem that bad.
I really like the strategy aspect of the game. I think that this game has more strategy and less luck than Settlers of Catan since in Settlers you are waiting for your lucky numbers rolled but instead in this game you have to plan your way in each city so that you play your cards just right for that round and also plan appropriate for the next rounds. The special cards are very important and each one of them is important to a certain strategy for the game. The emperor is important if you are looking for the most connections between cities, the elephant comes in handy for winning cities, +2 and change color are always useful.
I have played with only 3 players and have found it to be quite interesting. I would recommend this game to anyone who is looking to spend 1-2 hours on a game with good strategy options.
I've read numerous excellent reviews of Taj Mahal and decided to give it a try yesterday and it turned out to be a good buy :)
Initially, we had a hard time trying to understand the rules, but fortunately a guy from another gaming group came over and taught us the game :) We played a 5 players game and I ended up last, but I really enjoyed the game... the mechanism of game play is original and innovative... requires a lot of brain work when deciding what card to play and which cards to choose... all in all, it's a good game... I would rank Taj Mahal to be on par with great games like Puerto Rico and EVO...
Is it poker? Better. It plays with cards but removes the luck. Add to that some glorious tile-play and decision-making and you've got one heck of a brain burner.
Knizia bears his stamp on Taj Mahal more than any other game designer has shown their personality in a game. The several, simultaneous methods of scoring that are impressively balanced; cumulative scoring that creates momentum and flow to the game; the agonizing choices; and, an original, but skin-deep theme (I still can't remember the name of the green guy - I just call them the 'green guy').
This is a game that's hard to win. The fights just keep getting harder and it's usually the pressure that forces one to make a bad decision - the sign of a solid game.
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When the tension of poker meets one of Dr. Knizia's awesome multilevel scoring systems, the result is an experience your opponents might find Agra-vating. Indian provinces await your scheming designs to control their influential forces, with cards showing combinations of the symbols representing them. Deal six cards to each player, lay out the required faceup supply, and settle one province per round. Play one card per turn until you decide to quit. You then control a provincial force if your revealed cards show more of its symbols than any other contestant's cards. Your rewards are commodities, tiles to be accumulated for special privileges, a palace built in a city which might offer a bonus, and related Victory Points. Add one or two faceup cards to your hand for the next round. The last player left may keep playing cards to increase his fortune. The thrilling card play, plus a bewildering menu of elusive strategies, makes for two hours of exotic fun.
I'm sure there is nothing that can be said about Reiner that has not been said before; so I'll simply say that, whether you buy it in Germany, Great Britain or the U.S.A., this game is excellent value for money.
I must admit, the theme appeals to me immensely--anything to do with this area, the Himalayas, the Silk Road, Tibet, etc. Taj Mahal is, not surprisingly, set in North West India, in the early 18th century. The power of the Moguls is rapidly diminishing, so the Maharajas and Princes are vying for control.
So, what do we get for our money? Firstly, the board, which represents 12 provinces, 11 of which contain 4 cities, whilst the 12th one has 5 as it includes the site of the Taj Mahal at Agra. 16 of the cities represent fortresses and all the cities are connected by roads. In one corner is a small area--the Court of the Grand Moguls--and, as appears to be par for the course these days, a score track runs around the edge of the board. I should mention here that the board has given rise to the one single gripe (as opposed to whinge) that I've heard about the game. The provinces are shown in various pastel(ish) colours which, to some eyes, may not be too readily distinguishable. I agree that Ravensburger could possibly have done better here, although it causes me no problems and, once the game gets under way, you will have other more important things to worry about.
There are 20 palaces in each of five drabbish but probably realistic colours, which look as though they should interlock but don't--and don't need to! We also have 100 cards (illustrations only, no text!); 12 octagonal province tiles which also depict a province's economic power commodity-wise--rice, tea, spices and jewels; 24 influence tiles representing the political, military, religious and social forces; and 16 bonus tiles, plus a few other bits and bobs.
The cards have background shades in one of four different colours or white. Each card carries a combination of six different symbols (not six per card, though) which represent the four forces shown on the influence tiles together with the Grand Moguls (control of the Crown) and Elephants (control of the province and its economic resources).
After the set-up, each province on the board contains a numbered tile placed at random, except that the province with Agra is always number 12. Each fortress city contains a bonus tile, again randomly placed; and the Court of the Grand Moguls contains one of each type of influence tile, plus a gold ring (OK, plastic) which ring represents the Crown. Each player starts with his stock of 20 palaces in front of him, and a hand of six cards; a card supply equal to one less than twice the number of players is placed in a row face-up next to the board. Number 1 province tile is now placed in the Court of the Grand Moguls, and we're ready to go.
Each province is visited in numerical sequence in the following way. In turn, clockwise, each player either plays 1 or 2 cards or withdraws. This continues until all except one have withdrawn. The remaining player can then choose to play more cards before he too withdraws. If a player chooses to play cards, he must play one coloured card and, if he wishes, either one white card or one special card (more about these later). In other words, he can play 1 or 2, but exactly one must be coloured. In all subsequent turns during a visit to that province, his coloured cards must be the same colour as the one he first played. In visiting the next province, he can again choose any colour for his first card and stick to that colour for that province. Cards are laid openly for all to see.
When a player withdraws, his visit to that province is over and he lays no more cards. He compares the cards he has played with those of his opponents. If his are showing more of one or more types of the four symbols--Vizier, General, Monk or Princess--he takes the relevant influence tile(s) from the Court of the Grand Moguls. Then, for each tile he takes, he places one of his palaces on any empty city in the current province. If he puts it on a fortress city, he takes the bonus tile from it and scores it immediately. If his cards show more Grand Moguls, he takes the Crown, puts it on one of his palaces, then places the palace on a city; but, being a Crown palace, it can go on any city, including an occupied one--but it does not qualify for any bonus tile which may be there. If the withdrawing player has more Elephant symbols, he gains control of the province and its economy. He takes the province tile and scores for that immediately.
When a player withdraws, he moves his score marker accordingly, discards his played cards (if any) and then draws two cards from the face-up supply (the last player gets only one). If he withdraws without playing a card, he draws an extra card from the face-down stack. Not until he has done this, do the remaining players continue laying cards or withdrawing.
As this is a Knizia game, scoring is achieved in more than one way; and you don't always benefit from more than one method each time. Firstly, there are the bonus tiles. According to type, these give you either 2 points (4 for the one on Agra), one extra card from the face-down stack, or 1 point for a commodity. Commodity tiles can be quite useful because, whenever you pick up another one or a province tile, you score again for any of that commodity which you already have in front of you. As all province tiles except the first one depict two different commodities, your score can move along at a decent rate if you can regularly pick up province and/or bonus tiles. But, of course, as soon as other players foresee this happening, you soon find out who your friends are!
The other main method of scoring depends on the placement of your palaces. Basically you score 1 point if you build at least 1 palace in the current province--even if you build four palaces, you still score just 1 point for the province. But you also score 1 point for each additional province (not city) where you have a palace directly connected by roads and your own palaces to your own palace(s) in the current province. Any city without one of your own palaces, breaks the connection. It's not unusual to score half a dozen points in this way.
When the last remaining player has finally withdrawn, scored, discarded and taken the last card, the visit to that province ends. Then the Court of the Grand Moguls is set up again ready for the next province, and so on.
But, just before that happens, if any player now has two influence tiles of the same type--Vizier, General, Monk or Princess--he hands them in and gains control of the relevant special card. These four cards are also white, but are set aside at the beginning of the game. When a player has control of one or more of them, he can play them just like any other white card (only with a colour card, and then only one white card per turn). However, when a player withdraws, he takes the special card back into his hand instead of discarding it. But, if another player has two of the relevant influence tiles at the end of a visit, that player then gains the card. Each special card gives a different advantage
- + 1 Elephant
- + 1 Grand Mogul
- + 2 Points
- Colour change--this can be played with a card of any colour; but, on his next turn, the player must revert to the colour with which he started the visit.
The game ends after the visit to the twelfth province has been completed. And we now have a further (and sometimes decisive) means of scoring. Each player scores for cards still in his hand; 1 point for each special card, 1 point for each white card, and 1 point for each card of his longest colour.
And that's it really. The player furthest round the score track wins, while the others probably whinge, and first-timers usually say "I'll play completely differently next time".
Decisions, decisions, decisions!. Firstly, do you withdraw without playing a card, thus getting a better choice of card pick-ups plus an extra one unseen? It can be very important to build up your hand in this way, particularly if if an upcoming province has something crucial for you, but then what do you pick up? If you decide to play, what do you aim for? And then when do you withdraw? (You've got to eventually!). How many cards are you prepared to risk--perhaps for nothing? When do you play a white card or a special card? Do you stay in and hope to force others to withdraw? If others withdraw before you, will they build in a particular city and ruin your planned network? (In that case, you nee the Crown if it hasn't already gone ). Do you try for a particular influence tile, either to enable you to control a special card or to prevent another player from taking one which you already control? Then, when you've sorted all that out, where do you build your palaces? Do you go for bonus tiles? Is it worth missing an opportunity to extend your own network so that you can prevent an opponent from building in a city to his own advantage? A final decision when visiting province number 12--can you gain more points by picking up cards to increase your longest colour, or by playing cards to hopefully gain points in other ways but at the cost of running down your longest colour? My brain hurts!!
But, despite all this, the game rolls along at a decent pace. The only pure luck is in the six cards you are dealt at the very beginning; but, because of the choices available, you can't really have a duff hand. In my book, Taj Mahal is Reiner at his brilliant best. If this doesn't get him a well-deserved SdJ, then either there ain't no justice, or else something beyond my highest hopes will have to appear during the next few months. BUY, PLAY, ENJOY!