Taj Mahal has been on my "must play soon" list for a couple years now. I scored a German version on E-Bay at least two years ago, but forces beyond my control have conspired against the game actually hitting the table. I finally had a chance to play Taj Mahal at BGG.CON. I ended up playing several times. Taj Mahal represents Herr Knizia at his best.
The game does feel a lot like poker, as I had long read. Players are constantly faced with playing the odds, or playing a hunch. Do I fold now and take a small victory having only expended a card or two? Is there more to be gained by staying in the bidding? Are my opponents bluffing? Is this region worth the effort or are there more points to be gleaned in another region?
Those of you who have had the opportunity to play know exactly what I am talking about. Those who haven't had the opportunity are left wondering, "Is that any different than any other game?" Yes. It is different.
Every round there are 6 items that can be claimed. Every turn players have the opportunity to play one card face up. Each card only has 2 items on it. If on your turn you have more of the appropriate symbols of a given item than any of your opponents you may "fold" and claim the item(s). You then get to draw two, and only two, cards to replenish your hand. Scoring is based upon set collection, and linking regions on the board by winning and placing castles.
With more play I can see Taj Mahal replacing Puerto Rico as my second most favorite game. I don't see it replacing Tigris and Euphrates as my favorite game.
I also had the chance to play Canal Mania. CM seems to be getting a little backlash after receiving some promising introductory praise. I liked the game. I liked it a lot. However it might not offer enough change from game to game to make the long term cut.
Canal Mania is another
I will be buying Canal Mania when it is widely available. Until I've had a chance get a couple more games under my belt I'll give it a solid 8.
In case you haven't heard the buzz, the Wits and Wagers people have made a deal to have their game available in Target stores. (Contrast that with Hasbro's decision to destroy all the remaining copies of "Vegas Showdown" just as it won the Games Magazine "Game of the Year" award). Wits and Wagers could be another small publisher hit similar to Apples to Apples. The game has enough mass market appeal that your relatives might be suggesting a game over the holidays. I recommend getting familiar with Wits and Wagers, playing with a grateful attitude, and using the opportunity as a springboard to suggest a family game of Twilight Imperium.
Lastly, since many of you are tired of BGG.CON after action reports, I will bury my praise at the end of this entry. The convention was truly the most fun I have had in a long, long time. The staff and volunteers did a marvelous job of running and putting the con together. The attendees were a pleasure to be around. I met many great people who I was hoping to meet, and met many, many more who I was not familiar with before the convention. I made the acquaintance of at least a half dozen people who I had never met before who I would not now hesitate to call a friend. I would encourage anyone reading this blog to try and attend next year. BGG.CON really was as much fun as you have been lead to believe.