In Thurn & Taxis, players build post office routes across Bavaria and the regions around, collecting bonus points in various ways. The board shows a map of all the towns, with roads leading from each one to some its neighbors. There are various colored regions around the board, most with one or two towns, and a large region with all the Bavarian towns in the center.
On your turn, you draw a card showing a particular town into your hand and play a card from your hand in front of you, building up your postal route. When it is at least three towns long, you can cash the route in, placing post houses on the towns. When you place a card, your route must follow the geography on the board. So if you find you can't extend the route legally, it's scrapped and you must start a fresh route! Often, you will have a card in hand to keep your route going, but when you start your turn by drawing a card, you might realize then this is your last chance to push the route, and it's time to cash in.
The trick is, when you cash the route in, you can either place one house in each different region on the route, OR place houses in all the towns of one region in the route. So on one route, you might switch from one region to another, so you can place a lot of houses in different places, or you might build a route which concentrates on one region especially, getting houses into just that region.
There are lots of stacked bonus tiles across the board, with the victory points decreasing as each stack is diminished. You can collect bonus tiles for getting houses in all the towns of a region (or paired regions), bonuses for building routes 5, 6 or 7 houses long, a bonus for having a house in every region (a change from the original rules which didn't require Bavaria) and one bonus point for ending the game.
In addition, as you complete routes, you take a card showing how your postal company is growing, starting at a three route up to a seven route. The latest gives you more victory points at the game end, but you have to grow your company steadily.
Finally, you have some help from the postal staff, who give you only one extra action a turn: flush the six face up cards pick up an extra card at the start of your turn place two cards onto your route gain two places when taking a company card (so a four route can let you take the 5 or 6 route company card for example). But you only get one action, so if you drew two cards this turn, you don't get to place two as well. And when you cash in your route, you must discard your hand down to three cards. The game ends when one player places their last post house, or takes a 7 company card (everyone gets to finish the round). Total up all your bonuses, most points win.
Many people liken Thurn & Taxis to Ticket To Ride, and there are clear similarities. But Thurn & Taxis has little player interaction, except when you might see that I need a card and you take it before me, or flush the face up cards. Other than that, there is no blocking routes on the board. The board is open to every one, and you can usually tell when the game will end. It's more a question of nerve and timing.
Do you have enough time to build a longer route? Will the right cards come up to push your route longer? Or do you build lots of small routes and snatch the bonuses quickly? There are choices in Thurn & Taxis, but the game mostly turns on your own decisions and some luck in the cards.
From the publisher "A real challenge for strategists: build a new postal stagecoach operation. But what does the best connection look like? Do you plan a short but difficult route, play it safe instead? With the right strategy, this game lets players build routes and stagecoaches, found offices in cities and expand into new countries. All the while making good use of public departments and having a lucky hand when planning new routes. Thurn und Taxis: The mail's here!"