Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Taxi Derby

Game: Taxi Derby

Publisher: Skipshot Games

Designer: Brady Hunt, Romney Trejo

Year: 2020

Pick-up and deliver games are some of our favourites. There’s something immensely satisfying about planning efficient ways to deliver goods from point to point, whether it’s the typical theming in train games, post-apocalyptic worlds in Wasteland Express Delivery Service or fulfilling missions a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away in one of the latest games in the genre, Star Wars: Outer Rim. These themes range from a genre thought of as heavy and boring, to an effort to spice things up for the genre. Back down to earth and you can deliver pizza in Papa Paolo, but perhaps one of the most basic of pick up and deliver themes is running a taxi service, and that’s the focus of Taxi Derby.


Taxi Derby is coming to Kickstarter in August 2019, from first time publishers, Skipshot Games. They’re certainly getting things right with the quality of the artwork in the game, and we’ve had the chance to play the prototype so we can tell you more about it.


Gameplay

At the start of a game of Taxi Derby you shuffle and place the boards in a 2x2 configuration to create the map for the game. You then place a stack of customer tokens on each of the marked locations and a number of upgrades in each upgrade shop depending on the player count. Each player then takes a player board, one random upgrade token, and places their taxi outside the marked building for their colour.

Each turn a player can move as far as they want and perform up to two actions. The first of these two actions must be performed within the first 4 spaces of their movement. There are 3 actions in the game: Picking up a customer (you can carry up to 2 and may need certain upgrades in your car to pick up more demanding customers) dropping off customers at their destination for money, and buying upgrades (you can only do this if your car has no passengers in it).


Once you have finished your turn you move the patrol car. If you moved 4 or less spaces then you were driving legally and the police will pay you no head, letting you move the patrol car along as you like. However if you move 5 or more spaces then the police are chasing you for your reckless speeding. When this happens you roll the four sided die and multiply the result by the number of spaces above the speed limit (of 4) you moved. If the police catch you then you are given a parking ticket, which may result in you having to pay a fine of money or downgrade your car. Failure to do so kicks all your passengers out of the vehicle and drags you to the police station.

At the end of the game players add up all the money they earned during the game, then are awarded bonuses for most of every passenger type, least tickets, most upgrades on their car. Finally there is a bonus for the player who traveled the furthest in 1 turn without being caught by the police.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Taxi Derby is a pick-up and deliver game that keeps things simple. There are people that you want to take to a certain place for points, do that lots, perhaps buy the odd upgrade or two to do it better and earn more money. This core gameplay is done well and is extremely easy to learn. Where things get more complex is in speeding, move more than 4 spaces in a turn and the police will be after you. Here you have to take some calculated risks, you will be rolling a d4 and multiplying it by how much you sped. So going a little over the speed limit is pretty safe to do most turns. But sometimes that reward is just worth it, an extra couple of points of movement lets you do an extra action this turn rather than next, and since you are limited on actions, not speed, it's very tempting to be reckless.


Often though the risk is hardly worth the reward, particularly in a two player game we found the cops were hounding us so constantly that it was hard to find a good excuse to go faster than 5/6 spaces. If we were both doing things on the same map tile then the police would be breathing down our necks. But since the speed is multiplied, even being on the other side of the map doesn't make you safe if you roll a 4. It does feel that perhaps a d3 would have been a slightly better die to use, or perhaps the fines to be weighted based on how fast you were going (my opponent travels 14 spaces and gets off with a warning, I travel 5 and get a 4 money fine!?).

Upgrading your car feels suitably rewarding. There are 4 upgrades in the game and each can be bought 3 times to further enhance it. The first time you buy an upgrade you unlock all the passengers who want that upgrade, the second time you get a special power and increase the money from associated customers, and the third time you increase that monetary bonus even further. However upgrades are extremely limited, and in a 2 player game you may find you can't even reach level 3 on some tracks!

Overall Taxi Derby fills an unusual gap in the market, a simple and quick pick up and deliver game. There is quite a bit of dice luck involved as soon as players start speeding, but if you don't enjoy that you can always calculate the worst case scenario and only speed a little to stay safe. 


 Fi’s Final Thoughts

From the title alone, the mechanisms of Taxi Derby are quite predictable - pick up passengers, take them to the places they want to go, earn fares and those fares will be your victory points at the end of the game. Taxi Derby does two key things to elevate itself above this basic premise. The first is theme. All passengers are individuals and most are looking for something specific from their ride - they might need Wifi, or want a bit of a luxury service - you can only pick up passengers who match with your car. Passengers also fall into different categories, like spies, shoppers or criminals and all of this feeds into your in-game and end-game scoring. The little details like their preferences and character names really add something to the game so that I find myself describing my actions thematically - something that very, very few games get me to do.

The second way in which Taxi Derby becomes interesting is by adding push-your-luck mechanisms into the mix. If you stick to the speed limit you'll have no problems, but if you want to get a little bit more done, you can speed as fast as you like. If you speed, then, based on a dice roll, the police car will move between one and four spaces per additional space you moved above the speed limit. They'll always move directly towards you and if you get caught you're busted and you get a ticket. You can calculate your risks, but ultimately, if you roll a four on a d4, then you are almost always in a bad place, because that police car can travel a long way, even if you create a long thin board, rather than the 2x2 square. Getting busted feels pretty rubbish when you are really unlucky and then the deck of tickets is also luck as to whether you'll be able to pay the fine or suffer sometimes huge consequences, like losing all of you passengers and going to the police station. Piling luck of the draw deck onto luck of the dice feels like a bit too much and I sometimes wish that the consequence fit the crime eg. If you roll a 1 and get busted something worse happens than if you roll a four and get busted. The tickets are hilarious, but not always related to the crime you committed!

Overall, Taxi Derby is a light pick up and deliver game, which is something we don't come across too often. The theme and the mechanisms are accessible and the artwork and humour really bring it to life. If you like the sound of these mechanisms, but don't want to introduce your friends with a 2-hour game, then 45 minutes with Taxi Derby might be just the ticket!


You Might Like...
  • The unique aspect of Taxi Derby is that you can drive as far as you like to meet your objectives, it’s just risky to do so!
  • The passengers on the board and the upgrades for your taxi allow you to build up a strategy, as well as planning optimistic routes.
  • It’s really easy to get into the theme, because it’s so familiar and the character names have a lot of simple charm.
You Might Not Like...
  • Taxi Derby doesn’t have the complexity of most pick-up and delivery games, so might not be enough you if you’re a big fan of the genre.
  • You don’t need to push your luck, but you might get unlucky with the dice more times than feels fair, as well as receiving tickets that are worse than others.

The Verdict
Taxi Derby is a simple pick-up and deliver experience, with some added risk elements. The theme and art are really strong and the game would make a great introduction to pick up and deliver for a family audience. Its combination of push your luck and optimisation puzzliness makes Taxi Derby a highly interactive game of ups and downs, with moments where you get away with crazy moves and moments where you're cursing your own zeal.


Taxi Derby was a prototype kindly provided to us by Skipshot Games. It launches on Kickstarter on 7th August 2019. All photos are of (very good) prototype components and may not represent the final game.

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