TABLE GAME REVIEW: Ticket to Ride

We seem to be living through a Golden Age for board games in terms of profile, accessibility and sheer volume of releases. Many of us grew up in households with old favorites like Monopoly, or Cluedo, and these are still staples, but from light, cross-generational game to hardcore epics, there has probably never been a time with more, and better games available to players of all stripes. One of the common gateway games for this new generation of plenty is Days of Wonder’s Ticket to Ride, a game of building railways across America with tiny plastic trains.

Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.

In a strange way, Ticket to Ride is a game you play on your own, alongside other players whose presence is felt mainly by the narrowing of your options as they play their own parallel game. How it works in this. You have a supply of trains, and a board which shows a lot of potential routes you can fill up with those trains. To fill a route, you need to play a number of cards from your hand that match the colour and length of the route you want, and each route scores you points. You also have “Tickets”, long, multi-route chains between desinations that earn you lots of points if you complete, and cost you points if you don’t. Each turn you can draw a card or two, play a route, to choose more tickets. And thats it.

tt_usa_img1As you can see there isn’t much in the way of direct interaction between players, no trading, and nothing like combat. However, as the game goes on, and the board starts to fill up with taken routes, getting from location to location can start to get a little hairy, and as the game end creeps nearer, and your pool of trains to play gets smaller, other peoples actions on the board become more and more critical. This lack of direct conflict also means its a great game for beginners, and there isn’t really much advantage to giving poor advice, and you could in theory play with completely open card hands to help out younger players.

A full game of Ticket to Ride will take a couple of hours at most, even with relatively inexperienced players. The turns rattle around quickly, so the pacing is excellent and you’re rarely waiting for things to happen. You find yourself always planning, always looking ahead to where you need to building next, and always trying to work out where other players may be competing with you. You don’t earn points until the end of the game, so even trying to work out who is in the strongest position can involve a lot of guesswork. It keeps interest right up to the final count, and you’d have to be really, really unlucky to be “locked out” of at least being competitive.

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The default version of the game is set around building Railways (sorry, RailRoads) across North America, but the success of Ticket to Ride meant it didn’t stop there. A Europe edition has a different board, and also tunnels and ferrys (which are harder to build) and Stations (which allow you to “borrow” routes for the purposes of completing Tickets) that mix up the gameplay. There is a German edition, and board expansion for Asia, Africa, India and The Netherlands (for some reason). There is even a version that adds an alien and a dinosaur that rampage around the board, if you like that sort of thing.

Ticket to Ride is one of the classic modern board games and rightly so. It’s fun, quick and intuitive, and plays for any age range from about 8 upwards. Its the sort of game that if you fancy yourself as any sort of Board Gamer you should have played, if not own.

ticket-to-ride-board-game

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Rating: 5/5

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