Ticket to Ride, the classic board game of planes, trains and automobiles, well. Trains at least.
When creator, Alan Moon and publisher Days of Wonder first released Ticket to Ride back in 2004, they had little idea that it would go on to be one of the most successful games of recent years, reportedly selling in excess of 3 million copies. Upon it’s release it was nominated for one of the most prestigious accolades in the board game world, the Spiel De Jahres and won Not to mention the slew of spinoffs, expansions, extra map collections and even a smartphone/tablet app emulating the game that it has spawned due to it’s popularity.
This was the first board game I bought after realising there was more to board gaming than Monopoly and Cluedo. It often pops in lists of the best games to introduce a new gamer to. A ‘Gateway Game’ if there ever was one, it has sparked the gaming imagination of many a player. It’s even managed to reach my mother (a lady who has always had little interest in my hobbies) when one day on a visit to see her she excitedly asked if I’d ever played ‘The Train Game’. I even let her win a game or two.
So, the big question: What do you get in the box?
- 1 Board map of North America,
- 240 coloured train cars,
- 144 coloured train cards,
- 30 destination ticket cards,
- 1 continuous path bonus card,
- 5 wooden scoring tokens,
- and a rules booklet.
Like many of the greatest games the rules are simple (the rule booklet is pleasingly thin at four a4 pages), but the strategies are many.
So, let’s don our ten gallon hats and shout out our best Texan accents as we transform into railway tycoons to claim railway routes across the US of A (and the South of Canada) and become the tycooniest of all the tycoons!
To start with you have a big ol’ pile of trains all one colour in front of you, which you will use to place on the board to claim your routes.
You get dealt three destination cards to link up cities say, New York to L.A or Florida to Chicago, each one is worth a different amount of points at the end of the game if completed. However if you fail to complete the destination those points are deducted from your final score. choose at least two and discard the third if you don’t think you’ll finish it before the end of the game.
During your turn you get three options, either you can pick up up to two of the five colour cards on display at the side of the board, or from the draw deck. You can exchange the colour cards to claim routes, or if you’ve had a lot of luck (or very little) you can pick up more destination cards.
The end of the game is declared once one of the players reaches 0, 1 or 2 trains left. You tote up the end scores, points are awarded for routes placed, destination cards fulfilled (or deducted if not fulfilled) and there’s 10 bonus points on offer for whoever has the longest continuous train chain. The player with the highest point score wins the game!
Whilst the rules are simple, the game play is not.
The strategy planning begins the second you get your destination tickets, you already have so many things to think about. Will it be better to go for the long route and risk not being able to do it, but getting a large reward if you do? Or is it better to go for the shorter routes and getting more of them. Can you link them all up to get that much prized and quite often game deciding longest route card at the end.
This is all before you even come to actually start the game, and the sometimes heartbreaking decisions that go with it. It is better to go for the cards and build them up and risk someone taking the route you needed. Or is it better to place down your trains as soon as possible and risk losing out on the cards that you might need next or later on?
You need to think about all of this within seconds as it is possible that one of your opponents can swoop in and steal that card or route you needed and you’ll be forced to recalibrate your plan with a moments notice, as once a route has been claimed there’s no turning back.
Whilst I think the simple yet hard choices and is what has brought about TTR’s initial popularity, I think this coupled with the game’s cut throat attitude is what has broadened it’s appeal to those not usually interested in board games.
If you’re the kind of person who loves a game of Monopoly and taking over your friends’ properties when they go bankrupt, or take glee in asking for rent on a hotel on Mayfair, when the other player only has a tenner left then you will love Ticket to Ride. There are so many ways to totally screw up your competitors plans (though often you may not know it). It’s a great game for making enemies as well as friends.
So, the games got a pretty good ticklist going on, it has simple rules [tick], great strategy [tick] lost of player interaction [tick] can be a great game for non gamers [tick]. Yet there is one bug bear that I have with TTR, and that is it’s re-playability, after a while you get used to the destination cards and you start relying on lot of the same tactics and the same routes where possible. This can be solved to a certain extent if you purchase the 1910 expansion. This gives you a lot more destination cards and a couple of new rules options for playing.
The 1910 expansion also gives you re-printed, and re-sized coloured cards as the ones you get with the game are tiny for some reason, and these ones are normal playing card size, which makes them a bit easier to hold as well.
The re-playability issue can also be addressed with the map collections that you can buy to freshen things up with a new map of a new country or continent, there are about 5 of these now, the latest including the UK. Despite the basic game play staying the same, each new map has it’s own unique rules to give you something new to sink your teeth in.
I have played TTR Europe, and I have to say I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the original.
This game is recommended, especially if you’re new to the hobby or if you’re looking for something to introduce to a friend who’s new to board gaming.The rules are simple enough to pick up quickly yet the play is complex enough to be interesting without being too daunting, but if you’re already a big fan of board games and looking for the next big juicy game to really get into, with plenty of re-playability then you will probably be best getting your rocks off elsewhere.