Ticket To Ride Review

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.

ticket to ride app 1

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?

ticket to ride contents

  • 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.

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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.

 

 

 

ticket to ride colour cardsDuring 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!

ticket to ride board

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?

ticket to ride mid play

 

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.

tt-mc5_inside

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. 

★★★★

 

 

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Card Game: Gloom

2-4 players. Ages 13+. Approx 60 mins.

Gloom, the fun filled family game of disaster, distress and er, death. I know, this doesn’t seem too family friendly, but this game is great and can be enjoyed by kids of all ages (OK maybe not the really, really young). When I first opened the box and read the rules I could only think it’s a little like Happy Families: The Addams Family version. In this game you’ll be subjecting your chosen family to a barrage of vicious, strange, unfortunate and really rather amusing events.

gloom in the box

So, the eternal question! What’s in the box? Thankfully, Brad Pitt can sleep soundly as there are no severed heads, at least I haven’t come across one yet. What you do get is massive stack of wonderfully macabre, plastic playing cards (16 family cards, the rest are modifiers, events and untimely death cards… Yep, I wasn’t joking about the death part) and a set of instructions. Rather like Adventure Time Love Letter that I reviewed last week, this is a small, simple yet complex game. 

Game play begins with everyone picking a family that they’re going to subject to various misfortunes and also grabbing 5 cards from the draw pile to form a hand of cards. In a nice themed touch whoever has had the worst day gets to start (I love a themed ‘who goes first’ rule), they then choose two cards to play or discard, and then draw back up to five. You place your modifier, untimely death or event cards on top of any family member (even your opponents families if you want to), as these are opaque in the middle you can see who it is and what their current score is. The score is your family member’s self worth and can be found in the circles down the side, which differ from card to card, and can be cancelled out by new cards laid on top. There is no limit to how many cards can be laid on top, however if you play an Untimely Death card, you must turn over the bottom, family card (the one with the picture on it) so you know they have died and they can no longer have cards placed on top. Once all the members of one family have sadly passed onto the next world the game ends, you tot up your self worth and whoever has the lowest wins the game! Hooray! Or should that just be an unenthusiastic yay?

GloomHand

One thing to note at this point, the game play is simple, and can be picked up easily, however it did take us a few rounds to really get to grips with it and to clarify a few things in the rules. So the rule leaflet could do with a little make over just to make it a little more clear and concise.

OK, so I really enjoyed this game. If you’re the sort of person who has a dark sense of humour, finds the macabre fascinating, or if you just like interesting mechanics in card games you’re going to enjoy this. There are two main things that makes this game stand out from others out there as something a bit different. First is it’s basic game play of having those plastic cards that you can see through, they stack and layer up you only ever score what you can see, so you can cover up one score with another, which can be brilliant if you have a card that will give someone a +10 self worth and you put it on your friends card with a -25 on it. As you’re layering more cards on your characters the second great thing comes more into play: the theme. It is like playing something that could be Addams Family themed, every card is unique, the family members all have names and a brief description and background. The rest of the cards are unique and have titles like was Pierced by Porcupines (-15), was Pestered by Poltergeists (-20) and Was Delighted By Ducklings (+10), The rules encourage you to come up with a story for how that character befell into that state or event, which can result in some weird, wonderful and down right bizarre story lines, in that respect it can feel a little like Frenzy (an RPG where you get to create and star in your own Coen Brothers movie). Even if you don’t go too far down the story telling avenue the cards are funny all on their own, and there are positive ones, which you can place on your opponents families and mess up all their plans. There’s something so satisfying about being able to annoy your friends in a good game. It is these reasons why I really liked Gloom. It’s just a relaxing, funny game. Great for having a few drinks with friends and just having a laugh at all the horrible things you’re subjecting your poor family members to throughout the game. 

gloom in play

The box states that it can take up to an hour. It took us a little less than that, but we weren’t concentrating on the story telling aspect too much, but if you did want to, an hour sounds about right. Maybe even more if you really went to town on the story telling aspect. This relatively long play time (for a small box card game) can make it a bit prohibitive, you’re not going to want to take this out with you, like to the pub say, or out on a picnic like can with other cards in the small box category.

This would make a great game in any games cupboard. Especially if you’re a lover of story telling, and interesting card mechanics. The long play time can have some drawbacks for a small box game, but for others it could be a massive positive. Another slight drawback is the box, it could do with a slight re-design as it can can get a little tattered around the edges quickly when you’re taking the cards in and out, but so long as you take care of it, it shouldn’t rip. The rule leaflet definitely needs looking into a bit further, as I felt that it could be a bit clearer, I had to check and re-check through it a few times to clarify certain bits and pieces, but once you get there the rules are simple enough to remember and to teach to new players.

gloom expansions

There’s enough cards to give it a great amount of re-play-ability and even if you get bored of those cards there are at least 3 expansions with more macabre cards and events to bestow upon your family. There are even different versions like the Cthulhu and Fairy Tales addition. So, if you want to get your macabre story telling jive on, I suggest you bring a little Gloom into your life. 

★★★★☆

 

Card Game: Adventure Time Love Letter

2-4 players. Ages 10+. Play Time 20 Mins. (Approx £10)

First off this is a beautiful game in more way than one.

So, let’s have a look at what we get in the box. You get 16 beautifully decorated cards, 13 Tokens of Affection, 4 reference cards and 1 small yet perfectly formed instruction booklet. That’s it, all you get. and yet for what seems like so little you get a lot of fun.

adventure time cards

The theme has been well thought out with all your favourite characters present, we’ve got (among others) Finn and Jake, LSP, Marceline, The Ice King, and of course, the main show Princess Bubblegum, who we will all be trying to get our love missive to with all the vigour of vying for the last piece of chicken in a KFC family bucket. The cards have all had some wonderful work put into them and are all given a level between 1 and 8. The characters have all been placed in period costume, in keeping with the feeling of the original version of Love Letter and gives a feeling an old fashioned romance story (think Cyrano De Bergerac meets Cartoon Network). The tokens of affection have been adapted as well, the wooden red cubes of the original version have been replaced with odd shaped multi-colour plastic tokens, another well thought out addition in keeping with the theme.

.love letter original

Original Love Letter.

The instructions are really clear, concise and small. A sign of a good game is short yet clear instructions in my opinion. They even include little quick reference cards for each player, though all the cards state on them what they do when discarded the reference cards do come in handy for learning what all the cards are and what they do. Once you know all the different cards (there are only 8 different things that they do) you can probably leave them in the box. 

The play goes in rounds, at the start of the round you receive one card each with a draw pile in the middle. When it comes to your turn you pick up one card put in your hand and choose which of the two in your hand you would like to discard, each card having a different effect when discarded (the cards all state on them what they do, and any further clarification can be found in the rules booklet). The end of the round occurs when there are no more cards left, with whoever has the highest number on their card winning the round. They get their letter delivered to the princess and receive a token of affection in return. The end of the round can also occur before this if all players bar one gets knocked out due to the cards played. The winner of the game is declared once one player gets to 4, 5 or 7 tokens of affection collected, depending on how may players there are.

 

advenure time game play cropped

The pick a card and play a card nature of the game makes it beautifully simple. There is only ever one choice to make each turn, and yet it can be an agonisingly hard one at times. With The Gossip (level 3) card you can choose another player to show your hand to, whoever has the lower number gets knocked out the round, sometimes this can be a dead cert if you have The Princess (level 8, the highest level) or risky business if your other card is only, say The Hero (level 4), there’s a good chance your opponent has a higher value card. There are cards that can protect you from other player’s conniving plans, there are cards that can help to ruin other people’s plan. It’s so simple, you can pick it up and be playing within a few minutes, and yet as is often the case with it’s simplicity out comes the complexity of the decisions you have to make.

Depending on what cards pop up the round can last a few seconds or several minutes. The quick rounds make it a quick game, less than 30 mins so, along with it’s small but mighty size it’s great to take with you and have a little game on a long journey, or if you’re having a picnic in the park, a quick pint down the pub, or as a starter game for a games night!

Over all this is a great small game. it’s so simple to pick up and yet it can be taxing as you’re trying to guess what cards your opponents have and which card would be best to discard. It’s a great game for kids, (the box says 10+ but I would say that kids a bit younger than this would be able to play and enjoy it too) especially this Adventure Time version or even just a time filler or as a starter game for a big games night.  I highly recommend Adventure Time Love Letter. The game play is the same as the original so if Adventure Time is not your bag there are various other versions like Batman, The Hobbit and the good ol’ original version to choose from too.

★★★★★