Gary had just played his last train carriage, signalling the final round. The game is tight and I only have four trains left. What to do?
I can’t complete any more routes, but maybe someone else can, can I block them? It’s doubtful, the cards in my hand aren’t great, and at this point in the game everyone has either completed their routes or been thwarted already. Aah! But wait, I have three red cards, and there’s Zagreb to Sarajevo, come to daddy! It might not mean much to you, but that’s just given me the longest continuous path… and the game!
- Designer: Alan R. Moon
- Publisher: Days of Wonder
- Year Released: 2005
- Players: 2-5
- Playing Time: 30 – 60 minutes
- Ages: 8+
- Recommended Retail Price: £37.99
Ticket to Ride is a card drafting, set collecting, route building game, which sees players racing to complete routes, joining countries across Europe. Is this just for gricers*? Or is it a runaway success for everyone?
* A gricer is a fanatical railway enthusiast – there, you learn something new everyday!
What’s in the box?
- 1 Playing board
- 240 Coloured plastic train carriages (black, blue, green, red, and yellow)
- 15 Coloured plastic train stations (3 each of the above colours)
- 124 Train cards (110 carriage cards, and 14 locomotives)
- 40 Regular route cards
- 6 Long route cards
- 1 Longest path bonus card
- 1 Summary card
- 5 Wooden scoring markers (1 in each of the five colours)
- 1 Rules booklet
The board is a nice and large, linen finish map, representing Europe, with the sepia tones and artwork placing it in the early 20th century. Railways join all the major cities, each in a colour that indicates the requirement to claim it. There is a scoring track running around the outside, which has good-sized numbers that are clear and easy to read.
The plastic train carriages are just over 2cm long and made from rigid plastic. They fit perfectly on the railway tracks and are an ideal size to hold, and place, with your fingers. There are also 3 extra carriages of each colour supplied as spares.
All of the cards are normal playing card size, and are of very good quality with a linen finish. The train cards come in 9 different colours – red, white, yellow, blue, black, pink, green, orange, and multi-coloured – they are also symbolised for those who may be colour blind. Each colour of card is depicted with a type of train car, with the multi-coloured one displaying a locomotive.
Both regular and long route cards, show a representation of the board with the cities to be joined clearly indicated, as well as written below. The points scored for completing the route are also indicated. The long routes are distinguished by having blue as the predominant colour, as well as a symbol in the top right corner.
There are two more cards, one handed out at the end for scoring the longest route, the European Express card, which scores you 10 points, and a card with the scoring table depicted on it.
The wooden scoring markers are nice addition, and are a good chunky size. They are stackable, for when players are on the same score, and easy to see and handle.
The rules are an 8 page booklet, leading you through set-up, object of the game, and the game play. The rules are very easy to understand containing lots of pictures and examples. It also highlights, for players of the first game in the series (Ticket to Ride), the new additions to the game – ferries, tunnels, and train stations.
Finally, the box itself is of good quality, and again, has a linen finish. The art depicts a scene of a locomotive pulling into a Scandinavian station, and though the people in the scene don’t seem to ‘fit’ in the picture, it does give a nostalgic feel to it all. The box inlay contains all the components perfectly, with the board holding everything in place.
How does it play?
- If your familiar with the game play, feel free to ‘Chug’ along to ‘What do I think?’
To set up the game, each player chooses a colour, and receives a set of 45 train carriages, along with 3 matching stations.
Each player places his coloured scoring marker by, but not on, the number 1 of the scoring track.
The train cards are shuffled, and 4 are dealt to each player. The rest are placed alongside the board, and represent the draw pile. Turn over the top 5 cards, laying them face up, next to one another. The train cards come in colours matching the routes on the board; a locomotive card counts as a wild card, and can represent any colour; they are also required to claim ferry routes.
Place the summary card, and the longest route bonus card, next to the board.
Shuffle the long route cards, and deal 1 to each player. Return the rest to the box and then shuffle the regular route cards, dealing 3 to each player. Place the remainder alongside the board. Players look at these, and keeping at least 2, discard to the box those that they do not want.
The object of the game is to score the most points, by –
- Claiming a route linking 2 cities.
- Completing a route as per their destination cards. Points are deducted for incomplete destination cards held in the hand at the end of the game.
- Completing the longest continuous route, irrespective of the cities joined.
- Having unused train stations at the end of the game.
The player having visited the most European countries goes first, and each player must perform one of the following actions:
- Draw Train Car Cards – Either, two cards from the top of the draw pile, two from the face up cards (immediately replacing them with cards from the draw pile), or a combination of the two. If a face up locomotive is taken, then this must be the only card drawn.
- Claim a route – A player claims a route linking two cities by playing cards from their hand that match the colour and quantity of the route spaces. Playing a set of any colour can claim a grey route. Ferry routes are classed as grey routes, but must contain at least the amount of locomotives indicated on the route. Tunnel routes, which are identified by a boarder around their spaces, are claimed in the following manner – The player plays the number of appropriately coloured cards in the normal manner; The top three cards of the draw pile are revealed, if any match the colour played to claim the route, then the player must play an additional card from his hand for each match. Once a route has been claimed, the train cards used are placed in a discard pile (formed next to the draw pile), and the route is scored, depending upon its length. The players scoring marker is moved the appropriate number of places on the scoring track.
- Build a train station – A player can build a station on any city that does not already have one. To build their first station they discard a single train card; the second requires a discard of two cards the same colour, and the third, three cards. A station enables its owner to use one of the routes belonging to another player, leading to or from that city; thus helping them to complete a destination ticket. The owner of the station decides which route to use at the end of the game.
- Draw destination tickets – The player draws three destination tickets, and must keep at least one.
A note on routes – By looking at the board it can be seen that certain cities are joined by two parallel, and identical in length, routes. In a 2 or 3 player game, either, but only one, of these routes can be claimed.
The game ends when one player ends their turn with two or fewer, plastic trains left to play. Play continues until all players, including this player, have had one more turn.
Each player then reveals their destination tickets and final scores are calculated. For those that they have completed, the indicated score is added to their total, and for those that are incomplete, the score is subtracted from their total. For each station a player has not placed, they add 4 points to their total. A check is made to determine the longest continuous route a player has made. The European Express card is awarded to the player with the longest route, and they score an additional 10 points – Continuous routes can contain loops, and pass through the same city several times. If players are tied on length, they each receive the extra 10 points.
The player with the most points wins the game.
So, what do I think?
Before I move onto the game, let’s take a look at the components.
The board is large, but then it needs to be, any smaller and it would start to feel cluttered. The colours are easily distinguishable, and for those who may be colour-blind, the different colours are differentiated by symbols.
The cards each have a different train carriage depicted, depending on its colour, and though fairly plain, the colour stands out so you can see at a glance what you have in your hand. The backs of the card have a combined image of a locomotive and clock face, which I though gave them a nice air of nostalgia.
The destination cards containing the map image and an indication of the where the cities are located, is a great touch, especially when playing with children, allowing them to easily find the cities on the game board.
The little plastic coloured carriages are really neat, and the game looks fantastic in play, sparking a smile from those who enjoyed playing with model trains in their youth! It’s also nice to see the inclusion of a few extra pieces of each colour included, ideal for when one ends up hiding under the sofa!
The wooden scoring markers are a nice size, you can actually pick them up, unlike some games I could mention (Tokaido!). They also stack nicely, and being wooden, they have a little more weight so they don’t ping off at the slightest nudge of the board – though the plastic trains will scatter, taking a bit of time to re-align.
I’m not sure why the scoring reference card has been included, as it’s duplicated clearly on the board, but it’s there if needed.
The rules are excellent, very easy to follow and understand, and once you’ve played through the game once or twice, you’ll probably never refer to them again!
Finally, I’m not a total fan of the box art. I like the background picture of the loco, but it’s the figures in the foreground. For starters they look like they’ve been added as an afterthought, and secondly, they just don’t seem to gel with the background. Of course, art is a personal thing, and I’m sure there are plenty out there who will quite like it, but for me, I think they could have done better.
Now, on to the game.
Ask the majority of gamers to name a great gateway game, and Ticket to Ride will probably be the first on the list. It’s easily accessible to people dabbling into the hobby for the first time, but it also has a much wider appeal than just being an easy introductory game.
Its continued success since the release of the original is highly justifiable, but why?
It is simple to learn, it is easy to play, and yet it also has a depth of strategy and divergence of game play that will keep you coming back.
Ok, here’s what I mean – When you first play the game, you’ll probably be focused on completing the destinations you were given at the start, desperately not wanting to receive those negative points at the game’s end. Your concentration will be fixed upon planning a route from one city to another; players will get in each others way, sure, but mostly through going about their own business. The game will end, scores will be totalled, and everyone will have had an enjoyable game.
By game three of four though, you’ll find a different game emerging. You’ll be looking around at what everyone else is doing, and thinking, ‘Where can I block them, whilst not being detrimental to myself?’ The game takes on a slightly more tactical feel, as you concentrate on completing your destination cards.
Moving on another few games, and you start to figure out how to score more heavily. You learn that the destination cards are really the driving force of the game, and it’s not a case of just trying to complete the few you were dealt with. No, it’s all about trying to complete as many as possible, by drawing and using destination cards intelligently. Keep those that enable you to extend, or slightly diverge, your planned route, and discard those that prove to be too far away.
At this point the game has become a grand tactical battle between the players; blocking others in just the right place can give a big burst of satisfaction, whilst been thwarted just before you complete your main route can lead to total failure, and the sound of your head hitting the table!
But that’s not everything, the game offers a different experience with varying player count, and this is what I mean when I say it has a divergence of game play.
At two players, the board is uncluttered, and the chances of successfully blocking the other player, is quite low. So, you concentrate on completing as many destination cards as possible, it in fact becomes a race. You’ll both score heavily, often hoarding cards at the start whilst drawing the odd new destination card. Then you’ll start to lay your routes, trying to form the most economical way of joining your cities together, but you have to be aware – that European Express card could just swing the game!
As you increase the player count the game play changes. Players start to get in each other’s way, confounding you at every turn. A well-placed station can be a winner, and blocking others now becomes a more prominent part of the game. Drawing destination cards is better in the middle game, and can play out either way, though being able to discard two cards should provide you with something to chase.
It is in these games that tunnels and ferries become all important, and once again, can be the difference between winning and losing, as a bit of bad luck on the drawn cards for a tunnel can ruin your day.
So you see, Ticket to Ride Europe offers so much more than just a simple gateway game, and that’s why it has become immensely popular. Okay, there isn’t always a great deal of player interaction, as each player is often concentrating on their own strategy, but there’s very little down time either, as the play rattles along with the determination of a certain children’s Tank Engine.
It’s not all a bed of roses though. This isn’t the kind of game that you’ll find yourself playing game after game of in one sitting, other than the initial flurry when first purchased, that is. But it will become a shelf staple, regularly making an appearance on your game table.
This is what I find odd about the game; one game is usually enough, any more and the games start to blur into one, as there isn’t enough variation in the game play from one play through to the next. But, give it a week, and you’ll be itching to play it again!
Also, the game is at its best when played with a group of similar ability players. Once you become familiar with how to win at the game, then it loses its challenge when played with people still learning its intricacies, and the odds are you will win by a large margin. Usually the losers will end up having a fun game, but, after a few games of easy wins, you may well lose interest. And that would be a shame, because it shouldn’t take long for everyone to claw back your advantage, as this really is a relatively easy game to learn to play well.
To not recommend Ticket to Ride Europe, would be standing against all the evidence presented, not just by myself, but by hundreds of other gamers out there, and the 6 million + copies of the game series sold world wide.
This is a game of widespread appeal – excellent for the newcomer and seasoned gamer alike. Playable at any age, and offering a fun experience even if you lose dismally – it’s good enough just to see your coloured carriages progress across the board, joining city after city.
The game time of 30-60 minutes is pretty spot on, whatever player count you have, and it’s quick to set up, and to pack away.
Is this the Ticket to ride for me?
There are many versions of Ticket to Ride out there now; the latest ‘New York’ version offering a quick play time, and taxis instead of trains! It can be a difficult decision deciding where to jump on, and this certainly is a good point to start. Other versions develop the game in different ways; I especially like ‘Rails and Sails’, which introduces sea routes. So, it’s best to do a little research on what each game offers, and what you like the sound off; what appeals to one person, may not appeal to the next, and, you may just want the one that represents the area you live in; either way, it’ll be a sound investment. Do you need more than one? Personally, no, for me one version of the game is sufficient, and if I get a new one, the older version usually finds a new home. But, again, that’s personal choice; you may find enough difference between certain versions to warrant keeping both.
Official site – Days of Wonder
Recommended video review – Meeple Box
Recommended Play through – Table Top
Board Game Geek Page – Here