Ticket to Ride: Game Review

2013-02-20 18.33.09I have to start this review with a little bit of my history with this game. Ticket to ride has been one of my wife’s favorite games since the moment we opened the box and played it the first time. I have been reserved. At first, believe it or not, I was confused by this simple game. It was so straight forward I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to have a meaningful strategy that would effect my chances to win. Eventually I figured out how to build routes together and when to draft cards vs. playing trains etc. Ultimately I still felt the game was still won and lost on random chance. Getting the right routes led to winning the game and getting the right routes was all a chance. I love figuring out strategy and I had hit a wall with ticket to ride. I was still firmly against that wall when I got my wife Ticket to Ride: Europe (selfless I know, but she liked the game so much I thought she would like another version) and after playing a few games, I was pleasantly surprised with how much the game had been improved.

The Europe installment solved all of my issues I was having with the game with new routes, new mechanics and the addition of  train stations. I now find that Ticket to Ride: Europe is one of my favorite games. The original has some good points but, also some bad points. I’m getting ahead of myself, let me break down the game before I go any further.

Premise

In Ticket to Ride you are placing a trains along routes on a map of some part of the world (Base game is United States, Europe is the other base game and there are others). Cities have tracks between them and are different colors and cards that same color need to be played in runs to occupy the path. The cards can be taken in pairs from the 5 face up train cards or randomly from the draw pile on you turn. Wild cards are also available but taking a face up wild card is the only card you can take on that turn. On your turn you need to decide if you take cards or take trains. The last piece of scoring are the route cards. At the end of the game you either gain  or loose points based on if you have or have not completed the route. Routes are accomplished by creating a path connecting the two cities indicated on the route card. These can be drawn on a turn during the game in addition to the 3 each player gets at the beginning of the game. Finally the player with the longest continuous path gets an additional 10 points, which surprisingly can be pretty important.

Critical Review

Once again here is what I am looking at in each category. Scored out of 10.

  • Point of entry – The ability for new players to get involved. This also will take into account the rate at which a new and experienced player will become competitive.
  • Mechanics – The stuff that makes the game work. The way the game flows, the turns pass and how the board or structure is organized all factor in.
  • Replay-ability – The ability to play the game many times with enough variety of play and competition to ensure many more enjoyable plays.
  • What comes in the box – The tactile game pieces, the box organization and the way which they compliment the game.
  • Aesthetics – The design elements including colors fonts, white-space, etc.
  • Fun factor – Is this game fun to play? What makes it fun, who will most enjoy it and when it is best played.

Point of entry  – I think with little knowledge of the gaming community most people who attempt to dive into games to any extent have heard that Ticket to Ride is a game for beginners. Rightly so. I almost thought the game was too easy for beginners. Needless to say, anyone, and I mean anyone should be able to sit down and play a game of TtR at any time. Grandparents, kids probably 6 or 8 and up, anyone. 10/10

Mechanics – I still think TtR, the original north american edition, can be broken by getting the right routes. It isn’t so much getting overlapping routes, it is the amount of longer routes in the west, north and south vs. the shorter midwest and east coast routes. This allows for playing trains in some parts of the map to just not be equal to playing trains in others. When two players who have both played their share of games can each complete 4 or 5 routes, the competition is not who did so most efficiently or who completed them with the most trains or creating the longest route — no, the win will typically go to who got more routes in the right parts of the map to earn bonus points for 5 and 6 train routes. I think TtR: Europe fixes this problem quite well by not really having many 5 or 6 train routes. Rather, all parts of the map are evenly dispersed with short and long paths, and the winner ends up being the one who can strategically build a path that entails their routes and block others from achieving the same thing. I, at this point, would recommend going right to Europe and not messing with the original.  That is, unless you are a newer gamer, then I would stay start simple and work your way up. Other than what I see as problems with the map on the original TtR, the mechanics are sound and fun and one of the few games that makes me sweat to finish my routes by the end of the game. 6/10.

Replay-ability – I think a lot of  ”gamers” can get sick of this game pretty easily because they favor the longer more immersive games. That is all well and good, but, even when some people feel above the game they get surprisingly engaged when they sit through a game. I think the game is endlessly replayable (my wife has played over 200 games on the iPad for instance), but, be wary. If you are used to more complicated games, this one might get dull for you quickly. 7/10.

What comes in the box – The sheer numbers of trains makes it mandatory that they are little plastic pieces and not wood ones (wooden trains would be nice though). The original version I got came with the miniature travel size cards and I just can’t understand why. TtR: Europe came with  normal Euro size cards and that is considerably better. 7/10.

Aesthetics – Train cards look much nicer when they are not tiny travel size cards. Overall, the colors are clear, the map looks nice and I really like the box and map art style. That little hint of old-timey, late 1800′s train station fare is quite nice. 8/10.

Fun factor – This game is still a fun one, there is no doubt there. I think especially for newer gamers and non-gamers, this is one to get into and have a ton of fun with and really get into playing more games. I still think there is more fun to be had with TtR: Europe, but I do believe there is a right crowd for the original TtR as well. Overall this game should keep you having fun for some time, and when it stops being fun, get the sequel and I think that one should keep you playing even longer. Despite some lack of ability to make any like number of route cards win, I believe the game is a  blast and I always look forward to playing it. 8/10.

To sum up this sort of 2 game review I want to just make my notes about which game is stronger where. Ticket to Ride is a really strong game for families, non or limited experience gamer friends and just generally having a fun time. That said, it is one I would skip for gamer crowds and heavy thinking strategy people in general. For those gamer crowds and people who want to play a more strategic game I would say Ticket to Ride: Europe is a major improvement over the first game. I even think people who have played TtR for a while and are getting a little sick of it, find the game breaking problem I have found or just want to advance to something a little more difficult would benefit greatly from picking up the sequel –  I highly recommend it. I give the original Ticket to Ride a 7/10 while I give Ticket to Ride Europe a 8/10.