Ticket To Ride

"We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us. " - Henry David Thoreau

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I have a fascination with railroads in the gaming environment, which is a strange and unfortunate predeliction considering that once you've played Railroad Tycoon, you've pretty much exhausted what's available. There's something about the virtual equivalent of driving that last spike at Promotory Point that intrigues me on a fundamental level the same way that watching zombies eat brains, and amassing a vast army of Roman Praetorians to pit against the Barbarian horde attracts others. And it is because of this vague but nagging interest that I gave Ticket To Ride even a passing glance. As a PC reimagining of an award winning board game where players amass colored locomotives to play in turns between cities to create great long routes across the frontier (or all of Europe, or the intimidating Alps), a budget title with no shelf presence that is completely eclipsed by whatever cookie cutter remake larger publishers are shoveling this week, it is exactly the kind of game one could miss altogether. Were it not so neatly targeted toward my starving interests, I certainly might have never taken notice.

That, my friends, would have been an unspeakable shame. Deeply approachable, easily understandable, but all belying a depth of strategy and brinksmanship that can only come from simple and clever design, this game is one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had so far this year.

The charm of Ticket to Ride comes from its incredible simplicity of design and complexity of depth. It is, if I may employ a cliché, very easy to learn, but difficult to master. By the end of your first game, you will likely know all there is to know about the simple ruleset. The goal is classicly familiar, the player with the most points at the end of the game wins. You gather those points by playing cards, representing trains, of like color between cities. The larger the distance between the cities, the more identical cards you have to play. Long routes generate more points but are difficult to play; short routes offer fewer points but can be played quickly. Additionally, players get bonus points awarded for creating routes between determined destinations, and ending the game with the longest contiguous line of track.

Each turn players either draw color train cards to increase their deck, or play those cards to fill the route between cities. You can also sacrifice your turn to draw new destination cards where, should you establish that route, you get bonus points equal to the number on the card, or should you fail, you lose those points.

Despite these deceptively simple mechanics, the game is really a blend of bolstering your own deck and accumulating points while keeping your opponent from accumulating their own. Very quickly each turn becomes a crucial decision about whether to interfere with your opponents routes, draw the cards you need to establish your own, or play what you've got. Be too overt about the route you are trying to establish, and leave yourself open to being blocked, or hold back gathering strength leaving your rival time to build his own deck, points, and routes. The tension ramps quickly in the early game, and is maintained through the end.


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A single game of Ticket to Ride can, in almost all cases, be completed in under a half-hour, which makes it a great distraction when time is short. It's also the sort of title that you can sit and play again and again, losing hours at a time to one great match after another. While the game provides a single player component that pits you against one to four computer opponents of average difficulty and no real strategic complexity, the active online community provides a far more interesting challenge.

The game is equal parts luck, strategy, and reading your opponent. There's an absurd joy that comes in knowing you've not only gained points by taking a crucial route, but have forced your opponent to detour through Salt Lake City if he wants to complete that Miami – Los Angeles connection you're sure he's got. But, unfortunately, that also exposes the inherent shortcoming of a computer based version of a board game, which is simply not being able to see that look of abject frustration in your best friend's eye when luck comes to your side of the table for a visit. Knowing you've ruined your opponent's strategy is one thing. Seeing it on their face is another.

Despite that, Ticket To Ride remains an excellent diversion, and a refreshing change of pace. While I certainly enjoy a graphical epic of blazing guns, marauding zombies, or massive armies bringing great futuristic weapons to bear as much as the next person, sometimes a game such as this one does a miraculous job of cleansing the virtual pallet. In the same way that a title like Geometry Wars can dominate a processing powerhouse like the Xbox 360, a mechanically simple, inexpensive, and approachable board-game port like this one, can be every bit as addicting as whatever blockbuster title is the flavor of the month.

With a remarkably short learning curve, a wealth of strategies, addicting gameplay, and an active online community, Ticket to Ride is a no-brainer for board game addicts, strategy gamers, and anyone willing to explore independent games.

This game is only available at http://www.daysofwonder.com.

Ticket To Ride
Developer: Days Of Wonder
Publisher: Days of Wonder

Comments

While I've only played the "Europe" board game edition, I must second the assertion that Ticket To Ride is a great concept. I cannot speak for the electronic version, but it would be hard to go wrong with this one if you are looking for a fun, light hearted (but still cut-throat) gaming diversion.

Looks a lot like Rails Across America, which was another awesome game. I might check this out. Thanks for the awesome review.

My parents just got this boardgame. Last time I was in town to visit we stayed up until 1am playing which is quite a feat for my parents who usually go to bed by 8-9pm.

Man, what a pandora's box you've opened!

For starters, check out "Railroad Tycoon: The Boardgame" - not really an adaptation of the computer game (they just licensed the name), but an evolution of another award-winning board game, Age of Steam.

I've never really explored boardgames, mostly because I have few people with whom to play them. Ticket to Ride's boardgame may be a rare exception for me.

I'm lucky enough to have a bunch of like-minded boardgamers at work and we regularly have gaming sessions with the so-called "european"-style boardgames -- Monopoly and the like need not apply. I'd recommend http://www.boardgamegeek.com/ for those of you interested in getting old-school. Ticket to Ride is the sort of gateway drug we use to get others into more complex fare like Puerto Rico, Caylus, etc.

Our gateway drug was Settlers. This has now opened the way to Ticket to Ride and I'm hoping to get a new wargame in with something like Memoir '44. Must do some reading about that one.

I collect board games. Yes, I am a bgg.com geek. I would highly recommend Power Grid for its interesting play dynamic and simple complexity (if I can use that expression). But for real fun (and a five plus hour game experience), try Die Macher a Geman board game that is next to impossible to find in the US for under $90. Complex, challenging and almost perfect.

Ticket to Ride is a good opener to the wonderful world of board games.

Swampyankee, Richyrambo and I just played Railroad Tycoon and Fury of Dracula this weekend, they were both great games. There have been a few posts here and there about boardgames check them out: Here, Here and here.

mumford wrote:

Our gateway drug was Settlers. This has now opened the way to Ticket to Ride and I'm hoping to get a new wargame in with something like Memoir '44. Must do some reading about that one.

With regard to Memoir '44, read this: buy it. It's awesome. And you can play it co-op! I've done 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 2 vs 1, and even 3 vs 3 scenarios. And much like Settlers and Ticket To Ride, it's very easy to learn, since it uses an intuitive and straightforward card system as its primary game mechanic (in this case, the issuing of orders).

The 2 vs 2 game I played ended with all four of us literally on our feet, screaming with rage and excitement as I rolled the dice that won my team the game. It was one the best board game moments I've ever experienced.

mumford wrote:

Our gateway drug was Settlers.

Settlers was also my gateway drug. After playing it for the first time, I've gone nuts with boardgames. Bought all the expansion packs to Settlers, played it every night. There's also another board game Zero and I like a lot called Tigris and Euphrates.

Great reccomendations and great review! I was looking for some new board games, hopefully they are on the Belgian market *crosses fingers*

Talk about serendipity: I just finished watching Board Games with Scott's v'logcast about this not 20 minutes ago. Sounds like fun!

Great game in all its iterations, boardgames are my beer.

Is it a download or a snail mail purchase?

I can only find snail mail on the Days of Wonder site. Didn't see a download option for Ticket To Ride (PC) anywhere.

I believe it's snail mail only.

I've had TTR for about a year now. Fantastic game. Other 'designer games' like Carcasonne and Settlers of Catan soon followed. I think I'm hooked..........

Lobo wrote:

With regard to Memoir '44, read this: buy it.

Well, I'm heading to the hobby shop this morning for my bi-weekly fix of Magic, so consider it done.

mumford wrote:
Lobo wrote:

With regard to Memoir '44, read this: buy it.

Well, I'm heading to the hobby shop this morning for my bi-weekly fix of Magic, so consider it done.

I would love to pick up Memoir '44 but the $50 price tag at my FNGS (friendly neighborhood gaming store) is scaring me away. May have to look online.......

Memoir '44 is a great beer and pretzels war game. Plus there are scenarios available on the web (or you can design your own) and you can combine your set with your buddies and fight huge engagements. My gaming group almost always pushes the boardgaming envelope with the latest and greatest games. However, this week's session we are kicking it old school with Puerto Rico and some older "classics".

Elysium wrote:

I believe it's snail mail only.

Yep, Just orderedd my copy. Once I registered my Ticket to Ride Europe boardgame I got a $10 discount to boot!

Lobo wrote:

With regard to Memoir '44, read this: buy it. It's awesome. And you can play it co-op! I've done 1 vs 1, 2 vs 2, 2 vs 1, and even 3 vs 3 scenarios. And much like Settlers and Ticket To Ride, it's very easy to learn, since it uses an intuitive and straightforward card system as its primary game mechanic (in this case, the issuing of orders).

The 2 vs 2 game I played ended with all four of us literally on our feet, screaming with rage and excitement as I rolled the dice that won my team the game. It was one the best board game moments I've ever experienced.

That sounds like a blast! Was this with just the base game or did you play with more than one copy? I have M44 but haven't given it much play as our group is usually 4 to 6 .

Does anyone know how to use stations in Europe? I've put them down, but the game doesn't complete the routes as soon as you put them down.