Review of Ticket to Ride Published by @days_of_wonder in Honor of It Being Featured on #TableTop on @geekandsundry
Embedded above, you can watch the (always entertaining) latest episode of TableTop in which host Wil Wheaton plays Ticket to Ride, which is published by Days of Wonder and designed by Alan R. Moon. Tabletop is always a good watch, and is one of favorite shows right now. As a personal aside, I would encourage you to Subscribe to Geek & Sundry (The channel on which TableTop resides on Youtube) and also to The Nerdist Channel (on an unrelated note), since it is my understanding that is the metric that is being used to determine the success or failure of these channels, which are doing something that I think is fantastic.
Anyway, TableTop, in particular, is doing everyone a great service by introducing the population at large to strategy board games and I honestly think that Ticket to Ride is probably where the show should have started. And that brings me to my review. I’ve been playing Ticket to Ride since 2005 (it was released in 2004) and have since rebought it both for my Xbox and, subsequently, for my phone. I have the original edition (I have never purchased any of the expansions or later editions, like Europe, India, Asia, or Marklin simply because I did not feel like the game needed anything that it did not already have) and have probably played it more than any other game in my collection. I’m sure, by this point, you can see where this review is going.
Ticket to Ride is played by building sets of color-coded train cards which are then used to claim tracks on a map (of the U.S. in the base game). Each player has a certain number of Tickets (at least two to start with, although you can get more as the game goes on) which require that the player complete a certain route (say, Chicago to Los Angeles). If the player completes that route by the end of the game, he gets points as shown on the card. If he fails to complete the route by the end of the game, he loses that same amount of points. On a player’s turn, he may take two train cards (either by drawing from the deck or a set of face-up cards), play a set of matching cards (say, four red trains to play on a route with four red spaces) to claim a track, or draw three new route cards, of which he must keep one. Players also get points for claiming individual tracks depending on the length of the track (so a five space track is worth a lot more than a two space one, but takes longer to build up to). Once a player has claimed a track, no other player may use it, although some tracks between cities have two adjacent tracks, instead of only one. This results in the ability to block a player from completing their route, or at least making it less convenient for them to do so. There are also bonus points for the player with the longest continuous track at the end of the game. Once the game ends, everyone reveals their routes and gains or loses points accordingly.
Ticket to Ride is a near-perfect mix of strategy, simplicity, luck, and skill. New players quickly understand the rules and are able to compete while trying to optimize the timing of amassing cards and laying tracks, while – with veteran players – Ticket to Ride can become a rather brutal game of track blocking, where no player is able to complete a route unobstructed. Of course, if you spend too long trying to block other players, you will not be able to complete your own routes, so there is a careful balance even in that. The game plays fairly quickly and scales well between 2 and 4 players in my experience, although the board tends to be a little too open with two players, resulting in a game much more about card/route drawing optimization than fierce competition over lines.
I know a lot of people are going to chafe over the price, which seems like a lot at $50.00. Trust me, it’s worth it. It may be your gateway to the larger world of strategy board games or it may be the only one you ever pick up, but – if you are at all inclined to like board games (I initially wrote “boar games,” which are different. I was tempted to leave it that way) then this is a great one to start your collection off with. You can buy it directly from Days of Wonder, in fact. If you have some trepidation, you can also pick it up for your iPhone or iPad for a pittance. The rules are available online, as well. I wish I had some sort of honest criticism to offset all of this praise but about as close as I can get it that if you are only in the market for real brain burning, deep strategy games (say, Go or Chess), then maybe this isn’t for you. Sometimes the best player doesn’t win. Sometimes the cards just don’t come up right for you, or the Tickets are just too far flung. With a game lasting under an hour, I think that Ticket to Ride manages the luck to strategy ratio about as well as any game and highly recommend it.
Michael is an enthusiast about a lot of things, including indie games, roleplaying games, board games, and comic books that wanted to help create a place where he could bring things to the attention of those with similar interests. Futile Position is a true labor of labor, which he hopes continues to grow through the support of the great readers who have come upon this page.