Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Board Game Corner: Ticket To Ride

I picked up Ticket to Ride after a friend described it as a good game for the uninitiated... a good game to play with people whose idea of a game is Monopoly (which isn't a game, it's a social experiment gone wrong, but I digress) and who aren't yet ready to take the plunge into the depths of Madness that can come from tabletop wargaming, or even something as tactically challenging as Star Wars: Rebellion.

Having now played the game several times, it is exactly what was described - quick, easy, fun. It has fantastic replayability and if you do tire of your copy, there are multiple expansions and versions that alter the game significantly. This has apparently lead to it being one of the biggest selling games in the world, more so than Monopoly (shudder) as while my Star Wars monopoly and your Harry Potter monopoly have different street names and playing pieces, they are in essence the same game. I may pay droid maintenance while you pay sorting hat fees, but we're both paying the same sum to that Chance card. Different ticket to Ride versions give different maps, which fundamentally change how this map based game plays. Therefore it is entirely feasible for one person to own several Tickets, whereas anyone who owns more than one copy of Monopoly is probably a sadist and their company should be avoided at all costs.

So, how does the game play? Well, there is a map (of the US in the original game that I have) with lots of raillines drawn on it. These are coloured, and while the player colours share some of the line colours, this is completely academic... there is no advantage on red lines for the red player, it is just a colour, forget the coincidence. Everyone starts with a bunch of carriages that are used to claim lines, and they have pictures of colour code train cars that they use to claim said lines.

You also have tickets, that are kept secret. If you complete a route between the destinations before the end of the game, you will score bonus points in the final scoring. So, in the example above, I, the Red player, am trying to get from Duluth to El Paso. I have marked the two locations on the map with yellow dice (not included or necessary, just wanted something the camera would pick up easily)

On each players turn, he can do one of three things. He can draw more cards to his hand, he can draw more tickets, or he can spend cards in hand to claim a line.

To claim a line, you need to have the requisite number of the correct colour to complete said line. A line 5 yellow tabs long would need 5 yellow train car cards to claim.

There are some lines for each colour, but there are also many light grey lines... these can be claimed by any colour. It still must be a complete set, not a rainbow of spare cards. But for a 3 grey line, 3 yellows will work just as well as 3 reds or 3 blues.

There are also locomotives, that are effectively jokers and can be used as any colour. You can claim a line using nothing but locomotives, but it is an expensive way to do this, as will be explained in a moment.

There is no upper hand limit, so you can horde cards to your hearts content. To draw more cards, you go to the draw pile. The draw pile has 5 faceup cards, and the deck. You can make two draws for your action. However, drawing a faceup locomotive will count as both - therefore gaining locomotives is twice as action intensive and therefore more expensive. If you draw from the top of the deck and get a loco, lucky you, keep it secret and draw another card.

The final thing you can do is draw tickets. You draw three, and must keep at least one. Why wouldn't you keep them all, these lovely bonus points? Well there is a downside - an uncompleted ticket is not a bonus, it is a penalty... so drawing tickets is a gamble. If you draw three locations and feel you cannot feasibly complete any, you have just cost yourself some points. On the other hand, if you draw three locations and you already have connecting lines for two of them, well it's easy points! So a definite gamble there.

Sounds simple enough right? One slight problem... the other players.

If I start building my lovely line from Duluth to El Paso, they may notice this...

And interfere...

Forcing me to detour around their section to reach my destination. Of course someone else may decide that looks like fun too...

Increasing the difficulty for me constantly.

Of course, all the time they are thwarting my ambitions, they are presumably not fulfilling their own, so swings and roundabouts I guess.

Of course sometimes a fairly reasonable route of theirs may overlap with yours, leading to accusations that you are out to "get them" which you don't really want to deny, as saying "no I'm not, I'm just trying to get to Oklahoma" is almost certainly a sure fire way to make sure you never, EVER, see Oklahoma. In the example above, Green are busy doing their own thing and just happened to overlap with you. Black on the other hand, with his East Coast plans, seems to have claimed a couple of key central locations just to fuck with us. What a...

Finally, once someone has placed their final carriage, everyone else gets one more turn, and then you are done. Scores are finalised (it's common to keep a running score tally, but always worth double checking at the end) Short routes score less than longer routes, so a 1 or 2 carriage route is worth that many points, while a 6 carriage route is worth 15 points. There are also ticket bonuses/penalties, and finally a ten point bonus for the longest contiguous route. And that's it. All there is to the game.

It is incredibly easy to explain to the uninitiated... "here are your cards, match the colours, these are joker cards, those are joker routes. Go" The keen eyed may notice there are some dual routes, this is for the four/five player game, to avoid things getting too congested. In a three player game, the moment one is claimed the other cannot be used. But it still gives you options at least.

All in all, this is a great game to introduce people to the fact that there is more to gaming life than monopoly (curse it's filthy vile cursed form) while still having enough to hold the interest of the veteran gamer. A fantastic compromise for family gatherings.


  1. Great review there. I keep checking out this game whenever I see it, so I will now add it to my mental "me want" list.

    Ever since you got me to play Pandemic I've had a hankering for more of these quick-to-pick-up board games.

    I do quite like Monopoly though (I have a Star Wars version from over 15 years ago). However, I totally know what you're getting at with the difference between Monopoly-esque games, and the more refined genuine board games!

    1. I heartily recommend it.

      Speaking of pandemic, if you can get a few friends who enjoy it and can commit to play a run of games of it, Pandemic: Legacy is probably the best game I've ever played.

      I still have my Star Wars monopoly, but it isn't a game. It's a punishment. I struggle to describe how much I hate Monopoly. The game is responsible for more family breakups than adultery...