Ticket to Ride Board Game Review

Ticket to Ride has been called one of the best gateway games available and a perfect introductory game. Having introduced it to my ex, who isn’t really into board games, I have to admit it sure looks like it. The aim of the game is to link as many cities as you can with your railroads while completing your special destination tickets. Overall, a great introductory board game and a good, light strategy game to fill a quite evening.

Appearance: Good. The board game consists of a stylized map of North America (not the place to learn your geography) and the play pieces are nice and sturdy. Images are obviously geared towards a younger market with stylised, cartoon drawings instead of realistic images. Everything fits well into the box and while it might be slightly overly large, I would rather have that than struggle to fit all the pieces in.

Rules / Ease of Learning: 5 minutes to learn the rules – all of them. Ticket to Ride is not a particularly hard game to learn but like most good games have a level of strategy hidden in the simple rules.

Set-up of the game is simple. The game board is laid out, players choose which colour trains they wish to be. These trains are used to ‘claim’ routes as the game progresses. 4 Train Cards are dealt to all players and 3 Destination Ticket cards. Players can keep all 3 Destination Tickets, but must keep at least 1.

The remainder Train Cards are placed aside and 5 Train Cards turned up. At any time, if 3 or more Locomotive Cards (which act as a joker in terms of colour) are shown, the entire deck must be shuffled and 5 new train cards placed face up.

During each turn, players can take one of three actions – draw train cards, draw destination cards or claim a route.

Players can draw up to 2 train cards with locomotives counting as 2 cards if drawn from the face-up pile. Players can draw from either the face-up pile or blind draw from the deck at any time.

Players can draw up to 3 destination cards and may return up to 2 cards (i.e. they must keep at least one destination ticket at any one time).

Lastly, players can claim a route. To claim a route, players must have sufficient number of trains available and train cards in the colour of the route. Once claimed, players place their trains on the route.

Points are scored for longer routes (ranging from 1 point for 1 train to 15 points for 6 trains). At the end of the game, additional points are added or subtracted for Destination Tickets that are completed or not as well as for the longest route (10 points).

Actual Gameplay – Firstly, while the rules are simple in Ticket to Ride, there is definite strategic options. The major one’s are in destination tickets, the routes chosen to reach each destination and timing. Take too many destination tickets and you’ll lose points for not completing them all. Take too few, and someone who has chosen well will beat you at the end game.

Multiple routes lead to the same cities, so often you’ll have to decide which routes to go on. This combines with the issue of timing. Some routes provide really good points, but could be a problem because (a) other players are collecting that colour or (b) take too long to get the required cards. Add in the decision on when to blind draw or take that locomotive, and you’ve got a nice mixture of strategy and tactics.

When playing the game, we found that each turn can be quite fast once you’ve made up your mind about routes. There will be rounds where no one does anything but draw cards while other rounds will be spent building.

The major drawback that we found about Ticket to Ride was the issue of Luck. Bad or good draws on the Destination Ticket cards can seriously affect the way the game is played. I remember drawing a series of Destination Tickets all within the same routes (Seattle, Calgary, Winipeg, Duluth in the north and Los Angeles and Phoenix in the south) and truly wiping the board of my opponents. It wasn’t even that they played badly, I just got extremely lucky with the draws and had the entire West Coast to myself.

One aspect that we did not explore was the ‘vindictive’ gameplay possibility inherent in Ticket to Ride. While there are a number of routes to each city, they still are very limited. An aggressive player could potentially choose to block other players consistently, pushing the point spread down instead of focusing on his own goals.

Conclusion: Overall, we found Ticket to Ride a nicely balanced board game. There wasn’t the same level of strategic forethought required like Louis the XIV but it had vastly more options than Monopoly. Good game to introduce newbies to board games with or for quick, light strategy.