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Subject: A review for those new to the hobby rss

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Elijah Lau
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Ticket to Ride, winner of the German Family Games Award in 2004, is an excellent game for beginners. Simple, easy to learn, lots of fun and takes at most an hour plus to play. From what I’ve seen, many of those new to gaming played this as their introduction to designer games and now they’re gamers! The beauty of the TtR system is that it has grown into a series, beginning with TtR: Europe and now TtR: Marklin, both of which add on more interesting rules, making the game more meaty and appealing to veteran gamers who may have become jaded by the simplicity of TtR and want a more complex TtR game. The continuity provided by the base TtR system in TtR: Europe and TtR: Marklin also allows beginners to progress on to more complex designer games without much difficulty.

Synopsis

Players are racing throughout the US to complete their destinations, as stated in destination cards in their possession. They do this by collecting train cards and then trading them in to place their plastic train cars on the board to connect between two cities. Players will try to connect from city to city until they have connected the two points stated on their destination cards. Players earn points for the length of connections placed as well as connecting the two points on their destination cards. The longer the distance between destinations, the more points it is worth. For example, Connecting New York and Seattle is worth more points than connecting New York and Atlanta. But if a player fails to connect his destinations, he loses points!

Components

1 Board
45 plastic train cars in each of 5 colours
144 cards
5 wooden scoring markers
1 rulebook
3 spare train cars in each of 5 colours

The components are of very good quality and are pleasant to the eye. The train cars are very nice in bright colours. This is a game that relies on colour a lot and initial releases did not have unique symbols tied to the colours. This was rectified in later printings. To help those with difficulty distinguishing the colours on the train tracks on the board, each colour is tied to a specific symbol. For example, the white tracks on the board have a + sign, and this is also reflected in the cards for white trains. The map is that of the US and parts of Canada and Mexico, with cities of the US and southern Canada connected by chains of small rectangles, just the right size for the plastic train cars. The map is not entirely accurate but I suppose some game license needed to be taken to ensure game balance and playability. As a non-American resident, I don’t know enough of US Geography to quibble. But overall, the board is pleasant to the eye and provides sufficient contrast to see the colours of the track. Much appreciated by those who own the game are the provision of spare train cars (they do have a tendency to go missing if the game is played regularly).

Rules

At the start of the game, players draw 3 destination cards and must keep at least 2. The train card deck is shuffled and 5 cards are placed face-up. During a player’s turn, a player has a choice of three actions. 1) Draw up to 2 train cards, either from the deck or taking a face-up card. The face-up cards are always replenished from the deck when they are taken. In the game, there are wild cards, which can represent any colour. If a player takes a face-up wild card, he can take only that card in that turn. But if he draws it from the deck, he can take another card. 2) A player can play cards from his hand to place train cars on the board. Connections between cities are represented by a number of rectangles; red, black, blue, green, white, yellow or grey. For example, to connect a 3-rectangle yellow route, a player must play 3 yellow/wild cards. For grey routes, a player can play cards of any single colour. 3) A player can choose to draw more destination cards. He can draw 3 cards, choosing to keep at least 1. As players place their train cars on the board, they earn points. A 1-rectangle connection is 1 point, 2 = 2 points, 3 = 4 points, 4 = 7 points, 5 = 10 points and 6 = 15 points. These scores are tabulated along the scoring track as the game progresses. The game ends when a player has only 3 train cars left to place on the board. At the end of the game, destination cards are revealed. A player who connects the two locations on the destination card, no matter how convoluted the route, gets the points stated on the card. If he fails to do so, he loses that amount of points stated on the card.

Game play

The game is remarkably easy to play. During your turn, you either draw cards or put trains on the board. That’s it! Yet with this simple decision tree, a game of remarkable variety emerges. You can play a very friendly game, where everyone is just concentrating on fulfilling their destination cards and it becomes a racing game to see who gets to fulfill all their destination cards before the game ends. Then there’s the other TtR game, the darker cousin. Here’s where players don’t give a hoot about fulfilling destination cards. It’s all about vicious sabotage. Players placing train cars left, right and centre to block their opponents! There are games where no one completes any destination cards because everyone is just spending more time, and having a lot of fun hammering one another. The beauty of TtR is that it can accommodate such extremes in playing style, from friendly beginner games to veteran gamers doing all sorts of crazy things in the game. The most important thing is that no matter how you play it, TtR is fun. Moreover, there’s a very real sense of accomplishment when you make that connection or looking at your friend’s dismay when you block that 20-point route of his!

There are some complaints from veteran gamers that TtR is too childish (read: simple). Well, I agree that it is simple. That is what makes it such a great game for those new to the boardgaming hobby to start off with. It’s fun and yet not overwhelming in complexity or playing time. And I would argue that even for veteran gamers, it makes for a great light filler. And of course, there’s TtR Europe and TtR Marklin for gamers looking for a meatier TtR.

Conclusion

This is a game I would normally suggest when I’m introducing people to boardgaming, even more so than Settlers of Catan, because it has a simpler ruleset, plays faster and can accommodate 5. Of course, as a gamer, I myself prefer SoC as it has more scope to develop as a gamer’s game.
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Travis Hall
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Re: A review for those new to the game
elijah234 wrote:
Of course, as a gamer, I myself prefer SoC as it has more scope to develop as a gamer’s game.

I don't know about this comparison. Neither SoC nor TTR really develops towards being a "gamer's game" without additional purchases in their respective series. Once you start doing that... well, have you played Marklin? Not much extra rules complexity, but the strategy becomes amazingly complex for such a simple game. The last Marklin game I played involved a four-way blocking/passenger war, and it turned into a bit of a brain-burner.
 
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Elijah Lau
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Wraith wrote:
well, have you played Marklin? Not much extra rules complexity, but the strategy becomes amazingly complex for such a simple game. The last Marklin game I played involved a four-way blocking/passenger war, and it turned into a bit of a brain-burner.


Yep, played Marklin. Excellent game. But I'm a big negotiation game fan and not so much a train game game fan, so it's only natural I prefer SoC. And to me, SoC, when played with a bunch of experienced gamers, is incredibly challenging.
 
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Travis Hall
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elijah234 wrote:
Yep, played Marklin. Excellent game. But I'm a big negotiation game fan and not so much a train game game fan, so it's only natural I prefer SoC. And to me, SoC, when played with a bunch of experienced gamers, is incredibly challenging.

Ah, well, if you take "gamer's game" to mean "game I really like", I can't fault you there. "Gamer's game" around here tends to be used to denote a game of high complexity favoured by hard-core gamers due to the challenge presented by the game, and shunned by casual players for the same reason. That's a description that really doesn't fit either SoC or TTR.
 
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Elijah Lau
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Yes, I'm aware of the definition of gamer's game. The point here is that, as a negotiation game, SoC offers more of a challenge to veteran gamers than TtR. In no way am I saying that SoC is a gamer's game like PR.
 
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Travis Hall
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elijah234 wrote:
Yes, I'm aware of the definition of gamer's game. The point here is that, as a negotiation game, SoC offers more of a challenge to veteran gamers than TtR.

I think you are showing a very big bias here, in your assumption that a negotiation game is inherently more of a challenge to veteran gamers. Frankly, that's not true. A simple negotiation game will generally present less of a challenge than (for example) a complex positional-tactical game. TTR is a simple tactical game. SoC is a simple negotiation game. Neither really presents a great challenge. Expanded forms of each present a much greater degree of complexity of their respective types.
 
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