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A version of this review originally appeared at Board Over Boring.
Ticket to Ride is frequently listed among the very best gateway games. By “gateway games”, I mean games that serve as an introduction into the world of modern designer board games (as opposed to mass-market games like Clue or Monopoly).
As much as I enjoy the original Ticket to Ride, I have to say that its little brother, Ticket to Ride: Europe, is even better.
What’s it About?
In Ticket to Ride: Europe, players are competing to claim various railway routes in early 20th century Europe. The idea is to chain routes together to connect cities listed on destination tickets, which score points for the players at the end of the game.
On her turn, a player can do one of a few different actions. She can draw train cards, which are needed to claim routes. She can discard train cards to claim a route. She can draw new destination tickets, to try and connect more cities. Or she can place a station on a city. Placing stations on the board is one of the features that Ticket to Ride: Europe adds, so why don’t we go ahead and talk about the difference between the Europe and USA versions.
What’s the Difference?
As I already alluded to, Ticket to Ride: Europe adds stations to the game. These are basically a way to connect to a city even if you get blocked from it. On your turn, you can place a station in a city by discarding one or more cards. Then at the end of the game, you can move your station to one of the routes leading into that city, making that route count as one of yours. This is a great addition to the game that helps to decrease the amount of frustration that occurs when someone gets blocked out of a city they need.
Another interesting addition is the concept of tunnels. Tunnels are special routes on the board (thematically, they signify tracks on tunnels through mountains or under water). When you want to claim a tunnel, you put down the cards you need, then draw three cards from the train card deck. For each of those cards match the color of the route, then you have to play an additional card of that color. This adds a “push-your-luck” element to the game. You can either try to claim a tunnel route with just enough cards, hoping to get lucky, or you can stock up on extra cards to make sure you’ll get it no matter what.
The other new routes are ferries. Even though these look like regular train tracks on the board, thematically they represent shipping routes over water. To claim a ferry route, one or more of the cards used has to be a locomotive (wild) card. These make locomotives more interesting, since you might want to use one as a wild to finish a regular route, but really need it for a ferry route.
The last new element is the distinction between regular tickets and long tickets. In regular Ticket to Ride, all the destination tickets are shuffled together and dealt out. This means that whether you got a long ticket (worth lots of points) or a short ticket was a matter of luck. Ticket to Ride: Europe removes some of that luck by having long tickets separate from regular tickets. At the start of the game, each player gets one long ticket and several regular tickets to choose from. This ensures that everyone has a chance at a long ticket if they want it, not to mention that one player can’t luck into several long tickets, all going basically the same direction.
What Do I Think?
As you can probably guess, I feel like all the changes are improvements over the original. My favorite new feature is the separation of regular and long tickets, since it brings down the luck factor from the USA game. I’m also a big fan of stations, since they make keeping tickets a little less stressful, knowing there’s another way into cities if you need it.
The new kinds of routes (tunnels and ferries) are nice, but not as important as the other additions. They basically keep the game from getting stale as you play, since you have to pay attention to what type of route you’re claiming.
I do have a couple of negatives for the game, but they’re minor. First, it can be difficult to locate cities from your destination tickets on the map. This is mainly because I’m not very familiar with European geography, so it’s not really the game’s fault. Also, the names of cities are presented in their countries’ languages (so Moscow becomes Moskva, Brussels becomes Bruxelles, etc.)
The other issue I have has to do with the destination tickets I mentioned above. Even though I appreciate the new distinction between regular and long tickets, there aren’t very many tickets included in the base game. There are 40 regular tickets and only 6 long tickets, which doesn’t provide a lot of variety. To help with this, I would strongly suggest picking up the Ticket to Ride: Europa 1912 expansion, which includes 6 new long tickets and 49 new regular tickets, as well as a variant that can be played on any Ticket to Ride map.
Thanks for reading!
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New South Wales
Perhaps a little more stress on the Europa 1912 expansion. It really brings a lot to the game. The only downside of the expansion is that the long route backs are a different colour to the shorter tickets which makes it easy to spot if your opponent has kept a long route. Oh and one "short" route is longer than the official long routes: Madrid -> Moskva.
It's not my favourite though. That goes to the UK expansion. I love the sense of history the technologies bring.
Thanks for the review. This one is probably good for new players or players who just like a fun, breezy game. I do find the original more competitive though. Its nice that both variations are available.