Derek Thompson
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Just in time for the holiday season, Days of Wonder has put out not only the new Big Adventure Game Relic Runners, but they also have a new map for their best-selling Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride: Nederland. The map of the Netherlands introduces a new mechanic of paying coins for using routes, and in particular puts a focus on double-routes. How does it stack up against the rest of the series? Read below!



Components

First, for those of you who had warped Africa boards, I can happily say that my copy of Ticket to Ride: Nederland is printed in Germany, and the materials seem quite sturdy. (Once I added it to my shelf, Africa sticks out a little though, because its box is a bit smaller than the other three.) The cardboard tokens are nice and thick, and the ticket cardstock is what you’ve come to expect. People have complained that they could not get the tokens back into the well, but I haven’t had that problem. I simply leave the baggie unsealed and fold it over, so the tokens (and air) spread out when the map is laid into the insert. (But let’s be honest, I should probably dump everything into the base game box anyway.) My only complaint about the components is that the script writing for the cities is impossible to read (we had a player with moderate dyslexia, who literally could not read any of it). On the other hand, because the map is relatively small and full of double-routes, this has been the easiest map so far to follow along the yellow lines connecting the cities on the tickets to figure out where you’re going. For that reason, it was actually the easiest foreign-language map for me to find my cities on so far. The $25 MSRP is reasonable and expected, since it was the same for The Heart of Africa (single map plus some extra components). All in all, just one minor complaint, but everything else is excellent as usual.



The Map, Tokens & Tickets

As I mentioned, there aren’t very many routes on this map – it kind of looks like it fits in the 2-3 player category with Switzerland and Nordic Countries. However, almost every route is a double-route (which plays into the new mechanic, bridge toll tokens). There are definitely some choke points, but overall our five-player games weren’t congested to the point of people getting completely blocked off of tickets, but the game remained very tense regardless (mostly because of the tokens). The way the tokens work are that now each route has a cost in tokens in addition to cards (the token cost is printed beside each route). Each player begins with 30 tokens. The first person to claim a route pays to the bank, but the second player to claim a double rate pays the first player to claim it. If you can’t pay, you take a Loan card which costs you five points (anyone you owe money to takes it from the bank), and having these also makes you ineligible for the endgame bonus. The only endgame bonus on this map is for number of tokens left – and the payouts are huge. 55 (!) for the most, 35 for second, then 20, then 10, and 0 for the person with the least. On top of that huge bonus, the tickets in this game go from a few 9-10 pointers all the way to several worth 30+ points!



Designer Alan R. Moon has said in interviews that Switzerland is his favorite map, because he just loves to draw tickets. You can see that influence in the 1910 USA Mega Game, the Team Asia Map, and these recent maps, Africa & Nederland. I think that Alan has been trying to find the fine line between making it exciting to draw tickets but also making keeping that tension of having to do other things at the same time. Many games of Switzerland and 1910 have boiled down turn after turn of ticket diving in a race for free points, with no pressure to do anything else. However, Nederland takes big strides to make ticket diving important but to make claiming routes equally important. What it boils down to is the fact that every time somebody claims a double-route you want first, they’re going to be reimbursed for their trouble but you’re just going to keep losing money. You can definitely end up in a situation where people keep building just out in front of you and you find yourself going broke real fast. If you want to avoid Loans and go for that huge 55 point bonus, you’ve got to get your trains on the board as quickly as possible. Because turn order does become rather relevant with the tokens, to offset that, the second player begins with 1 point, the third player with 2 points, and so on, but that’s such a small advantage (rarely are Ticket to Ride games decided by such a thin margin) that I think the rule isn’t worth the complexity of remembering to do it.



However, the tickets are so huge and important, that you’re not necessarily out of the game if you take a Loan. I took four Loans in one game and still came very close to winning, because 8 of my tickets were all in the 23-33 point range. Like the Mega Game, you keep 3+ out of 5 to start, and when you dive for more tickets, you keep 1+ out of 4. So it’s typically very flexible, and there can be situations where it’s a no-brainer to keep 3-4 huge tickets. It can be punishing as well, though, because if you can’t do any of the tickets you draw, you’re likely to be stuck with a penalty of 15+ points, as there are no low tickets to keep when you have to eat the points. Overall though, the tickets offer tempting reasons to bite the bullet and take Loans, because the tickets are so lucrative that they can outweigh even the 55-point bonus. (Our winning scores have been in the 200-250 range.)



It’s subtle, but one new rule that I really like on this map and should probably become standard, is that the discard pile for tickets is face-up, and the tickets are reshuffled when the draw pile is exhausted. I like this for two reasons. The first is that the rule is identical to the train card deck, so it makes the game a little simpler. The second is that to experienced players, this can add some strategy to the game if you’ve got a keen eye and pay attention to what might still be in the deck. At higher levels of play, you might even be able to discern what tickets your opponents have and block them accordingly. Maybe it’ll slow the occasional uber-competitive game to a crawl, but overall, I like the new rule. That sounds like a lot to say about a little rules tweak, but in a game with as few rules as Ticket to Ride, the little tweaks are rather significant.



Overall, I think the map rewards strategic play and offers some interesting decisions that are different than the ones you typically might make in a Ticket to Ride game, much like the Mandala bonus for the India map. I can see how it might feel that the tokens are sort of a tacked-on gimmick, which is the way some felt about other concepts like ferries or the Passengers in Märklin. It does seem like it would have been more natural to have some sort of additional cost of train cards to pay to the discard pile or to the first player (which could then accelerate the game). However, since train cards are easy to come by, I think the key thing is that the limited amount of tokens is what keeps the tension high in the game, despite the abundance of double routes. Because of that, Alan was able to make a considerably smaller-than-usual board, which makes for more interesting battles with the other players, since it’s easier to anticipate where they’re headed. Additionally, using the token exchanges for tension instead of blocking players off of routes means you can still finish your tickets even if at the expense of the Loan, which is somehow less annoying than not doing the tickets because you were blocked off – so the game keeps it tense without that occasional un-fun frustration from super-tight games of Ticket to Ride.



Conclusion

Although you’re not getting the 2-for-1 deal of the first two entries of the Map Collection, I think that this map is very strategic and exciting, because of all the high-scoring possibilities and the tenseness of the token mechanic, without being brutal. Additionally, the new mechanic is rather easy to explain, much more so than the Team Asia rules or the Mandala mechanic. The 1910 USA Mega Game will probably always be a personal favorite, but I think I’d put this map rather high up there – above all the other stand-alone games, for sure.



So if you already own a version of Ticket to Ride and want a map that’s challenging and exciting without being too frustrating, while different enough to feel like a truly unique experience, check out Ticket to Ride: Nederland.




Originally posted on http://meepletown.com
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Wil
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Excellent review! Thank you.

What's the length of the game in your experience so far and would you say it's less or more than the USA map and USA Mega Game?

I'm looking for a shorter game and the tight map looks like it will achieve that but the coins may add to the time so it's tough to tell based on my reading so far. The coins do sound like a great way to add a layer of interactivity and competition though so that is extremely enticing.

Thanks again.
 
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Derek Thompson
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wgerken wrote:
Excellent review! Thank you.

What's the length of the game in your experience so far and would you say it's less or more than the USA map and USA Mega Game?

I'm looking for a shorter game and the tight map looks like it will achieve that but the coins may add to the time so it's tough to tell based on my reading so far. The coins do sound like a great way to add a layer of interactivity and competition though so that is extremely enticing.

Thanks again.


Our games have been around 75-85 minutes with five players, which is probably close to what's typical for the Mega Game. My wife and I, though, 2-player Mega Game is like 20-30 minutes, or 5-10 on the iPad... so it's largely based on experience and knowledge of the map and tickets and also number of players. (I haven't tried the 2p dummy version because there are so many other good maps for 2 players).

If you want a tight map for fewer players, the first thing to get is India/Switzerland, both very small maps and 2-4p, 2-3p only. India is a really great map and Switzerland is good too (unless you hate tunnels).

Hope that helps.
 
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Wil
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aldaryn wrote:
If you want a tight map for fewer players, the first thing to get is India/Switzerland, both very small maps and 2-4p, 2-3p only. India is a really great map and Switzerland is good too (unless you hate tunnels).

Hope that helps.


Yes it does! Thanks again.
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Lisette Anink
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Excellent review!

I've only played with 2 person and because of the Dummy player the toll mechanic is still interesting also with 2 players. But especially his blocking makes the game tighter with two without the head-to-head fights.

After reading your review I'm looking forward to playing this with more than 2.
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