I made another business trip to Baton Rouge last week and I met up with my 4 regular gaming friends for a Wednesday night session. We made it a Days of Wonder night with games of Cleopatra and TTR Marklin hitting the table.
Players included Arun, our host, Jeff L, Brad, Chris and myself. I've always agreed that TTR is a great gateway game, but my first couple of games had left me pretty so-so on the experience. Part may have just been bad luck as either the cards I needed were just not available when I needed them, or crucial sections of my routes were taken. A play of Marklin at Origins had been a bit better, as I felt the passengers did add a strategic element to the game.
I definitely like the bigger cards that come with TTR Marklin. I have not played TTR Europe, but suspect it has the larger cards as well, as that was a common complaint with TTR. Given that none of us were familiar with the geography of Germany, showing the location of the cities on the ticket also gets a thumbs up.
We selected our color and picked ticket (route) cards and jumped into the game. I had a route taking me from northeast to southwest on the map, and was relieved to see the other players were generally heading in other directions. I was happy one terminus on my desired route was Berlin, since Berlin has the highest reward chits in the game should you run a passenger there.
Brad was the only player who had not played TTR and was frequently heard to say, "I have no idea what I'm doing". Of course, you can guess how that is going to end up. In fact, he did start off haphazardly building track segments around the board, and I was starting to believe him. But they all came together for him and he completed 4 routes and took the 10-point bonus for most routes.
Meanwhile, I made a couple of mistakes in my play. I could not seem to remember to place my passenger piece on the board until the next player was taking his turn. I eventually got all three passengers on the board, and had accumulated two ticket cards. All I needed was to complete a couple of segments so I could run a passenger up to Berlin. Being the first to make a nice run with a passenger seems to be a key aspect to playing TTR Marklin. I neeeded some orange cards to complete a key segment, but Jeff L, playing right before me had snapped them up and completed a 7-car orange segment. I was never able to complete a segment bigger than 5 cars, which really puts you at a point disadvantage.
The net result of all this was Arun got in the first passenger run, a run that nabbed the 7-point chit in Berlin and several other chits. We did not add them up at the time, but he had to have gotten close to 30 points from the play.
Competition for the center of the board really heated up, and Chris ended up being the player who seemed to be a day late and dollar short with others beating him to track segments he really needed. By the end of the game Chris had completed some long segments and captured several passenger chits, but failed to complete any of his routes.
Jeff L completed several long segments of 6 or 7 cars and had put up a lot of points, but was not able to cash in well for the passenger points. We both had lines running through Berlin, and on a couple of occasions I ran a passenger through our area just before he got the chance.
As the game moved into the latter stages, it came to the time when players had to decide if there was enough time to draw more route cards. Chris tried this just hoping to pick up a route he could complete, but lady luck just wasn't on his side. Brad also drew some cards and had better luck and picked up another route, giving him 4. I had only kept two of my initial route cards and really needed another. I drew 4 short-route cards. 3 of those were no where near my existing track, but fortunately, I did pull one that could use existing tracks and would only reguire me to build two 2-car segments to complete.
At this point there were some untouched passenger chits in the mid-western section of Germany. Arun had a handful of cards, and seemed to add a new segment to the boards turn after turn. Unfortunately, he also drew a new route card just before the end of the game, which ultimately cost him. It was a gamble he decided to make after getting a lot of additional track on the board.
Chris finally used up his cars and the last round of turns began. I had few cards and just built some single car segments the last couple of turns. Others made similar moves to capture some additional points and Chris ended the game with a final passenger run.
We then confirmed our routes, with Brad's four completed routes overcoming Arun's 62 points just from passenger chits. I still had 10-12 cars left when the game ended, which is never a good thing, as those are all lost point opportunities.
Final scores were:
Brad - 142
Arun - 136
Jeff L - 125
Jeff C - 112
Chris - elected not to calculate his score.
While I find Marklin better than the original TTR, the game still does not excite me a lot. In a 5-player game, it just seems like there is a lot of down time waiting for the turn to come back around, and while a couple of players were a bit deliberate deciding what to do, I would in no way say AP set in. I tried to study the board while other took their turns, but a lot of times I already knew exactly what I was going to build when it got back around to me.
So, the TTR games are certainly not bad games, but just don't rate as high with me as they seem to with others. I actually prefer Clippers for an Alan Moon route-building game.