Ticket to Ride isn’t the most brain-busting game on the market. You have a slew of other options if you’re looking for a deep, complex, strategy game—even if you’re after one involving trains. In fact, if our group is going to play a “train game” that game is usually Railroad Tycoon. That said, Ticket to Ride remains right at the top of the list of games that every enthusiast really needs to have in their collection.
The reason for this is that the game serves a purpose, and it does it perhaps better than any game to date. It can be a daunting task introducing new people to the wonderful world of board games. Which game do you show your friends and family? If you want to break them out of the shell that is Monopoly, Uno, Clue and Trivial Pursuit – where do you start? Some games just aren’t made to break that mould. It’s a common lament amongst gamers: What game should I get to play with my wife? My son? My girlfriend? You might feel a tad leery bringing out a copy of Runebound, Arkham Horror, Command and Colors: Ancients, or Puerto Rico. Some new players need to be eased into the hobby—not thrown to the wolves left to fend for themselves.
Ticket to Ride, on the other hand, is a surefire way to show people of all ages what this fascinating hobby has to offer without overwhelming them with rules and wrapping it up inside a theme that is approachable, non-offensive, and easy to digest.
The idea is simple: you try to score points by claiming train routes. You can explain the game to a complete novice in less than ten minutes and the rules are laid out as such that an eight-year old will grasp them in no time.
The Fun Factors:
Cards drive the gameplay. The routes on the game board are in various colors and you need to have a certain number of colored train cards in your hand (depending on the length of the route) in order to place your trains, and thus claiming the link. On your turn you have three options: draw train cards, claim a route by placing your plastic trains on the board connecting one city to another, or draw additional Destination Tickets. These tickets give you a “goal” of sorts and also offer up crucial bonus points if you complete them (but also subtract from your point total at game’s end if you fail to finish the route.)
That’s it. It’s a deceptively simple game, and at first glance it appears almost too simple but when you play with experienced players it is easy to pick up on certain strategies and ways in which to block the opposition. Still, its strength remains in that it’s the logical gateway game to show new players.
Case in point: over the holidays, we went to my in-laws. Several kids were there and usually the adults play basic card games all day because there simply isn’t much else to do. This year we brought Ticket to Ride. Five games later, the entire family was hooked from the 13-year old nephew to the 65 year old Nun…the game was a huge hit and, as always, prompted the usual question, “So, what other games do you have at home that are like this?” Mission accomplished. Score another win for Ticket to Ride.
Duration and Downtime:
A game of Ticket to Ride can take anywhere from 45 minutes to well over an hour, depending on how many people are playing Downtime is minimal as players only have three options when it’s their turn and usually know (or have an idea) what they want/need to do when it’s their move. A key to getting new people involved in games is not to have them sit for 15 minutes between turns and Ticket to Ride excels in this area.
The game is best played with more than two people even though it technically supports one on one play. The board gets a bit more “messy” with additional players, making it more difficult to complete routes. With two players, things are a bit too wide open. A game with the maximum of five players makes for a very entertaining and at times even cut-throat affair, particularly with experienced players that know the destination routes.
There are various strategies that you will develop the more you play the game and replay value is not really an issue due to the nature of its design. Games play out differently based on the destination cards you have as well as the cards held by other players.
The rules are amazingly easy to grasp. You’ll be up and playing within a matter of minutes. (You can download a copy of the rules at http://www.ticket2ridegame.com and see for yourself.)
The components are solid; one of the first things that catch the eye of a new player is the color and the interesting looking board. The trains (of which there are over 200) are well-made of sturdy, colored plastic and the board is lively and colorful with multiple routes spanning all across the United States and into Canada. The cards are also of good quality (if a tad small) – it’s a pretty typical Days of Wonder production.
The game doesn’t get a lot of play in our house much these days, but when it’s time to show someone just how interesting and different board games can be when all they have been exposed to are the classics of designs gone by – we always, without hesitation, break out our copy of Ticket to Ride.