Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
After our 2-player games of Memoir '44, the approaching horde descended on Randy's house and we moved into the larger portion of the game day.
There were nine of us there; three inexperienced boardgamers, and a few casual gamers as well. So, the games we played next needed to be good gateway games. On one table, RoboRally was the game of choice for five players. On the other, where I was, Ticket to Ride: Europe was to be played.
Four players: Troy, Patrick, Meg and me. I was the only one who had played the game before, so I had the job of explaining the rules. Perhaps somewhat poorly, but they had enough to go with.
One of the hardest parts of the game - especially for new players - is selecting beginning tickets. I discarded two short tickets that did nothing for me, for my main route was Brest-Petrograd. My other short ticket was happily on the main route.
As I recall, Troy kept all his tickets, Meg and Patrick discarded one each.
And, so, we began. I kept to a strategy of drawing lots of cards until I could start playing a few routes in a row; I also needed a few colour sets that weren't coming up. Wild cards were perceived as valuable by most of the players, and they didn't survive long as face-up cards.
Meg and Patrick both had the long routes that start in Spain, and were soon placing trains in France and south-west of there. I was getting worried about the links from France to Germany, and Troy was placing trains in both the southeast and northwest parts of the board. All these first-time players quickly picked up on the rules (it's harder to explain than to play), and the game proceeded quickly.
My biggest problem was a lack of black cards. I'd managed to link Paris through to Wilno, but that Brest-Paris link was proving elusive. I had three wild cards, but it seemed a waste to use them on that link. Then Troy took Wilno-Petrograd. The four blue cards in my hand mocked me. I'd need to take the Petrograd-Moskva route now. Luckily, I did have some white cards already.
The other players began to complete their original tickets, and started looking for more: first Meg, and then Patrick. There were cries of dismay as they worked out where they needed to go (often somewhat off where they should be). Meg needed to play a station in one of the French stations, as we'd picked off the rest of the links there; Patrick followed suit.
I finally found two black cards and used them and a wild to get Brest-Paris, and another play found me having completed my two tickets. Now for some new ones... Wilno-Athens!* Oh, no!
I was fortunate. Troy had taken the tunnel route Bucharesti-Budapest, so I could still take Kyiv-Bucharesti. We were actually doing pretty well at not interfering with each other (with the exception of the two stations, as noted).
The game was getting closer to its end, but there were still quite a few trains to be played. More tickets... Frankfurt-Smolensk*
Woohoo! I already had those links down. An easy ten points.
Another ticket gave me Essen-Kyiv* and - amazingly - the Essen-Berlin link is still free, and I have two blue trains. I took it.
I took Brest-Pamplona because I could, and because it left me with only two trains. The last moves were made, with Troy cursing as he had previously needed to use a wild for a tunnel, and so didn't have a pair of cards needed to connect Rostov-Sochi.
Tunnels had been kind to us this game. No-one had needed to spend more than one extra card to do so, and we hadn't failed to have the cards.
Well, until, with my final turn, I tried playing Pamplona-Barcelona with my two remaining cards, but was unsuccessful as one match came up. Oh well. On to final scoring.
The incredible thing about the final scoring was this: Patrick and I had five tickets, and Troy and Meg four tickets. We completed them all. No-one had failed to finish all their tickets! For a game with three new players, that was pretty impressive. Only two stations had been played as well.
Final scoring put Troy and me well ahead of Patrick and Meg, as we'd been completing more longer-tickets. (When we do final scoring, I insist we start with revealing the smaller tickets, one by one around the table, and finally each revealing our largest ticket). I was on 126 points, Troy was on 118 points, and there was only the European Express bonus to go.
We counted it out: and I had it. Pamplona-Athens. However, Troy wasn't far behind me. If he'd just had that last pair, and had taken Rostov-Sochi, his track would have been longer than mind. With that bonus would have come the game. That was close!
We all agreed it had been an excellent game. The game of RoboRally had finished only a couple of minutes earlier, with Ben the victor (in all his previous games, he'd never reached the first checkpoint, so he was happy). So, what game to play now?
*: These tickets may not be 100% accurate. I don't have the game with me, and I neglected to take notes. You can get the general idea, however.