I am a big TtR fan. I have many, many plays of the US map and the Netherlands map under my belt. Most TtR games are excellent with many types of gamers and non-gamers. This is why I was quite interested to see what this newest entry in the series had to offer.
Those familiar with TtR will find the heart and core of Rails & Sails to be very much the same. You start by taking 5 Destination tickets and must keep 3. You receive a starting hand of travel cards, in Rails & Sails it's a mix of train and boat cards. The cards in Rails & Sails is one place where complexity has been added. Not only do you know have to track 2 types of travel cards but you have to track which of these cards have the harbour icon on them. Another twice is you must assemble you pool of trains/boats, a combination of 50 for the great lakes map and 60 for the world map.
You have the same basic actions:
Take a travel card
Take a Destination ticket
Lay down trains/boats
Then Rails & Sails deviates. you have 2 additional actions:
Play a harbour - play 4 cards (2 train, 2 boat) of the same colour with a harbour symbol and place a harbour on a town with port symbol. You lose 4 points for unplaced harbours but can make huge gains if you have routes that start/end at those harbours.
Exchange some of your trains/boats for boats/trains - you can exchange pieces for other pieces but you lose a point per piece traded
With this many additional, rules, actions, and cards I found that it really slowed the flow of the game and added some complexity that I didn't feel was missing from TtR. managing your hand with 2 types of travel cards and those travel cards having a subset with harbour symbols made the hand management/organizing to be too much of a chore. Placing harbours could potentially gain you tons of points but I found interrupted the normal flow of a TtR game in a way that I didn't find paid off.
Overall I think this reimaging of TtR was too much complexity for the sake of complexity. I don't think it made the game more strategic it just made it a longer game with more book keeping. A disapointing addition to a wonderful series of games.
Like all Ticket to Ride maps I really enjoy the latest addition to the range and the variety it adds. However I do agree that sorting and managing the different types of colour cards is tiresome and chaotic.
We use the wooden card holders from the Team Asia map which helps a little bit, but it is still chaotic.
As for choosing the number of trains/ships to use, we play house rules where you count out the correct number of pieces (i.e. 60 in World map with any combination you chose - usually roughly half & half) and then have open hand swapping train/ships if needed (free of charge) during opponents turn to prevent any hold ups. This saves times and prevents analysis paralysis trying to work out what combination of trains and ships you think you might need.
I do like the harbours and I was really excited to try out the tour tickets when I heard about Rails & Sails. Whilst I really like the idea and the variety and extra challenge the tour tickets bring, it often does not seem particularly worthwhile. The risk can be high and the benefit relatively low and I often seem to be better off just drawing more tickets instead.
There also isn't that many tour tickets in the deck. I do hope they re-explore this mechanism in future maps and maybe add more tour tickets to the deck and more emphasis on touring.
I do hope someone can share a good way to sort & manage the colour cards!
I enjoy the game overall, and I think the harbor mechanic adds a fun bit of strategy - we've even tried to back-port that to a few other versions of TTR, just with different rules on what cards you need to place a harbor.
But I agree that the tour tickets are often more trouble than they're really worth. A few of the smaller ones are not too bad; I feel like half the time when I draw Casabalanca-Al Qahira-Tehran or Lagos-Luanda-Dar es Salaam-Djibouti, I already have it completed by that point. But the longer ones across the Arctic are pretty much a fool's errand. There are very few scenarios in which one of those is worth your time. Why go out of your way when you can instead spend your time linking lower latitude cities that recur on several more tickets? Having more regular tickets that also hit a few of those out-of-the-way cities would have added potential value to those.
And yes, managing all the cards in your hand just gets ridiculous. We have limited table space, so we have to use the racks from Team Asia as well. Unless it's a 4-player game we'll use two racks per player. I'll have tickets on one rack, and shove them off to one side as I complete them, grouping them by common cities if possible so that I can go back and look through them for ideal harbor placements. On the other rack, I'll keep my "anchor cards" - trains to one side, ships to the other, locomotives in the middle. Regular trains and double ships stay in my hand. That way I'm less tempted to spend the anchor cards and locos unless I really need one, and I can easily see when I've collected a set to build a harbor. Even with that system worked out, it can still be a bit overwhelming. And obviously if anyone ever figures out how I organize my cards, I'll have to switch it up, but I tend to play with people who barely pay enough attention to what other players are doing to see when it's obvious that I want the same route on the board that they do, let alone actually analyze how I'm organizing my cards.
Those racks can get really top-heavy when you load them down with too many cards. One brush against the top of it while you're trying to place trains on the board, and you can end up revealing your entire hand to a nosy opponent.