Note: My review of Ticket to Ride: The Card Game appears in the Summer 2008 issue of Counter magazine. What follows is an abbreviated version.
I was attending the Gathering of Friends convention when I first heard of the card game version of the popular and award-winning Ticket to Ride board game series. Already owning three of the Ticket to Ride versions – original, Europe and Marklin – my initial thought was “I don’t really need to play another Ticket to Ride game.” So, I didn’t put any effort towards playing it until the penultimate day of the convention. I wasn’t expecting much, but was I wrong! This is an excellent adaptation of the board game, complete with some very clever mechanisms and a touch of nastiness.
As in the board game, players are trying to complete routes between cities, thereby scoring points. However, in this version, everything is accomplished using cards, as there is no board and no train pieces to place. Rather, players are attempting to fulfill the requirements of destination tickets they possess by maneuvering the proper number and colors of cards into their “On the Track” stacks.
As in the board game, players have three primary options: take two train tickets from those on display (or face-down from the top of the deck), play cards to the table, or take new destination tickets. The rules for performing these options are very similar to those in the board game versions.
The playing of cards from the hand warrants further explanation, as it is vital to the flow of the game. When choosing this option, a player may play as many cards of a matching color to the table, which is known as the “rail yard”. Alternatively, players may play EXACTLY three cards, each of a different suit.
When playing cards, a player must play MORE cards in a suit than what is currently in play. So, if an opponent has three red train cards in his rail yard, in order to play red train cards, the player must play four or more cards. This has a cruel effect: any opponent who has red cards in their rail yard immediately discards them. This gives the game a nasty edge, and makes playing three single cards of different suits extremely risky, especially when playing with four players.
Before a player takes any of these actions, he places the top card of each suit in his rail yard facedown into his “On the Track” stack. These are the cards that will be used to fulfill destination tickets. A player may not peek at the cards he has placed in this stack. So, one must attempt to remember, at least in general, the cards he has set aside. Some folks have complained that this memory aspect of the game isn’t to their tastes, so the rules do allow a variant wherein players may look at this stack as often as they desire. This option is likely a wise choice when playing with children.
Play continues until the train deck expires, whereupon everyone examines the cards in their “On the Track” stack and completes as many destination tickets as they possibly can. Any wild cards in the stack can be used as any color. Finally, the winner of each goal card is determined. These are cards which list major cities, and the player having the most routes into a particular city receives the victory points listed on the card. Players tally the points of their tickets and goal cards, and the player with the most total points is victorious.
The game contains much of the same tough choices as the board game. Choosing whether to take more train cards or play them to the table can be tougher than one would think, as there is the persistent temptation to take just one more card from those available. However, getting cards to the table means that you will have more opportunity to move them into your “On the Track” stack, which is ultimately what leads to victory points.
Ticket to Ride: The Card Game is one of the best adaptations of a board game to a card game format I’ve had the pleasure to play. It maintains many of the mechanisms and much of the flavor of the original game, yet also offers some clever new twists and features. The aggressive board play aspect of the board game, wherein players can be cut-off from desired routes, has been replaced with the ability to force opponents to discard cards from their rail yards. Yet, at the same time, the game is easy to learn and very accessible. Families can learn and play the game quickly and easily, yet there is enough here to engage gamers. I feel I will be enjoying the ride on this new Ticket to Ride version for a long time to come.
In this session, the routes I completed were smaller than Jim, but I managed to complete just enough of them and secure a few “goal” cards to edge him for the victory.
Finals: Greg 137, Jim M. 132, Jim F. 123, Rhonda 58
Ratings: Rhonda 8, Greg 7.5, Jim F. 7, Jim M. 7