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Ticket to Ride: Märklin» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Best of the TTR series, if you have the patience. rss

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Ron Olivier, Sr.
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My initial exposure to the Ticket to Ride series came when I purchased the ‘Europe’ version for my wife last summer. The game was a big hit with family and friends, so as Christmas drew near, I purchased the original (USA) edition for my nephews, and for my son’s fiancé I bought Ticket to Ride: Marklin. While I found myself really missing tunnels, ferries, and stations (not to mention the full-sized cards) when I played the USA version, I must say that Marklin provided a completely different, very enriching experience.

Who would like it? This game will appeal to any TTR fans that thirst for something a bit more challenging than the previous TTR entries. And yes, I think that this game CAN be a great gateway game if you teach the ‘basic’ game first, then add the passengers once the learner feels comfortable with the basic game.

Components: The bits are on par with the other games in the series, except that the wooden scoring disks have been replaced by molded plastic ones that stack more easily (and stick together too easily, also). Oh, and the cards. THE TRAIN CARDS - they’re absolutely beautiful. They take a bit of getting used to but they are definitely the nicest cards in any of the three TTR version thus far. The map is laid out in portrait format rather than landscape, so it’s taller than it is wide, which gives the board a whole different look and feel. The trains are the same as the other editions, except there a few colors have been changed, adding to the new look. The quality is what you’d expect from Days of Wonder, but even more attractive than the previous TTR entries.

Gameplay: For the most part, the game is standard Ticket to Ride fare (pardon the pun) – no need to explain the basics here. The extras from the Europe game (ferries, tunnels, and stations) are nowhere to be found. There are now two kinds of locomotives - the regular ones and the “+4” locomotives. The +4’s have two important differences – they can only be used on routes that are four trains or longer, and they only count as one card when choosing them from the face-up cards.

And of course there are the passengers. Ah, yes, the passengers. There has been much ado about this new feature, some positive, and some quite negative. As far as I’ve seen, the negative comments outweighed the positive, although not by much. After playing a few times, I REALLY liked the addition of this feature. The negative comments basically fall into 3 categories: usage, gateway game status, and “fiddly-ness”. I address these three areas here.

Passenger Usage: Some people don’t even use the passengers because they say it’s confusing. Reading the rules on how to play them was just a bit cryptic, but we figured it out easily enough and by the time we were halfway through our four-player first game we all knew how to use them as if we’d been doing it for years.

Basically, each city has one or more scoring tokens on them, ranging in value from 1 to 7. On any turn in which you build a link between two cities, you have the option of placing one of your three passengers on one of those cities. On a future turn, you can ‘move’ one of the passengers you have on the board along your rail line and pick up tokens from each city that you pass through. If you have any passenger cards in your hand (they’re mixed in with the train card deck), you can play them to travel along a section of opponent’s track – the more passenger cards you have, the more sections of opponent’s track you can ride on. Total up the value of the tokens and add it to your score, then remove that passenger from the game. It’s really pretty simple once you get used to it.

Knowing WHEN to move your passenger to collect tokens is a different story. If you move him too early, you might not get as many points as you could by waiting. But if you wait too long, someone else might swoop in and take some of the more valuable tokens. This is what makes them such a wonderful addition!

Passengers and ‘Gateway Gamers’: Despite the familiarity with the usual TTR mechanics, this game really does feel a lot different. The passengers add an additional level of strategy to the game, and the “+4” locomotives added a new twist. While these mechanics certainly do complicate the game somewhat, it still remains a fairly light (medium-light) game. Think of Carcassonne with the ‘Traders and Builders’ expansion added on. Marklin has a similar effect for Ticket to Ride.

I believe that you can teach this game to a complete novice simply by removing the passengers, the passenger cards, and the scoring tokens on the cities, if necessary. (Many astute novices could probably catch onto the game even with the passenger devices). Once someone is familiar with the basic game, then you can add those elements back in. Even the “+4” locomotives are pretty easily understood.

Passengers and “fiddly-ness”: Ok, I found this is a more legitimate area to gripe about. First, it takes about 10 minutes longer to set up the game because of the point tokens placed on each city. Likewise, it takes about 5 minutes more to put the game away. Sometimes, this extra time is a deciding factor whether or not to play an additional game of Marklin. (By contrast, the ‘Europe’ version was a no-brainer, almost always being ‘Let’s do one more game!).

But even worse is the fact that as you pass through these cities with your passengers, you have to extract these point tokens from small areas between completed rail links. This can be a time-wasting, sloppy, and frustrating exercise. Whoever play-tested this game either had very slender, agile fingers or played it on a larger board. Everyone in my group is turned off by this aspect of the game, even though many of us love the game itself.

Neat stuff: Because of the different colored trains, having Marklin and one other TTR title allows you to experiment with 6-player game rules of your own. (For Europe, the passengers can be used as ‘stations’).

Whereas TtR: Europe felt a lot like the original with a few more bells and whistles, Marklin really feels like a different game altogether. The whole ‘passenger’ aspect of the game is probably the biggest reason for that, but the taller game board, the +4 locomotives, the different colored train markers, and the sleek new train cards all have a hand in that.

Wrap-up: As I’ve only played this a few times so far, and it’s hard to say whether I like it more than the Europe version or not. Certainly, I enjoy the increased strategy of the passenger aspect and the variety of the “+4” locomotives immensely, which more than makes up for the loss of tunnels, ferries, and stations. However, I’m not a big fan of the longer set-up time or having to fish out the little tokens from crowded cities.

Overall, I guess that if I only could have one TTR game, I’d be happy with EITHER Europe or Marklin. The both are lots of fun, easy to play, and improvements over a very good original.





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Exit 191
United States
Buckeye
Arizona
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Look to the past and learn for the future.
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Hopefully moving back to Colorado again soon. Here we go family, next new adventure!
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Very nice write-up of Marklin. I think that your issues with the original would be quickly rectified with the purchase of Ticket to Ride: USA 1910. My wife and I also had Ticket to Ride: Europe first and then picked up the original. We didn't like the small cards and the way it played. After picking up Ticket to Ride: USA 1910 now the original is getting played more than Europe. I would suggest picking up 1910. You will not be disappointed.
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Bonnie Ricca
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Berkeley
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rantinronrevue wrote:
I believe that you can teach this game to a complete novice simply by removing the passengers, the passenger cards, and the scoring tokens on the cities, if necessary.


I can't imagine not using the passengers. I think that would completely throw off the balance of the game. The thing I really like about this edition (and I've only played this and the base one, which I found very boring after Marklin Edition) is that there are a variety of strategies, each of which is pretty well balanced against the others:

- You can focus on the longer destination tickets. Many of these can go through the right side of the board. It'll take a lot longer to complete each one because it's harder to collect the cards for the five-, six-, and seven-train legs, and if someone builds your target leg before you do, you have to start collecting cards in a new color. However, you'll get more points for each build, and you'll get more points for completing each destination ticket. Also, moving your passenger through Berlin gets you the most valuable passenger tokens on the board.

- You can focus on the short routes. Many of these go down the left side of the board. Here, most of the legs are one, two, or three trains longs, so you don't get many points for building each one. And of course, completing a short route isn't worth nearly as much as completing a long one. However, many of the short legs are grey, so you can use a set of cards of any color, which makes it easier to build more of them. In addition, the 10-point bonus in this game is for completing the most destination tickets, which you can easily do by churning out a bunch of short ones. Lastly, you have many, many more passenger tokens available to you. On a good passenger run down the left side of the board, you can get 30-40 points or more, easily making up the differential between building short and long routes.

- You can do a combo of the two and hope that the additional destination tickets you choose later in the game will match up nicely with routes you've already built. This is what I usually do. If you build one or two long routes and a couple of short ones to start off, you can usually complete one or two more long ones later in the game by having to add only one or two more legs to your existing routes. Of course, this depends greatly on drawing routes that overlap your earlier ones when you pull more tickets. It usually works for me, though.

I would think that removing the passengers from the game would greatly diminish the viability of a short-route, left-side-of-the-board strategy. I'd be interested to hear how the gameplay is without them. I've always taught the game with the passengers--even to newbies--and no one's ever had a problem understanding and using them.
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Gladys Wallis
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I enjoyed your review very much! I just wanted to add that the passenger feature is what i love most about Marklin - even if i do miss the tunnels.

My husband and i were playing a 2-player game, and although he had more and longer routes than I did, I ended up getting most of the passenger points and ended up winning!
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