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Subject: Railroading in the Snow - A Pleasant Excursion!!! rss

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Mystery McMysteryface
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Introduction/Background
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries is a beautifully produced, light competitive game from the very popular Ticket to Ride series. It is a stand alone version of Ticket to Ride and not an expansion, and is our first and only Ticket to Ride game/experience. This is strictly a 2 to 3 player game utilizing a map of the Nordic Countries with a wintry theme and artwork. The rules for the Ferries and Tunnels are borrowed from Ticket to Ride: Europe, and add different requirements for completing/claiming routes. Mystery Bob, daughter, and I have played many times, so I now feel comfortable enough to rate and review this game designed by Alan R. Moon and published by Days of Wonder. We have logged in several 3-player games and many 2-player games between the adults only and between myself and my 7-year old daughter.

Goal of Review
In trying to provide a fresh review, and not a restatement of the rules and gameplay, I will focus on what we have found enjoyable and not enjoyable based on our 2 and 3-player games. If I were researching this game, I would like to find a review that provides helpful information on the attributes of the game instead of a play-by-play description (which has already been posted repeatedly here on BGG).

What we Like
Components:
The components are beautifully produced and have a nice quality. The board is gorgeous and has a portrait orientation instead of landscape.
The plastic trains in black, white, and purple match the winter artwork/theme very nicely. The cards are a good quality which is important since you do need to shuffle the train cards quite a bit. The train card artwork has snowy trains which also tie into the winter feel of this version. The rulebook is very nicely produced and easy to follow. The Days of Wonder website has videos showing Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride: Europe, which are very helpful as well.

Gameplay:
Acquiring train cards in order to claim routes is the basic mechanic of the game. Claiming routes for points and fulfilling Destination Tickets are the core of this game. Timing is critical as you don’t want to wait too long to claim a route only to have someone else claim it and block you. However, it sometimes garners you more points if you connect cities via a long circuitous route instead of a short one. Drawing more Destination Tickets is a fun chance to take; sometimes it works in your favor as you might find the ticket(s) already fulfilled or easily fulfilled in 1 or 2 turns. Sometimes it is devastating and forces you to acquire negative points at the end of the game.
 
We like the challenge of the Ferries because you need to pick up those valuable Locomotive cards whenever they come up in order to claim those routes. While the luck factor is fairly high in this game, we do enjoy it as a part of this game—we feel it fits and is just about right. There is definitely some decision-making involved in selecting your Destination Tickets, hoarding the right color train cards, deciding just when to claim routes and where, and leaving yourself some flexibility to claim alternate routes in the event you are blocked.

Winning Conditions and End Game:
The winning conditions are based on your total number of points from routes claimed (which are on a sliding scale based on the number of trains in the route), Destination Tickets fulfilled and unfulfilled, and the Globe Trotter 10-point Bonus (for the player who has completed the most Destination Tickets). We really like that you can somewhat control when the End Game will occur as it is based on having 2 or fewer trains at the end of a turn (after that occurs, all players get only one more turn before final scoring). There may be times when it is beneficial for you to cause the game to end right away, and other times when you may hold off on ending the game even when you are able to.

Replayability Factor and Number of Players:
So far, we have found this game to be replayable due to the inherent luck, but especially due to the differences in the 2 and 3-player game. The 2-player game does not allow for any double routes, thereby adding more tension to the game and a sense of urgency in claiming your routes. The 3-player game is more relaxed because the double routes are available, but with 3 people claiming routes the board fills up pretty quickly. Mystery Bob has grown to like this a lot and requested it twice in one weekend!! My daughter is always up for a game although I caution parents that 7 is still a bit young for such a long game. She is improving her strategies and gameplay, but she tends to find the game somewhat boring.

What we did NOT Like
Components:
I do not like the rather pinkish purple wooden scoring marker because it doesn’t match the purple of the plastic trains.
A very minor complaint, I know. The multi-fold board also doesn’t lay perfectly flat. My major gripe is the Destination Tickets; they are confusing because they list the topmost city second and the bottommost city first! I always have trouble looking for the cities on the wrong part of the map due to this discrepancy!
 

Gameplay:
Sometimes the luck factor–the luck of the draw—of both the train cards and the Destination Tickets can be unforgiving and result in wide discrepancies in scores. Mystery Bob had an especially lucky 2-player game against me where he won by a margin of 70 points. In another 2-player game, he wasn’t able to fulfill any Destination Tickets and ended up with negative points! Those are not 100% enjoyable experiences, but does not kill the game for us nor encourage us to shelve the game either!

The Tunnels are not my favorite as I tend to avoid claiming those routes or keeping Destination Tickets that require many Tunnel routes. The “chance” element of having to play extra train cards on those routes does not add any enjoyment or fun tension to the game for me at all. I personally claim those routes as a last resort. However, my risk-taking daughter loves the Tunnel routes and enjoys the challenge!

Winning Conditions and End Game:
No negatives for us so far in this category.

Replayability and Number of Players:
Also no negatives for us here although I’d love to see some other variants introduced to this game which would preclude me from purchasing or DIY-ing another map and cards.

In Conclusion
We really enjoy Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries and find both the 2 and 3-player versions to fill a niche in our gaming experience. Not really short enough for a filler, but still a nice game to have and play that won’t interrupt your entire day or afternoon. This is a definite winner for us and is lots of fun, we recommend it for those seeking a 2 or 3-player Ticket to Ride experience!!! We rate it a solid 7.5.

Embarrassing Confession
I kept singing the Beatles’ Ticket to Ride to my daughter once we had decided to buy the game, after I had ordered it, and while we waited for it to arrive. Very hokey and geeky of me, I know!!!
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michael confoy
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Nice review. I think that they went a bit overboard with the winter scenes. With global warming, might become a real anachronism sooner than later.
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Håkan König
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papahoth wrote:
Nice review. I think that they went a bit overboard with the winter scenes. With global warming, might become a real anachronism sooner than later.
No, no, no. Back around 1910 we had some really nice winters here in Scandinavia. It's only the last 15-20 years or so that the temperature has prevented us from seeing real snow every year.
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Kurt Purcell
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Quote:
My major gripe is the Destination Tickets; they are confusing because they list the topmost city second and the bottommost city first! I always have trouble looking for the cities on the wrong part of the map due to this discrepancy!

Just looking at the samples they appear to read left to right rather than up/down (or down/up). Went to check the full set and of course they don't follow that rule either. I'm sure there is a rule there somewhere although I don't know if I want to try to work it out. Topmost is not always the case either - see Tromso Vaasa card and others.

Good review. I got my mother-in-law and her sister playing when they were here for a visit and they picked it up quickly. My 7 y.o. son shows no interest.

Quote:
I kept singing the Beatles’ Ticket to Ride to my daughter

But she don't care!
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Mystery McMysteryface
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kurt_purcell wrote:
Quote:
My major gripe is the Destination Tickets; they are confusing because they list the topmost city second and the bottommost city first! I always have trouble looking for the cities on the wrong part of the map due to this discrepancy!

Just looking at the samples they appear to read left to right rather than up/down (or down/up). Went to check the full set and of course they don't follow that rule either. I'm sure there is a rule there somewhere although I don't know if I want to try to work it out. Topmost is not always the case either - see Tromso Vaasa card and others.

Good review. I got my mother-in-law and her sister playing when they were here for a visit and they picked it up quickly. My 7 y.o. son shows no interest.

Quote:
I kept singing the Beatles’ Ticket to Ride to my daughter

But she don't care!


Exatly Kurt, I first thought it was left to right as well. But as you noticed there is no "1 rule/way" with the way the cities are listed!!

My 7-year old is also a bit on the "meh" side. The game is really too long for a young child's attention span. They'd just rather play with the trains!!
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