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Subject: Why Ticket to Ride is a classic! rss

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J Ruble
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This technically a review, but it is more an essay on why I feel “Ticket to Ride” deserves the mantel of being a classic and why it is an extraordinary game. I’m admiring it as the mastery of the artform of game design. I AM ONLY REFERING TO THE BASE GAME IN THIS REVIEW.


image by garyjames

Ticket to Ride. It’s my hope that this game will be a new “classic”. “Classic” in the sense that in thirty years from now copies of it will reside in the game closet of almost every home. That it will be found resting next to Monopoly, Life, Risk and Candyland. I think that Ticket to Ride deserves that level of acceptance. This review is to propose that Ticket to Ride is an example of perfection in the art of game design.

If you are not familiar with Ticket to Ride by Alan Moon and published by Days of Wonder, please stop reading this review and order yourself a copy of this game! Or, if you are not quite that impulsive, read any other review of this game on BGG! It is unlikely that you are in the small minority of gamers that have NO reason to own this game. Even if you generally play games only with serious hardcore boardgamers that will only touch war simulations with a minimum of 700 cardboard chits, you probably will still find yourself in situations where loosely associated acquaintances that do not consider themselves “gamers” will want to play a “lighter” game with you.

Overview: The focus of this review is not to outline the rules, but I’ll still give a succinct overview. The goal in Ticket to Ride is to score the most points through a combination of building train routes and completing tickets. The tickets are cards with two city names on them and a number of points. If you manage to connect the two cities on a ticket through building a series routes then you ADD that many points to your score at the end of the game. If you fail to create a path between those cites, then you LOSE that many points at game’s end. Equally important is that the little routes between cities score you points as well as you build them. You build routes by first collecting sets of cards that are the same color (sets range from 1 to 6 cards) and then discarding a set to build the route. Generally, about half your points will come from completed tickets and the other half from route points. There’s also a bonus for having the longest continues path on the board.

Reasons Ticket to Ride is exceptional and deserving of the mantel “classic”:


1. Simplicity – The rules are simple and easy to learn. More importantly they are easy to remember! There’s really only about 5 rules to the whole game. This is vital to any game being a true classic because you should be able to pull the game out years later and be able to remember how to play without the rulebook. (Because another tradition of classic games is that they must have their rulebook lost in the first five year of ownership – just kidding.) This game is simpler than Risk, Monopoly and Clue It has only a few more rules than Candyland. As an artform, I would say the ambition of game design is to use as few rules as possible, while maintaining intrigue and strategy. Ticket to Ride is the apex of this objective.

2. Tension – When I reference tension, I’m referring to that thrilling feeling of “almost” being able to complete a winning plan, while at the same time facing the uneasy feeling of factors that might be able to stop you. Ticket to Ride provides a sense of strategy: If you set out to create a path on the board and play carefully you’ll likely reach your objective. However, other player may block you. You might not get the cards you want. You might have to take a different route. Because of the way the cards are selected, there’s this constant tension between pushing your luck and waiting for the cards you need or spending most valuable wild cards to build a route now.

3. Competitive, but not ruthless – Admit it, you were the person nobody wanted to play Monopoly with. Even if you’re not that competitive, you probably frustrated a few siblings over a game of Monopoly or Risk because you were simply playing to win. Ticket to Ride does have a nasty side to it, but, for the most part blocking another player doesn’t result in an instant loss for them. They have options. Also aggressive play doesn’t usually directly advance the aggressive player. If a player blocks purely to hurt other players, they usually end up costing themselves more points than they gain. Blocking is only worth it if a player is also furthering their own tickets. At any rate, when you’re losing at Ticket to Ride it doesn’t feel like you’re losing TO another player. They don’t kill you army and they don’t take your money. It feels friendly.

4. Strategic – There is some strategy. It’s not heavy, unfathomable strategy, but it is present. You aren’t managing stock shares or building armies, but you do need to plan out your paths across the board and be wary of signals that other players desire the same routes. Again, it’s not deep, but on the other hand the game is not 3 hours long either.

5. Thematic – It’s an accessible theme: building railroads. Classic and timeless. Everybody can get behind that theme. Theme’s important for a game to be a classic. It should be completely abstract or have a universal theme.

6. More than the sum of its parts – You really can’t tell why Ticket to Ride is fun simply from it’s rule set. You have to play it! It’s a simple thrill to pay a few cards to build a little line of trains. It taps that basic sense of joy you had as a child pushing a toy across the floor or stacking blocks. Drawing a card blindly off the stack and getting the card you needed or a wild card is as addicting as playing a slot machine. It’s a slight thrill of pushing your luck.

7. Efficient – this is mostly a summary of the above arguments. Ticket to Ride is efficient. It doesn’t have a large rule set, but it maximizes the fun and strategy possible with such a simple concept. It’s a shorter game, but it’s a lot of fun for that investment of time.

Now, many of you are going to argue that Ticket to Ride is not the greatest game ever. And you are right. But, I’m making the case that Ticket to Ride is the close to the best game possible for its level of complexity and length. It manages broad appeal through clever game play that hides depth but always reveals an enjoyable experience.
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Robert Taylor-Smith
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At the moment Ticket to Ride is still a pretty pricy game next to the other classics you list (Monopoly, Life, Risk, Candyland). Once the price point comes down I think you're right about it's acceptance. Right now I only notice Settlers of Catan has jumped into that status of a 'wide/common' game from a 'niche' game. Settlers can be readily found in bookstores and drugstores for under $30. Ticket to Ride not so much.
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Jason Weed
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The high MSRP that book stores and retailers charge will limit most of the better games. I'm always shocked when I look over the games at places like Barnes and Noble and Target, even Twister is almost $20. Most price conscious people shop online now, and then you can have it for $35 (with no tax and free shipping if done properly). Either way I don't think this was the point of the author of this review.

I believe that it is becoming a classic, and one that is the closest to a solid gaming experience as is available in the classics (monopoly, risk, checkers). Anything more (including Settlers of Catan) would qualify more as a hobby game. I use my parents as an example, they enjoy Scrabble, Connect 4, Monopoly, and Ticket to Ride. They are not as likely to ask to play Settlers of Catan, Agricola, or Power Grid, though they could be convinced to play, they certainly wouldn't introduce these last 3 to others. Ticket to Ride they introduce and play with friends.
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Ben
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I think this is a fine review, but I'm not sure I see what's laudible about being a "classic" in the mold of Monopoly, Life, Risk, and Candyland. Those games are terrible. I would consider them a waste of anyone's time, and they certainly wouldn't be allowed in my house if I had children. It strikes me as akin to writing a restaraunt review that proudly ranks the food among the likes of McDonald's and Burger King.

I think Ticket to Ride is better than all that (although I'd still likely turn down an invitation to play it), but I guess the perspective of the review struck me as more noteworthy than the subject-matter.
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Greg Cornell
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Excellent review. I stated similar conclusions in my thread:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/623580/why-is-this-simpl...

I have never played this game with a person who didn't like the experience. Hard-core gamers, non-gamers, and everyone in between have enjoyed their experience playing this wonderful game.

The only other game that I own that is as easy to learn and still very enjoyable would be Carcassonne. But I would not put it up to the level of enjoyment I get from playing Ticket to Ride.

My feeling is that Meijer, Target, etc. could use their buying power to bring the retail cost of this wonderful game down enough to compete with the classic games that have been on the shelves for years and cost $15 to $20. Most people who aren't as enlightened as we are can't conceive of enjoying a board game because they don't like to play Monopoly or Clue. They don't ever visit a game store or a hobby shop where a vast landscape of titles might pique their interests.
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Dredry Toenail wrote:
Excellent review. I stated similar conclusions in my thread:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/623580/why-is-this-simpl...

I have never played this game with a person who didn't like the experience. Hard-core gamers, non-gamers, and everyone in between have enjoyed their experience playing this wonderful game.

The only other game that I own that is as easy to learn and still very enjoyable would be Carcassonne. But I would not put it up to the level of enjoyment I get from playing Ticket to Ride.

My feeling is that Meijer, Target, etc. could use their buying power to bring the retail cost of this wonderful game down enough to compete with the classic games that have been on the shelves for years and cost $15 to $20. Most people who aren't as enlightened as we are can't conceive of enjoying a board game because they don't like to play Monopoly or Clue. They don't ever visit a game store or a hobby shop where a vast landscape of titles might pique their interests.


QFT
The other problem with non-gamers entering a gamestore in my experience is that they are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of games that they can purchase ( here in the netherlands most gamestores have dutch and english versions for sale if they are available (most gamers I know want the games in english if they were released in english first because of translation errors that often appear in the dutch versions)

in regards to price I think the OP was talking about long term price reduction due to the game becoming more common and well-known to the general public. I have no clue as to the price of Clue when it first appeared on the market. whistle
I've ghad succes with Carc as well with non-gamers but TtR is almost always a succes. (it must be the trains, steam-engines have a certain sense of romance to them I guess. (the mechanics have nothing to do with trains I know but to most people this isn't apparent)
 
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flapjackmachine wrote:
At the moment Ticket to Ride is still a pretty pricy game next to the other classics you list (Monopoly, Life, Risk, Candyland). Once the price point comes down I think you're right about it's acceptance. Right now I only notice Settlers of Catan has jumped into that status of a 'wide/common' game from a 'niche' game. Settlers can be readily found in bookstores and drugstores for under $30. Ticket to Ride not so much.


Goes both ways here....
One nongamer group of mine enjoyed it, but when someone went to buy it, she backed off b/c $50 was too much for her. She ended up getting TransAmerica instead for half the price, but it also has the bonus of being able to take an extra player and plays in half the time. OTOH, years later, she ended up buying just the base game, so if nothing else, time helps overcome the price. However, I think I had something to do with that too. I was the only one with the game, but when I went to them less and less, and eventually stopped going to them, she probably foresaw that early on and got a copy for herself so she'd still be able to play it witout me around.

.

weed131 wrote:
The high MSRP that book stores and retailers charge will limit most of the better games. I'm always shocked when I look over the games at places like Barnes and Noble and Target, even Twister is almost $20. Most price conscious people shop online now, and then you can have it for $35 (with no tax and free shipping if done properly). Either way I don't think this was the point of the author of this review.
Are people even aware of such sites and such games? If they aren't aware of such games, the likes of B&N will be their first point of contact. Even then, some of them may not think to look at alternatives like Amazon, but....... this day in age, perhaps people are plugging things into search engines more inquisitively, so perhaps they will discover sites like GameSurplus.com or CoolStuffInc.com.

.

Dredry Toenail wrote:
I have never played this game with a person who didn't like the experience. Hard-core gamers, non-gamers, and everyone in between have enjoyed their experience playing this wonderful game.
I have, but they're the exception than the norm really. One gamer didn't like it b/c he felt you could play TransAmerica in half the time, but still get close enough tension and satisfaction out of it. One non-gamer was so much of a nongamer that it didn't seem like he could "transcend" beyond anything but Taboo, Apples To Apples, or other party/social games like those.
 
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