It wasn't until Christmas last year that my wife got this powerhouse gateway game as a gift. We had played this game a couple of times prior, so she knew it was a game she wanted, and it was a part of her Christmas list.
Even though my wife had already gotten into more complex games, we still played this one a lot. Even better, my parents immediately took a liking to it, and it became my mom's favorite. Over the past year, I have played this game 34 times, which include expansion maps as well as my own design that I made for the Days of Wonder contest.
It is a cross country competition, riding trains to connect secret destinations. Each player needs to claim routes that will fulfill their hidden goals, but try not to get too greedy, trying to fulfill too much may backfire.
The game board is a huge representation of the USA, with some of Canada and Mexico included. Colorful routes connect cities to each all across the map. Around the edge of the map is a victory point track.
Two sets of mini cards are included, one deck has the destinations that need to be connected for points, the other deck has the train cards that you will use to claim the routes to connect those cities.
There is a set of 45 plastic train cars in each of the 5 colors (as well as bag with some extras, in case any get lost) that payers will use to mark which routes are theirs. And finally, there is a round wooden marker in each of the 5 player colors used to keep track of the score.
Each player starts out with some destination cards, train cards, and 45 trains. The destination tickets show two cities that must be connected on the game board by a continuous line of routes claimed by that player. If they succeed at this by the end of the game, they will get the points shown on the card. If they cannot do this, they will lose the points instead.
On a player's turn, they must do one of three things. They can choose to pick up more train cards, play train cards to claim a route, or pick up more destination cards.
There will always be 5 train cards visible. If a player chooses to draw train cards, they may choose 1 of the 5 cards shown, or from the top of the draw deck. If they choose 1 of the 5 visible cards, the card is immediately replaced with a card from the draw deck. If the player chose a visible locomotive card (that acts as a wild card and can be played as any other color), than the player's turn is over. If the player drew any other color or from the top of the deck, they may choose another card, but cannot choose a visible locomotive this time. If 3 of the 5 visible cards are ever locomotives, the 5 cards are immediately discarded and replaced.
If a player wants to claim a route, then they must discard the correct amount of cards in a single color. The routes are shown on the board in one of 9 colors. For each space in a route, a card of that color must be discarded. If the route on the board is grey, than a player can use any color for that route, but all the cards must be the same. A locomotive card can always be used for any route in place of a color card.
Some routes on the board are double routes. With 4 or 5 players, this means 2 different players may claim a route between those two cities, with the first player getting the choice of which color they will take. If playing with only 2 or 3 players, than only one route is available, but the player to claim it still gets to choose which color route they want. All routes on the board are worth points, with the value of the route dependent on its length.
Picking up more destination tickets allows the opportunity to connect cities for more points at the end.
The game end is triggered when one player claims a route and is left with only 2 or less plastic trains in their pool. When this occurs, every player, including the one that triggered the end will get one final turn. At the end, everyone will total up their score from their claimed routes and their destination tickets. A longest train bonus is also given to the player with the longest continuous train. If there is a tie, all tied players will receive the bonus. The highest score at the end wins the game.
This is one of the quintessential gateway games out there. It is very easy to learn, and yet still contains enough depth to keep players engaged.
There may be only a few choices to choose from on a turn, but the choices are difficult. Should I claim my route now while it's still available? Should I wait until I get more cards to claim the rest of the routes I need so I don't get blocked? Should I take a single wild card or two other cards? There are a lot of things to consider, and yet the game is fairly quick.
As players become more familiar with the tickets, it can start to become obvious which cities players are trying to connect. This familiarity could be a good or bad thing, depending on your view. It can make the game much more competitive and cut throat with players trying to deliberately block each other. Or players may get upset that the hidden destination cards lose the point of being hidden. At this point, it may be time to included the 1910 expansion, or to play on some alternate maps, either official or unofficial ones that can be found here, in order to keep the game fresh.
All in all, I have little to complain about with this game. It doesn't have the complexity that I like in Euro games, but it is fun and still brings plenty of tension. It's brought in my family and some friends into the world of hobby gaming, and that is always a good thing.
Following the BGG guidelines, I rate this one a solid 8, and look forward to more expansions.
Thanks for reading! See my other reviews at A Year With My Games.
My son introduced me to this game one year ago. Since he "jogged" me into this hobby, I have purchased over 400 games this year. Ticket to Ride is still at the top of our list.
Lost in thought.
Very nice review, DoomTurtle. TtR truly is a quintessential gateway game due to its approachable theme, simple game mechanics and ease of play. It also does an admirable job of keeping the attention of experienced gamers with its cutthroat play option. I'd consider it a modern day classic.
Andy, I'm impressed at the pace of your game collecting (and a bit envious!). I wish you lots of time to enjoy everything you've acquired.