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Subject: Your Guide to Ticket to Ride: Ticket to Ride: Switzerland rss

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Derek Thompson
United States
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(NOTE: This was written before it was made known that Switzerland would be reprinted in the Map Collection.)

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland

Unlike all of the other maps, Switzerland is actually an “expansion” for the other games, coming with no train cars or train cards, only destination tickets and the map itself. The destination tickets are somewhat unique – the map includes city-to-country tickets, but they differ from the ones in Märklin.

In this case, a city is specified, and you may connect to any other country, scoring the appropriate number of points on the ticket (for example, Lugano scores only 2 points when connected to Italy, but much more if connected to France or Italy). You score the points of the best connection you make on the ticket. The perk is that if the ticket is left incomplete, you only lose the minimum amount listed on the ticket. The country-to-country tickets work exactly the same way, starting with a base country. In addition, since each country has such country-to-country tickets, you can complete 2 types of tickets (a base of France and a base of Germany, for example) with one path between the two countries. Some country-to-country tickets are exactly repeated in the deck, meaning that from the outset of the game, you’ve got one good strategy in mind – connect the countries to each other. A lot of the city-city tickets are rather small compared to the country tickets, and since most of the routes on the map are also quite short (therefore giving few points), you’re bound to want to connect countries at some point. The longest route bonus is still in play, which is also motivation for a continuous line between countries.

Although some would consider such ticket distribution unfairly random, it does have its perks. The low penalty makes ticket diving less frustrating than drawing a bunch of long routes you can’t complete as can happen in the USA game, and much like the Big Cities variants of other maps, it gives newer players an initial strategy for everyone so that they aren’t completely clueless. (Of course, that’s assuming you tell the new player of this strategy ahead of time.) However, after repeated plays, I’ve found it to actually be a very poor addition – the low-risk means the mid-game degenerates into a ticket-dive battle until the tickets are all gone, and it’s impossible to win without doing it – a very ridiculous way to play Ticket to Ride.

Speaking of frustration, you may notice that this map is completely covered in tunnel routes. I’ve already expressed my disdain for these routes in my review of Europe, and even though they’re lessened somewhat by easy access to locomotive cards, they still lead to an occasional frustrating experience, without adding anything of value, just luck. Although it’s thematically appropriate to have Switzerland covered in tunnels, I just wish the rule had been something else – maybe just that they cost one more card, but use the number of trains and score the number of points on the route. The only real advantage (and it’s a small one) to the actual rule is that the deck is more quickly reshuffled, in case you need a color already heavily played.

The tightness of such a small map may be a shock to long-time players of the bigger maps, but once you get used to it it’s actually pretty interesting, requiring a different angle of play. No longer can you really keep your intentions hidden by going in a straight line from one point to another – precious routes in the middle of the board will be gone by the time you get there. Sometimes, when you see a player fast approaching a one-length route you need (and there are many important ones), you may need to grab it even if you’re a long ways off. It may even be a good idea to make grabbing those routes your first plays of the game. It’s even trickier in a two-player game, and although it’s manageable, the two-to-three player difference in double routes is quite a huge discrepancy, since there are many double routes, and they are all in very key areas of the map. It actually makes the three-player games much less tense than the two-player games, which seems a little counter-intuitive.

My initial plays of this map were very frustrating and led me to trading the game away (unfortunate, since it’s out of print). For this review, I played the map some more online at the Days of Wonder website, and I find myself of a different opinion than before. I still dislike all of the tunnel routes, and the ticket-diving gets stupid, but as long as you go into this map with an understanding of what’s actually going on – the importance of countries and quickly grabbing those easily-blocked short routes – it can be a very fun, exciting map.

Pros: tense, overarching strategy makes it easier or beginners

Cons: two player game too tense; tunnels; uneven ticket distribution; ticket-diving gets ridiculous

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