One of the most successful games of all time, has several expansions, has pleased millions of players’ all around the world, has won a number of awards, as well as become one of the best examples of a gateway game. Wow, a bar has been set high and it’s because of Ticket To Ride. I knew when starting this blog I wanted to do a Ticket To Ride board game review.
With it’s growing hype, increasing popularity, constant releases and comparison to other big games, it certainly has had the board game world buzzing over the 10+ years! You wouldn’t have thought so initially looking at it. On the outside this game doesn’t exactly look exciting. Unless you’re a train enthusiast, the train on the box and the description of traveling not only seems unexciting, but it doesn’t even sound like a board game.
Bring on the judge a book by it’s cover quote! Designed by Alan R. Moon and published by Days of Wonder in 2004, this railway-styled game gets you in the world of trains, and even though that sounds more of a niche enticement to play, it is apparently quite addicting.
If you look closely the art is well-made, exceptional. It’s the kind of layout you can pick-out from a pile of games. The cards are the most eye-catching part, whilst the pieces are Monopoly style trains in various colors but little design or detail.
Ticket To Ride pays tribute to Phileas Fogg’s expedition around the world, the objective is to see who can travel by rail to the most cities in North America in only 7 days, providing a journey in which the winner rules the day. With reminders of the film Around The World In 80 Days, I wanted to see how a unique concept such as this pans out and sticks. Let’s go on a journey.
What Do You Get?
- 1 Board map of North American train routes
- 1 Rules booklet
- 1 Days of Wonder Online access number
- 5 Wooden Scoring Markers (1 for each player in Blue, Red, Green, Yellow and Black)
- 240 Colored Train Card (45 each in Blue, Red, Green, Yellow and Black, place some extra replacement cars in each colour)
- 144 Illustrated cards
- 1 x Summary card
- 1 x Longest Continuous Path Bonus card
- 1 x Promotional card for additional maps
- 1 x Days of Wonder Promotional card
- 12 x Box
- 12 x Passenger
- 12 x Tanker
- 12 x Reefer
- 12 x Freight
- 12 x Hopper
- 12 x Coal
- 12 x Caboose
- 14 x Locomotive
- 30 x Destination Ticket
How Do You Set It Up?
- Place the board map on the center of the table.
- Each player takes a set of 45 Colored Train Cars along with its matching Scoring Marker.
- Each player place their Scoring Marking on the Start mark on the Scoring Tracking which runs along the maps border.
- Each time a player scores a point, they will advance their marker accordingly.
- Shuffle the Train Car cards and deal a starting hand of 4 cards to each player. Place the remaining cards near the board and turn the top five cards from the deck face-up.
- Place the Longest Path Bonus card face up next to the board.
- Shuffle the Destination Ticket cards and deal 3 cards to each player. Each player looks at their Ticket cards and decide which ones they want to keep.
- A player must keep at least two but can all three if they want. Any returned cards are placed at the bottom of the Destination Ticket deck. The deck is then placed next to the board.
- Players keep their Destination Tickets secret until the end of the game.
How Do You Play?
Object of the game:
To win you will need to score the highest number of points. Points can be scored by:
- Claiming a Route between two adjacent cities on the map.
- Successfully completing a Continuous Path of routes between two cities on your Destination Ticket(s).
- Completing the Longest Continuous Path of routes.
You lose points if you do not successfully complete the route given on the Destination Ticket(s) you kept.
The most experienced traveler will be the player who goes first. Play then proceeds clockwise around the table, each player taking one turn at a time until the game ends. On their turn, a player must perform only one of the following three actions:
- Draw Train Car Cards – The player may draw 2 cards. They can either take one of the face-up cards or draw the top card from the deck. If they draw a face-up card, they immediately turn a replacement card face-up from the deck. They then draw their second card from either the face-up cards or from the top of the deck.
- Claim a Route – The player may claim a route on the board by playing a set of Train Car cards that match the colour and length of the route and then placing one of their colored trains on each space of this route. They then record their score by moving their Scoring Marker the appropriate number of spaces, according to the Route Scoring Table below, along the Scoring Track on the board.
- Draw Destination Tickets – The player draw 3 Destination Tickets from the top of the deck. They must keep at least one of them, but they may keep two or all three if they choose. Any returned cards are placed on the bottom of the deck.
- To claim a route, a player must play a set of cards equal to the number of spaces in the route. A set of cards must be of the same type. Most routes require a specific type of set.
- For example, a Blue route must be claimed using blue colored Passenger Car cards. Some routes, those that are Gray colored, can be claimed using a set of cards of any one colour.
- When a route is claimed, the player places one of their plastic trains in each of the spaces of the route. All of the cards in the set used to claim the route are then discarded.
- A player may claim any open route on the board. They are never required to connect to any of their previously played routes. A player may only claim one route on their turn.
- Some cities are connected by Double-Routes. One player cannot claim both routes to the same cities.
- In 2-3 player games, only one of the Double-Routes can be used. A player can claim either of the two routes between cities, but the other route is then closed to other players’.
Drawing destination ticket cards:
- A player can use their turn to draw more Destination Ticket cards. To do so, they draw 3 new cards from the top of the Destination Ticket Deck. They must keep at least one of the cards, but may also keep two or all three if they choose.
- If there are less than 3 Destination Tickets left in the deck, the player only draws the cards that are available. Any returned cards are placed on the bottom of the Destination Ticket Deck.
- Each Destination Ticket includes the name of two cities on the map and a Point Value. If a player successfully completes a series of routes that connect the two cities, they will add the amount of points indicated on the Destination Ticket to their point totals at the end of the game.
- If they do not successfully connect the two cities, they deduct the amount of points indicated.
- Destination Tickets are kept secret from other players’ until the game’s final scoring. A player may have any number of Destination Ticket cards during the game.
When one player’s stock of colored plastic trains gets down to only 0, 1 or 2 trains left at the end of their turn, each player, including that player, gets one final turn. The game then ends and players’ calculate their final scores.
Pros Of The Game
- Invokes light-strategy and tactics
- Can introduce non-board game fans and can be played by players’ of many levels
- Has many expansions with multiple forms of gameplay
- Immersive theme if you’re into it
- Well-formed elements which keep the game addictive
Cons Of The Game
- Theme of trains and first looks can be off-putting
- Not very memorable design
- Can be tricky to learn at first, will take a few games
- Not enough explanation that you need the original game in order to play the expansions
- Gameplay can be long, not good for those who prefer briefer games
Should You Get Ticket To Ride?
Not quite the 80-page rulebook some of you were expecting huh?! With aesthetics, All pieces and cards can endure some wear and tear, it’s just that the overall design is not the most memorable, so-so. For 2-5 players’, a game usually last from 30-60 minutes, depending if everyone playing knows the rules
This takes longer than your average game, and it may feel daunting at first with having so many pieces and cards to watch over, but since the game makes you perform one move per turn, it narrows down the complexity and paces out gameplay. You gain points by playing train pieces, then you add the scores up at the end of the game with destination connections and active points. But you lose points for not making destination connections.
It takes a few tries to understand, after a few games max you’ll know how it works, from there the skilful element progresses as you learn and develop strategy and tactics, it’s a game that invokes experience as you play along. It feels bizarre having a game which can mix as both a light party game and an in-depth tactical game, but it has enough of both to help you enjoy it in a number of social scenarios.
From the jump, you begin the game with tickets describing the cities you need to join with train routes, so the gears in your head already start to turn as you work out your plan whilst analyzing the map. The pressure of the game comes from evening out your greediness with how many cards you add to your hand and the worry of losing routes to another player.
A German made game that’s well constructed, they keep in mind how to keep gameplay relevant and interesting throughout. It’s hard to determine who will win until the game is finished. It’s like an articulated race as players’ try to claim routes by collecting cards, form the routes and complete their tickets. The scoring works really well and gives excitement as you reach the end.
There is both reward and risk to how you play, going with how the board advances, with no throwaway moves, making every approach you perform valuable. Watching the number of options your path can take puts you to the test when working out the best route to success. You’re absorbed by the tactical gameplay whilst enjoying it with other people in a casual setting.
It won’t keep you mentally fulfilled throughout but it will keep you entertained. The game is very inclusive and makes you want to play over and over. The strategy involved is simple, but you need to be making decisions to finish your routes. Between working out the many routes you can form, and the mystery of how others are going to play, the desire to replay is high.
You don’t really get frustrated playing this, there’s a healthy balance where everyone can make some good moves and progress. This partially relies on drawing the appropriate destination cards.
You can dent other players’ progression by either taking cards they need but you don’t, or by connecting cities you don’t need to block others forming routes or getting destination cards. For the most part, collecting points, completing destination cards and blocking others routes, makes up the game.
There’s not much luck involved, only really when drawing cards, and other players’ placing train pieces connected to your destination card. As you get more familiar with the game, you can make better decisions predicting what routes other players’ are trying to make.
If playing with five players’, you get more than one connection between any pair of cities, any fewer players’ and there’s only one, leaving a player competition to make connections before their opponents do. Though usually you won’t find two players’ clashing like this that often, the creators were thinking thoroughly on the gameplay.
This tends to be best played with 4-5 players’. There are plenty of people who can enjoy this with just two players’ since waiting on turns is much reduced, but others may find that there are other games that may pertain more to just 2 players’ in terms of enjoyment, of course this varies.
Even non-board game fans get into this game. It can bring you into table-top games as well as be played by players’ of various levels, giving good strategy but not an overwhelming amount, making things more casual whilst entertaining. As I mentioned, there’s a little competition during gameplay to keep things motivated and a game can last slightly longer to suit the style of gameplay.
So it feels for many this is a good entry into the board game world for those who never dived into it, and there seems to be a wide range of experience levels here, from novices to veterans.
There are so many versions of this now, it’s following suit of Monopoly in terms of alterations. The rest follow the original but in different locations around the world. At the time of this being written, the current stand-alone games are:
- Ticket To Ride
- Ticket To Ride: Europe – Provides more rules for more interesting decisions as well as provides tunnels and ferries, also good for starting off with.
- Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries – For smaller groups, best with two players’. Evened out whilst keeping the best bits.
- Ticket To Ride: Germany – A faster-paced game where you collect passengers before the other players’ do in a more competitive format.
- Ticket To Ride: First Journey – An introductory game to the Ticket To Ride series, a simpler version of the game for children. They race to complete tickets and obtain the Golden Ticket, all in a fast-paced environment with recognizable landmarks.
The expansions provide plenty of differences and new elements to extend gameplay further, as well as a two-sided game board so you get two maps. Keep in mind you will need the original Ticket To Ride, Ticket To Ride: Europe or Ticket To Ride: Germany to get the train pieces, cards and counters before getting any of the following extensions. At the time of this being written, the current expansion games are:
- Ticket To Ride: Asia – Promotes teamwork as you play in pairs and manage which cards to share and which cards to keep yourself, not to mention there are mountain paths which can cost you more trains, and is the only version which can be played with six players’.
- Ticket To Ride: India – This has you circling back on your finished destination tickets, making the map very busy. India also has a Switzerland map included, which is for fewer players’ but is not quite as good as the Nordic map.
- Ticket To Ride: The Heart Of Africa – The most difficult map to date, being split into separate terrains which each allow only certain colored trains to be laid on, increasing the need to obtain certain colored cards in order to get into areas, so you want to hold onto your cards to prevent others progressing, being perhaps the most competitive version.
- Ticket To Ride: Nederland – Getting you out of doing more than just collecting cards by obtaining toll bridges and collecting money from other players’.
- Ticket To Ride: United Kingdom – Removes decision making and has you constructing technology in order to build larger routes, which can make games end quite similarly. United Kingdom also has a Pennsylvania map included, which gets you to claim shares as you form routes, providing more options during play and increased rewards.
- Ticket To Ride: France – Focuses more on the tactical side of things, forcing you to rethink strategies previously made. You build tracks each time you draw a card, but this doesn’t mean you will claim the track later. You will need to be smart and misleading as you bluff your way to gaining what routes you want.
- Ticket To Ride: Rails and Sails – Gives two of the largest maps so far, giving slower gameplay as you play with ships and train cards for longer routes.
- Ticket To Ride: New York – A speedier rendition which lasts about 15 minutes per game, this is similar to regular gameplay but you use taxis to lay routes as you race players’ visiting tourist attractions around the city with colored transportation cards.
There’s also a 10th Anniversary version of the original, which has the map twice as large as before and has new designs, along with having 69 Destination Tickets from both the original and the 1910 expansion (you can read more about that below). The best highlight of this special edition are the new custom trains, each stored in their own tin storage box with their own custom logo, as well as artwork which matches the trains rail line. This raises the level of the Ticket To Ride experience, staying true to the original format, and if you’re already a fan, you will love this Anniversary highlight.
There have been card expansions to increase gameplay further. At the time of this being written, the current card expansions are:
- USA 1910 – A beautifully designed expansion created for the original Ticket To Ride game, made up of larger cards providing new Destination Tickets forcing you to rethink strategies and improve your game, adding more hours of gameplay.
- Europa 1912 – Similar to USA 1910, these are for Ticket To Ride: Europe. This includes 101 Destination Tickets, 46 original tickets and 55 new ones which provides 19 new routes and tickets to 9 major European cities. This expansion also provides a new set of rules and pieces with the introduced Warehouses and Depots gameplay, which can be played with any of the Ticket To Ride maps. This adds more strategy to gameplay, where Wooden Train Depots are placed on cities selected by each player. Each warehouse collects Train cards, and you must plan to build a route to the depot in order to get a bunch of cards. This greatly tilts the way you can win and should be considered if you want to win, if implemented.
There’s even some side products to the game! At the time of this being written, these are:
- Ticket To Ride: The Dice Expansion – If you’re into just playing by luck, this expansion replaces the cards for any Ticket To Ride game with dice!
- Ticket To Ride Digital – A digital version of the game which stays true to the gameplay on Android, iOS, Steam and Kindle, providing good AI as well as can be online and provide multiplayer.
- Ticket To Ride: The Card Game – A card game version of the board game, this can be a brief distraction, but it’s not anything like what made the franchise great.
- Ticket To Ride: Alvin & Dexter – A bizarre, funny expansion for any Ticket To Ride game, you can add monsters to the board which capture cities and blocks you from building routes. Just chucking a little quirkiness out there.
See how much this world has grown over the years?! So much to try, and it really reflects how well they have gone over with people.
There’s so much variety amongst the expansions, you can recommend almost any of these pertaining to your taste. You want something to start off with? Try original or Europe. Want kids to try it? Try First Journey. Want good play for fewer players’? Try Nordic. Want teamwork? Try Asia. Want fast-paced? Try New York. Want strategy? Try France. Want challenging? Try Heart of Africa. Want longer gameplay? Try Rails and Sails. Want more competitive? Again try New York. Want currency elements? Try Nederland. You really can’t go wrong!
If you are not aware that you need pieces from the original games to play the expansions, you could feel a little cheated when you buy an extension. New visitors of the franchise won’t know this as easily so they can be irked by the setup, some even find it to be a money making scheme to get you to purchase more. More clarity on which games are expansions would be a great help.
An age of 8+ sounds about right to keep kids interested. From the list there is a simpler version of the game to get kids into the series, but they can still just jump right in and adapt without much of a problem. Kids could lose interest, but many get into the game and enjoy it fully, which if why maybe First Journey might be the best option for them to start off with.
I would also be wary in getting some of these games for educational purposes. The Europe version portrays itself in the Industrial Revolution, city names and all’, the France expansion is set in the old west, and the New York expansion is set in the 60’s. But if you don’t mind more of a historical lesson, you might get something out of these. The others seem to stay good with modern technology.
Many people find the UK version to be one of the worst, being too long-winded and drags out just to buy the right technology cards, particularly the locomotive cards. Many also find the original and Europe games to be the best, staying true to home. The variety is there if you want it with the expansions, but there’s nothing wrong with sticking with what got you into the series in the first place.
This truly is a terrific game, and I couldn’t recommend it high enough to those who can get past the initial barriers of appearance and learning. If this isn’t providing the gameplay you seek, there are plenty of alternates to try, just be aware that you need the original or Europe games first. This won’t be everyone’s fancy, even with the expansions. The theme, feel, style, or amount of gameplay you need might not be fulfilled here, especially if you don’t like trains.
A different choice from your standard family-friendly games, and is a good go to game for many, it could be for you too! If you like taking your time with little struggle with others, some light strategy, enjoy the immersion of play on the board, or if you like the theme, this is for you.
At this rate the game will become a classic, providing aspects which compliment each other and gives an enthusiastic feel which keeps you hooked. You don’t know who wins until the end so you’re putting in your all throughout until the results come in. I find sometimes hiding victory rather than seeing it laid out in front of you can motivate gameplay.
A huge highlight is how good it is at drawing not only new Ticket To Ride board game fans, but new board game fans in general, being an excellent point of entry as well as keeping these fans with large amounts of replay value, giving a wide range of different experience levels and constant room to improve and rethink your game plan so it’s not anything like a one-trip pony with all the possibilities these games give.
The value is there, it’s just a matter of taste. If you’re teetering on getting this one, I would certainly recommend at least trying it. These certainly make me want to take a holiday, and guess by what form of transport?
Thank you for reading my Ticket To Ride board game review! What do you think of Ticket To Ride? Can you get into it? Have you tried any of the expansions? How are they in comparison? Have your skills improved as you played? How many people do you usually play with? Feel free to leave a comment below!