\Ticket to Ride
Designed by Alan R. Moon
Published by Days of Wonder in 2004
Image above provided by Matthew Bartlett, as part of his collection
Ticket to Ride: A Retrospective
When a game’s reputation is as large as Ticket to Ride, we have to look back and see why it has reached that echelon of gaming. Not only that, but the game has stood the test of time for a reason. The game has such a simple concept of drawing cards from an open market, placing down track, and trying to get your trains from one area of the board to another. Sounds simple, right? So why is it so popular?
I think there’s something to be said about the trains community throughout our hobby. Many great train games simulate the stock trading, the goods delivery, and overall building of that industry, but why is Ticket to Ride one of those games that continually makes us rush back to it?
Even hardcore train game enthusiasts will admit that Ticket to Ride is one of those games that is an excellent introduction to this type of gaming. I had a chance to ask some of our staff what they thought about this timeless game.
Brandt Sanderson, the leading member of The Portal Gaming Podcast, could only speak high praise of the game, stating that “it shows a lot about a game when it can survive on constant variability through its mechanics. It’s not just new maps, but new ways to play.” He even cited Ticket to Ride: New York as being one of the many stepping stones for the growth of the game. “To create the experience of Ticket to Ride within fifteen minutes and still feel like you gained an excellent playthrough was huge.”
Larry Plano, one of our staff, said that “no matter what, the game always sells, even to this day. It’s an evergreen.” It’s safe to say that we usually have all of the expansions in stock, including Alvin and Dexter. Personally, I’m still waiting for the expansion that has a Cthulhu map since it seems to be one of the few games that haven’t gotten a Lovecraft facelift.
For those who haven’t played the game, let me give you a rundown. Ticket to Ride, which has a map of the United States with a handful of locations in Canada and Mexico, has several lines filled with colors and some grays. You’re going to get some tickets, based on the map, to get your train line from location to location. You will then spend the game drafting cards from a lineup of five or just plain drawing from the deck. Once you have enough of one color to lay down track, you claim it, placing small plastic trains down on the map. This might block someone from using that track later on in the game, or some of them are double tracks. You then score points for the length of the route you put down. Eventually, you’ll have fulfilled your destinations, and those will be scored when the game ends. However, if you don’t reach the destination, those will be negative points at the end.
And there it is. You have the option for three actions in the game. Take cards from the lineup or the deck, claim a route, or get more tickets with new destinations. It’s such a simple game and a pinnacle of Euro design. By that, I mean that there isn’t much direct conflict, but abstract. The only times you can get upset with your opponent is when you block someone, and there are plenty of ways to get around it, at least on the America and Europe maps.
The others that exist are Ticket to Ride Asia, India, The Heart of Africa, The Netherlands, United Kingdom/Pennsylvania(which introduces stocks), France, and Italy. There are even different sides to the expansions, including Legendary Asia, Switzerland, The Old West, and Japan.
There’s even an expansion that can only be purchased on the European market for Poland. The smaller editions of the game, the ones which can be played in fifteen to twenty minutes, are Ticket to Ride New York, London, and the upcoming Amsterdam. There are even stand-alone expansions for the game, including Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails, and Ticket to Ride: Germany (formally Ticket to Ride: Marklin).
So with all these iterations, surely there’s something negative to say about this timeless game. The main criticisms about the game are its simplicity. I don’t think the game has many problems, but some believe this is too simple. The fact that there aren’t large swaths of math or even weighty gaming decisions tells me that the audience who doesn’t care for this game tends to leave it alone.
That being said, perhaps you’d like to get into the game and are wondering what each map does a little differently. Let me take you through them.
Ticket to Ride: North America, mainly the United States. The original teaches the basics of collecting cards to make the routes.
Ticket to Ride: Europe: This game is great for an intro to the game as well. This is a bit friendlier since you can use stations to share routes with other players. This also introduces tunnels that require drawing cards to see if you make it through.
Ticket to Ride: Asia and Legendary Asia: This map is significantly large, and that’s what this map offers. This is meant for a four-player minimum with team play happening.
Ticket to Ride: India and Switzerland: The India map introduces creating connecting routes by a mandala, claiming extra victory points for the more tickets you completed in the circle. Switzerland’s map is one of the tightest for two players and a map where you can connect country to country. This is also a map where you can only use locomotives to build tunnels.
Ticket to Ride: The Heart of Africa: This map introduces one of the most challenging and confrontational maps in the collection. This is also where you may use terrain cards to double the values of their routes.
Ticket to Ride: The Netherlands: This map introduces tolls all around the map a player must pay to build a route.
Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom and Pennsylvania: The United Kingdom map is one where you have to build your train before you can create certain types of routes. The Pennsylvania map introduces stocks to the tracks that you lay, bringing a set collection to the game.
Ticket to Ride: France and the Old West: France’s map is interesting that you have to build the routes before you place down the track. This means that some routes may not be available to you when you go to build. The Old West side is one where you can build cities throughout, and your track has to build off the ones you previously built.
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries: This map is only playable for two or three players. That is due to the constricting nature of the board.
Ticket to Ride: Marklin/Germany: While I’ve never played Germany, the two are similar as they introduce passengers. Each game presents a different type of mechanic with the passengers, but they are close.
Ticket to Ride: New York: This was the first iteration of the game in miniature form. The game plays in about fifteen minutes to a half-hour. You also get extra points for using routes with tourist destinations.
Ticket to Ride: London: This is the second in the line of games that plays in a short while. This game also introduces districts. If all your buses, instead of trains, touches the numbered areas, you score the points for that district.
There are some Ticket to Ride games I haven’t played due to some restrictions, but I’ve enjoyed them all. There is the card game, a dice expansion, and even some fan expansions, but the only map that is readily available that I haven’t played is Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails. The price point was the main reason I stayed away from it, and the chief complaint is the length and fiddliness of the game.
Overall, Ticket to Ride is one of the classics in this day and age. To even call it a modern classic seems off since the game has made its way out of the friendly local game stores and into the mass market locations, including Target and Walmart. I think that says more about the game than anything else. I would recommend this game to anyone who hasn’t tried it or are starting their game collection and would like to have a go-to game for the family, or even a gateway into the hobby.