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Ticket to Ride - Board Game Review

A Great Game with Broad Appeal

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride

Image courtesy of Days of Wonder
Ticket to Ride is an absolutely top-notch game with broad appeal, playing in less than an hour and providing a lot of depth without being complicated. Players must make a variety of strategic and tactical choices, giving it considerable replay value.

Building Railroads Across the U.S. and Canada

Within eight months of being released in March 2004, Ticket to Ride sold more than 250,000 copies. It has spawned three major expansions and a minor one, with more in the works. By March 2006, more than 500,000 copies of the original game and the first two expansions (Ticket to Ride Europe and Ticket to Ride Marklin, which features a map of Germany) were sold. And as of August 2008, more than 750,000 copies were sold.

Ticket to Ride's great popularity can be attributed to a number of factors. Although unique, it draws on the set-collecting aspect of the classic card game Rummy and thus feels familiar to many players.

In this board game, players compete to build railroads across the United States and Canada in Ticket to Ride, both developing their own plans and disrupting the plans of others. The board -- which lives up to the gorgeous standards now expected from publisher Days of Wonder -- shows cities connected by rail lines of 1 to 6 in length.

Setup and Gameplay

Ticket to Ride USA Map

Ticket to Ride USA Map

Image courtesy of Days of Wonder

At the start of the game, each player is given three goal cards; each goal card lists two cities that the player will try to connect (e.g. Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, or El Paso to Winnipeg). Players must keep at least two of the three goal cards, but may choose to keep all three. At the end of the game, you get positive points if you've connected your cities and negative points if you haven't (longer routes are, naturally, more valuable but also more risky).

Each player is then dealt four train cards, which come in the colors of the tracks on the board. On your turn, you may (1) draw two more train cards, or (2) play a set of cards that matches a line on the board and build trains on that line. Players earn points for each line built, with longer lines being worth more than shorter lines. A third option is to draw three new goal cards, keeping at least one. This continues until one player has fewer than three train cars remaining, when each player gets one more turn before the final scores are calculated.

Ticket to Ride quickly earned a place among my favorite games, one of only a very few to receive 5 stars. I give it an enthusiastic recommendation.

The Basics

  • For 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up.
  • Published by Days of Wonder, designed by Alan R. Moon.
  • Plays in about 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Won the 2004 Spiel des Jahres, Germany's Family Game of the Year award.
  • Comes with 240 plastic train cars, 144 cards, five wooden scoring markers, and the game board.
  • Also available are TtR: Europe, TtR: Marklin Edition, TtR: CD-ROM, and the TtR: USA 1910 expansion.

Among the editions of Ticket to Ride now available are the original (United States and southern Canada), Europe, Marklin/Germany, Switzerland, and Nordic Countries), along with a card game. Moon says his favorite versions are Switzerland and Nordic Countries: "Both of these maps are only for two or three players. And while the bigger games can often be tense, the smaller games are always tense right from the start because there are less routes and some of the routes are so key."

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great game for families and for gamers.
  • A variety of paths can lead to victory.
  • Wonderful game components, including plastic trains and gorgeous board.

Cons

  • Some players find the possible point swings to be too dramatic. (Yes, I had to struggle to come up with even a single "con" for Ticket to Ride.)

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