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The Board Gamer: Ticket to Ride

Written by Gregory Huber on Friday, February 25 2011 and posted in Features

Take a ride on the Reading!

[B]Game Title: Ticket to Ride (U.S. Name)[/B]
U.S. Publisher: Days of Wonder
Developer: Alan R. Moon

Number of Players: 2-5 (3-4 is best)

[B]Box Description[/B]

October 2, 1900 - 28 years to the day that noted London eccentric, Phileas Fogg accepted and then won a £20,000 bet that he could travel "Around the World in 80 Days". Now at the dawn of the century it was time for a new "impossible journey". Some old friends have gathered to celebrate Fogg's impetuous and lucrative gamble - and to propose a new wager of their own.

The stakes: $1 Million in a winner-takes-all competition. The objective: to see which of them can travel by rail to the most cities in North America - in just 7 days. The journey begins immediately...

Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure where players collect cards of various types of train cars that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America.

[B]Game Play[/B]

The rules to the game are pretty simple. At the beginning of the game, players draw Destination Tickets showing various train routes between two U.S. and/or Canadian cities. Routes are of differing lengths, with some routes stretching from one coast to another and others between two relatively close cities, with everything in between. Your task is to complete those routes, connecting cities in between as best you can. The game ends when one player runs out of track to lay down.

During the turn, the player can draw cards allowing one to build a section of track, can actually build a section of track, or draw more Destination Tickets. Scoring is based on completing routes, the amount of track laid, and a bonus given to the player who built the single longest continuous line. Be careful though: Destination Tickets not completed will cost you points in the end.

During the game, a player must strike a balance between focusing on their own projects and on the projects of other players. One must be careful of being blocked. If a destination goal depends on building a track between Helena and Duluth, there are only so many ways to complete it. And some routes are more difficult, more complicated than others. Conversely, there is always the option to block your opponents to make them spend more time and more track than they would probably prefer. And of course there is the choice to take a risk and keep trying to build more and more destination goals, or sitting back and play more conservatively and defensively.


Winner of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres ("Game of the Year") award for 2004 in Germany, Ticket to Ride is an outstanding game, especially if you are new to the world of Eurogames. The rules are very simple to understand, while allowing for a wide diversity of play styles and strategies. Unlike some Eurogames, there is only a very small learning curve. Within just a few turns, players will be completely familiar with the rules and formulating their strategies. This is a great game for casual board gamers and families, including children over the age of 8-10 or so. There are a number of small pieces, so I would not suggest this game for young children. And with an average playing time of about 45 minutes, there is no risk of it becoming an endless exercise in tedium.

One big plus is that every game is very different. In addition to the strategies and tactics that can be employed, as described above, every game begins with different destination tickets. Unlike say a Monopoly, where it often falls on who owns Boardwalk and Park Place, with everyone else praying they don't land on it, the game dynamic of Ticket to Ride is very different each and every time you play. No two games are ever exactly the same. Some games can turn extremely competitive, with everyone trying to go through one or two cities and working in the same region. Other games can be less competitive.

Kudos must also be given to the game publisher, Days of Wonder. The board, train tokens, and cards are all well made. The colors are bright, the text easy to read and understand. This is a game that can last years of play. One caveat is that the U.S. version of the game utilizes cards which are much smaller than, say the Europe version (which uses standard size cards). This can make the cards a little more difficult to handle and shuffle.

[B]Different Versions and Expansions[/B]

There are actually several versions of the game.

There is a version which utilizes a map of Europe, instead of North America. In the Europe game, cities are given European names (e.g. Wien for Vienna). In addition, there are some rule enhancements such as sometimes there is a requirement to build a tunnel or a ferry. The apparatus is the same (laying track), but tunnels and ferries do have requirements that make it slightly more difficult. Plus, one can build a limited number of train stations, allowing the player to "piggyback" on a part of an opponent's train line (though the one building the train station gets no points for the section they are "piggybacking" on).

There is also a version centered wholly within Germany titled Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition, and a version involving the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland titled Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries. In addition, there are a number of expansions, including a Switzerland expansion, a dice game, an expansion focusing on the year 1910 for the U.S. version, and a 1912 expansion for the Europe version. These expansions ensure that the game never gets stale.

Final Word

I honestly cannot recommend this game enough. Perfect for the casual gamer, there is enough in the way of strategy and variety to appease the more hardcore board game enthusiast. It is a perfect introduction. Personally, I prefer the Europe version to the U.S. version as the extra enhancements give a bit more variety to strategy and game play.

This game is widely available at game stores and at Amazon, and runs around $30-$40.

Written or Contributed by: Gregory Huber

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