The race is on! You’ve taken a bet with one to four other friends (this is a 2 to 5 player game) to see who can travel the furthest by train across North America. But tickets are limited and competition to get the best routes is fierce!
Is this a fun journey? Read on to find out.
Objectives and Overview
Ticket to Ride is played on a map of the continental United States and Canada (there are a lot of expansions and variations set in other countries, as well). Each player will select a number of cards that show routes they must complete in order to gain points. They must then draw cards that allow them to place their carriages on the map to complete those routes. In addition, they’ll gain points for each track completed (a track is a leg of the journey between cities). The longer the journey, the more points they collect but the harder it is to collect enough carriages to complete the track (some tracks are one carriage long, some are six!). The longest continuous journey also collects bonus points. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.
How Easy is it to Learn?
It’s a simple game to learn. At the start of the game you’ll draw three cards to determine which routes you’re aiming for. You can put one back if you wish, but have to keep at least two. You’ll score points for completing these. Each turn, players will draw cards from the pile to form a deck and then, if they can, place their carriages on the board using the cards in their hand. You need to collect enough cards to place carriages on a track of that colour all at once (tracks vary in length). There are ‘wild’ cards and tracks to help things along.
You draw three route cards randomly at the start of the game, but only have to keep two. If you complete them and think you’ve got time, as an action, you can choose more of route cards to gain extra points.
How Easy is it to Play?
The game mechanics are straightforward – draw cards, place trains. The cards are quite small, which can make them a little fiddly. The carriages are made of plastic and easy enough to handle, but very light so you don’t want to bump the board. With all those carriages on the board it can get quite crowded, but it’s not usually a problem.
Mastering Gameplay and Strategy
Players don’t interact with each other in this game – there’s no combat or trading – so there’s no deep strategy or tactics. Typically there’s only one or two lines between cities, and once they’re claimed, no one else has access to them. So you are competing for limited train lines, and have to be prepared to find a different route to your destination.
How Easy is it to Win?
Of four recorded plays with my family (we played more before I started recording my games), we have a fairly even split of winners. There is a significant element of chance as you only have limited control over which routes you are aiming for, and you need to collect enough cards of the right colour before you can place your carriages. While you’re not trying to stop other players achieve their goal (you don’t know what their goal is until the end of the game), having a limited number of tracks available between cities means it’s very easy for someone to lose access to the most optimal route. The chances of blocking increases with more players. This element of chance evens out the odds considerably.
Is it Fun to Play?
What I’ve always loved about Ticket to Ride is the element of suspense. Despite its simplicity and lack of deep strategy I find it a very stressful game to play, in a fun way. No one is ‘out to get you’, but at any moment they could steal the tracks you need for your route, simply because they’re going the same direction, and you have to take the long way around. That can work to your advantage if you are able to finish the route, because longer routes score more points, but it also increases the chances of failure.
The other plus to this game is that it is very accessible. You don’t have to be a genius to master the rules or strategy.
Ticket to Ride’s strengths can also be its weaknesses, for a certain type of gamer. It’s not a challenging game and is open to the charge of being solitaire played in a group. Most of the time you’re just doing your own thing and waiting to see if life gets difficult while people do their own thing.
The Board Game Geek community gives it a complexity rating of 1.9/5. I agree, it’s a medium-light game that gives more than it requires of players.
Who Will Enjoy It?
If you’re the sort of person who likes to play nice and isn’t too competitive, you should probably check out Ticket to Ride. Winning doesn’t depend on anyone deliberately attacking other players. If you enjoy games that let you chill and get on with doing your own thing, you’ll also enjoy it.
Of course, if you’re more competitive or like a lot of player interaction, this game isn’t for you.
This is an ideal family game. The box says Ticket to Ride is for 2 to 5 players aged 8 and up, and it takes about 30 to 60 minutes to play. It’s not difficult or combative, evens out the playing field, and isn’t too long.
The Board Game Geek community rates Ticket to Ride 7.5/10, which is about where I rate it.