Tabletop Tuesday: Ticket to Ride

This week for Tabletop Tuesday we bring you Ticket to Ride by Days of Wonder. This lightweight game for 2 to 5 players lets you build a railroad empire across the map. Games generally take an hour to finish.

Ticket to Ride comes in many different flavours these days, but the core of the game remains the same. Your job is to score the most points by claiming railroad routes on the map. Longer or continuous routes tend to score the most points, but shorter routes are easier to claim.

Days of Wonder produces many beautiful board games, but Ticket to Ride is its most accessible for new players. It’s a great starter game, and it’s the one I bring out when introducing new people to board gaming, and it’s also the one most played by my family members who are not big into gaming.

Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition
Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition. Photo by Abigail Holden.

How does it work?

Ticket to Ride uses two types of cards: destinations and trains. Each player gets a few destination cards to start with, which ask you to link two cities with your railroads in exchange for points. The longer the distance between the two cities, the larger the reward. Destinations need to be handled carefully, however, as uncompleted cards will give you negative points at the end of the game.

Train cards come in various colours, as well as multicoloured wildcards. The routes between cities on the map match the colours on the train cards. Players need to collect enough cards of the corresponding colour to claim a route. For example, the route between Phoenix and Denver consists of 5 white blocks. A player wanting to claim that route will need to collect 5 white train cards and spend them to claim the route. Some routes are grey and can be claimed with cards of any colour, as long as they are all the same colour.

The game moves quite quickly because each player can only complete one action on their turn: picking up new train cards, either from the face up cards on the table, or from the face down deck; claiming a route with train cards they already have; or drawing new destination cards.

These straightforward options make the game really accessible to newer players, while still offering a challenge to more experienced players. Even without the additional rules introduced in some of the variant editions, there’s a fair amount of strategy needed: Should you draw more train cards in the hopes you’ll get the right colours for that long route? Should you claim a smaller route that might be gone by the time your next turn comes around? Are there multiple ways to complete your destination cards if someone else blocks off the most direct route?

Scoring is a breeze. Although you can keep score during the game using the track around the edge of the board, it’s easy to knock the scoring tokens off the board during gameplay. Fortunately, scoring can easily be done at the end of the game by adding up a player’s completed destinations, deducting points for uncompleted destination cards, and then simply awarding points for each of their routes. There is usually an award for having the longest continuous route. Some variants of the game have other score modifiers as well. The person with the highest score is the winner.

Just a few of the variants of Ticket to Ride.

Given its popularity, Ticket to Ride now has a lot of variant editions, which include new maps and new gameplay elements. These additional rules will appeal to more seasoned gamers, but may frustrate newer players. Certainly in my family, the non-gamers prefer the original USA map with its straightforward rules with no extra things to remember. And somehow, despite having played the base game innumerable times, I still find it an enjoyable experience.

There’s even a ‘First Journey’ edition for younger players.

Positives:

  • Accessible to players of all skill levels.
  • Easy to set up and pack away.
  • Beautiful, sturdy components.
  • Lots of replayability.

Negatives:

  • Many variants to choose from.
  • Can get quite competitive.

Gamer, geek, LEGO fanatic. I also love Pathfinder RPG, The Sims, cross stitching, crochet, and sci-fi and fantasy movies, games & books. And animals.

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