People have often told me that Ticket to Ride is the perfect “gateway” board game. A stepping stone from games where you just roll the dice and move around the board to strategic board games. The train theme means the box has always appealed to my train-mad son, but I wasn’t sure that at 7 years old he was quite old (or patient) enough to take to the game easily. I figured that his nearly ten year old sister would take to it a bit easier though. Lockdown means I’ve had opportunity to test out my theories and suffice to say that Ticket to Ride has become an evening ritual in our house now!
Aim of Ticket to Ride
The simple idea behind Ticket to Ride is that you are building rail routes between cities. The original version of the game is based on a map of North America with key US and Canadian cities marked. The longer the route, the more complicated it is deemed, and hence it scores more points. This isn’t a linear scale though. A two carriage route gains you two points, yet a six carriage route attracts a whopping 15 points. Those long routes may be harder to collect the required cards for, but they are worth it.
Players also get additional points for completing routes between two particular cities, and the player who gets the longest overall route in the game also gain ten extra points. The winner is the player with the most points. Simple.
To be able to lay routes between points on the map a player has to collect cards of the same colour. Depending on the route on the board they may have to all be of a specified colour, or could all be of any colour that the player chooses from those available. The cards in the game are marked with different coloured carriages on them, but there are also cards with multicoloured locomotives on which act as wild cards and can be any carriage colour for the purposes of claiming a route.
Play starts with each player having four cards. On each turn they can them either collect two more cards (either blind from the top of the pack, or from the first five cards that are turned over on the table) or claim a route. To claim a route they place their cards on the discard pile and place their colour trains on the board on the route in question.
Added points are gained in the game by fulfilling destination cards. These cards show you two cities and your task is to build a route between them. It may not be the most direct route on the board (depending on what other players have done) but that doesn’t matter. Depending on how far apart the cities are a number of points are awarded to the player if they are successful. It gives the game direction, but also an opportunity to really increase your points score massively.
The twist is that if you hold a route card that you haven ‘t completed at the end of the game that number of points is deducted from your total. When you are given Destination Cards at the start of the game, players are handed three, but they are only obliged to keep two of them. Although, they can choose to keep all three if they want.
Players can also use their turns in the game to pick up additional Destination Cards if they want to do so. A great way of picking up extra points if you’re feeling confident about being able to build the routes you need.
As I’ve mentioned previously, there is a special award for the player that forms the longest overall route in the game. An extra ten points. Depending on the destination cards that you’re trying to fulfil this can be quite easy.
How we found the game
My husband and I loved playing Ticket to Ride, but to be honest we weren’t sure how quickly the children would pick it up. As it turns out they were smarter than we gave them credit for!
They picked it up the general gameplay in no time at all. It took them a little longer to think about how to incorporate what the destination cards were asking them to do and to think about fulfilling what was on more than one destination card at once, but with time that skill is also developing.
What I particularly like about the game is that you not only have the strategy angle of thinking about where to claim your routes, but also the luck element of what cards come up and what destination cards you’ve been dealt. It means the kids have a decent chance of beating the adults – something they always like when playing a game.
Different versions of Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a hugely popular game and as a result there are numerous different versions and expansion packs, which can cause a bit of confusion at first. The *base game includes a map of North America.
There is a *United Kingdom map available, but this is an expansion pack and you need to already have the base game (or the *European version of the game) to be able to play as you use the trains in the original set. Slightly confusingly the United Kingdom expansion also includes a map of Pennsylvania on the other side of the board. It also introduces the idea of “technology cards” which means that you have to have certain technical skills to be able to build some routes. I’m totally intrigued by this idea and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the expansion to try it out.
There are also various other standalone versions of Ticket to Ride (including *Ticket to Ride London which we are lucky enough to have in our collection – review coming up soon) some of which are full size, and some of which are smaller (and therefore quicker) versions of the game. Also available is a children’s version – *Ticket to Ride First Journey. This is a bit basic for where my eldest two are now, but Tim over at Slouching Towards Thatcham wrote a cracking review when he played it with his kids a few years back.
If there were shops open right now I’m pretty sure I would be in there looking at the different versions and expansion packs and deciding which one to buy next. Certainly the UK expansion pack is high up on my list and my son is keen to try the *Japan expansion too – after all his ambition is to be a Bullet Train Driver, so surely this would class as work experience! Instead I’m building an Amazon wish-list with all the versions and expansions on that I want. By the time lockdown is over it might be my birthday after all!
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