With Ticket to Ride heading off all over the place, as well as taking the the waters in the recent Rails and Sails version, it’s easy to imagine there being a Ticket to Ride game set in most large countries in a year or two’s time. This latest game, set in Germany, tweaks a few things from the original formula, removes some of the more complex additions from a few of the more recent editions and leaves you with a game which reminds us exactly why this series has been so successful.
Stripping back the rules to the basics certainly takes the series back to its roots; you pick up train car colour cards, collect various routes to try and complete, then place your trains on the map by using the cards to complete your routes. Claiming a stretch of track earns you points, as does completing your train routes, and with a few other small calculations along the way whoever ends up with the highest score wins. There’s plenty of strategy involved, plenty of decisions based around whether to aim for lots of shorter routes or go for the big point-scoring longer journeys, and a reasonable amount of trying to work out what others are trying to do and block the routes they need to complete their own tickets. It’s a classic formula which has been enormously successful, but with each game trying to bring in something new the additions haven’t always worked. Rails and Sails, for example, ended up being a bit of a slog at times with the extras adding a little too much to the game time, so with Germany adding passengers to the much-loved rules as well as a couple of other changes how does it fit in amongst the rest of the Ticket to Ride series?
Personally, I like it. Passengers take the form of meeples positioned at each station around the board (a board which uses a portrait orientation for a change) which need to be laid out in accordance to the rule book – most stations only have the one, although there are a handful which have more passengers on them. It would’ve been nice to have the passenger numbers printed on the board so you didn’t need to refer to the rulebook each time you set a game up, but it’s hardly the end of the world and a few games later you’ll learn which stations need the extra few meeples. Whenever you form a route between two stations you’ll take a passenger from each end of the line, with the various coloured passengers coming together to provide some extra points at the end of the game. If you have the most blue meeples, for example, you get a haul of 20 points, and the same reward again for any other colours you’ve collected the most of. Even players with the 2nd most of each get an extra 10 points; the reward is pretty sizeable and well worth considering during the early stages of the game.
You’ll also get a bonus for completing the most routes over the course of the game, bringing in another strategic decision – do you aim to finish lots of smaller routes which, individually, earn less points but might snag the bonus at the end? That choice is made more important by the new idea of there being two separate decks of route cards you can pick from each turn; one pile consists of largely short routes which only need you to join a smaller number of stations but will get you less points, and another pile with far longer routes which will take much more planning and train cards but reap the larger points bundles if you complete them. They do, of course, also carry larger penalties if you haven’t completed it by the end of the game, so there’s a fair bit of decision making when it comes to whether to take the longer or shorter routes.
And they’re the main differences in the Germany version, and they make a surprising difference. While some players might spend their opening few moves collecting train car cards in order to start putting down some chunky routes for bigger route rewards, others will be going all out to collect as many passengers and shorter routes as possible hoping for the bit prizes at the end of the game. Is it worth maybe passing up some longer routes for more passengers, potentially allowing other players to block off some of the routes you might need? There’s no right answer, it depends on the turn of the cards and the actions of others, and it adds a whole new level of strategy while adding next to no extra complexity and time to the game.
So while it makes for a great version of Ticket to Ride, only having a couple of fairly simple mew rules means it’s quite similar to other “normal” versions of the game, and you’ll possibly need to think twice before adding this to your collection if you’ve already got a few previous games in the series. That said, there’s a whole new board to play on, the new mechanics of passengers and two route decks, and the fact that it’s still Ticket to Ride, so if any of those things are worthwhile to you then you’ll need to snap this up. Because when all is said and done, after one or two questionable decisions in recent games, Ticket to Ride Germany is back to what makes Ticket to Ride so enjoyable – simple, tactical and enjoyable gaming, now with added meeples, and it would make a fantastic entry into the series if you’re looking to hook in some new friends for a few games.