A lot of people will have experienced Ticket to Ride without even realising that a physical, tabletop version existed. Popular on phones and tablets, the “proper” version of Ticket to Ride has gone through several iterations now, with Days of Wonder also having American and Nordic versions available before the phenomenally gorgeous 10th Anniversary Edition was released recently. There’s even a new version coming out soon too – Rails and Sails. I’ll leave you to work out the two main concepts in that version… for now though, we’ve had the chance to take a look at the European version to get an idea of just why this game has become so popular.
And it doesn’t take too long to work out why it’s proved to be such a well-loved game. Gameplay itself is very simple, basically amounting to collecting cards in order to lay down train routes around Europe, but there’s a strategy to things which give a very finely tuned risk/reward system. As you’ll see on the photo below, each route has a different colour. Some are basic routes, some are ferry journeys and others go through tunnels. Depending on which route you’re approaching will depend on how you go about “spending” the cards you have, but it’s not as simple as just plonking down trains and feeling smug as your score slowly ticks upwards. Placing the trains themselves is where the small points are – for the bigger prizes, you need to complete specific routes.
On your turn, as well as the option picking up the coloured cards required to form routes between cities you can also take route cards – three of them initially, but you can get rid of a couple of you want to. These are kept very secret, and might ask you to form a journey from Barcelona to London for example. If, by the end of the game, you’ve managed to form a complete, unbroken route between those two cities (which might need roughly 10, even 15 individual connections along the way) then you get those points added to your total. Bigger routes, taking you across the board, lead to bigger scores. The trouble is these points get knocked off if you don’t form the full journey, so if you run out of turns to complete it or another player cottons on to what you’re trying to do and blocks your path, you’ve got a hefty penalty coming your way. That’s where the risk comes in – do you accept the tricky tasks in the hope you can grind out a big score, or stick to the smaller prizes in the hope that nobody else manages to successfully get the Madrid to Petrograd card and actually snake their way all the way across Europe.
New to the Europe version (or at least, a feature which wasn’t in the original game) is the idea of building stations on a city, giving you the chance of using someone else’s route in or out of that city as part of your own longer journey – the more you have, the more coloured cards they cost to build, but can serve as a very useful tool in plugging gaps in the longer routes, or just tricking your opponents into thinking that the station has some key tactical importance for you when you’re actually busy trekking across the other end of the board unspotted. Ferries are new too, letting you forge routes across water, and bring a new importance to the wildcard locomotive cards – depending on the route, you might need a few of them before getting across. In that respect, it’s a good idea to keep one or two back in your hand just in case.
And really, that’s all there is to it. Those who have read some of the previous reviews on here will know that I sometimes try out these games with my 3 year old, and while we didn’t quite manage to hit the full set of rules, we at least got to the point of collecting coloured cards to form routes between cities. For someone so young, that’s very close to the full game, and goes to show how easy this game is to pick up and learn. But there’s also a hidden depth to Ticket to Ride, a strategic side which forces you to take risks, makes you second-guess your opponents and try to combine your own point scoring with ruining the opportunities for them to hit the bigger jackpots.
It’s very clear to me just why Ticket to Ride is held in such high regard. If you’re intrigued, then stop thinking and buy a copy. It doesn’t matter which version, they’re mostly more or less the same with a few tweaks here and there, but what doesn’t change is how much fun it is. It’s very enjoyable, and that’s exactly what you should be looking for in a game.
Ticket to Ride: Europe
Available Now, RRP £34.99
Find your local stockist here