Meet Ticket to Ride.

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So, what’s the deal with Ticket to Ride?

In Ticket to Ride, players compete to build train routes connecting cities across the United States of America and southern Canada. Build your routes thoughtfully, lest an opponent block you off from your destinations!

What makes Ticket to Ride special?

Ticket to Ride holds a very special place in my heart and is one of my absolute favorite games to play. The rules are simple – I can teach the game in less than five minutes. The competition scales with the players’ preference – the game is often very cutthroat, though it doesn’t have to be if players prefer a less aggressive game. It’s fast-paced, with turns typically lasting less than 15 seconds and the entire game lasting under an hour.

Beyond that, it’s fun to play with the little trains and line them up on tracks! The bold colors on the cards are a pleasure to look at and it is cool to watch the board evolve as it fills with trains.

Alright, so what’s the gameplay like?

Players earn points in Ticket to Ride by building train routes, completing destination tickets, and by having the longest continuous track at the end of the game. Each player starts with 45 trains, 4 train cards, and 3 destination tickets.

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Destination tickets name two cities and have a point value in the corner. At the end of the game, if you have connected the two named cities with your trains, you gain the points shown. If not, you lose the points shown. Each player must keep two of the three destination tickets they are dealt, though they may keep all three if they choose. Discarded tickets go to the bottom of the ticket pile.

To finish setting up, deal five train cards from the deck face up along the side of the board.

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Players proceed by taking turns in order. On a turn, a player performs one of the following three actions:

  1. Take Train Cards – Take two cards, choosing from the face up cards and the unseen card on top of the deck. If you choose a face up card, deal a new one in its place before making your second choice. There is one exception to this action – if the card you take is a face up wild locomotive card, you may not take any other cards this action.
  2. Build a Route – A route is a line of train-sized rectangles connecting two cities. To claim a route, you must play a number of train cards equal to the length of the route of the same color as the route. In the example below, I am claiming a route from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The route is pink and is 3 long, so I play 3 pink train cards to claim the route. I place my trains in the rectangles and score points based on the length – in this case, 4 points. No one else can claim that route – it’s mine.

    Photo 2014-05-16 01.43.41 PM
    Sometimes two tracks run parallel between the same two cities. If you are playing with 2 or 3 players, then only one of the two tracks may be used – once one is claimed, the other is closed. However, with 4 or 5 players, both tracks may be claimed by different players.

  3. Take Destination Tickets – Draw 3 destination tickets from the top of the deck. You must keep at least 1 of the 3, but may keep 2 or all 3 if you choose. As with the tickets you start with, you cannot get rid of them once you have them, so be careful not to take tickets you can’t complete!

Play continues until one player has 2 or fewer trains left in his or her supply. Each player, including the player who triggered the end of the game, gets one last turn. After the last turn of the game, whoever has the longest continuous track gets 10 bonus points, and each player reveals their destination tickets, scoring points for completed ones and losing points for any not completed. Highest score wins!

I think I get it. Who do you recommend this game to?

Ticket to Ride is a great choice for a fast, fun competition with a little bit of luck in the train card and destination ticket draws. There is also something about it that feels familiar, making it a great choice for people who have played and enjoyed games with wider cultural attention like Uno or Rummy but otherwise don’t tend to play games too often.

I find there to be a lot here for experienced gamers too, though I understand the reasons players interested in intense strategy gravitate towards more complex systems than what is offered in Ticket to Ride. However, for me, I find the tension in the game to be just as rewarding in terms of excitement, so it is always a great choice if I want a fast, tense battle. Common complaints about the game are that there is little sense of progress during the game, that the game occasionally turns into several turns of people drawing from the deck to try and find what they need, and that too often the game ends up being too friendly as players hesitate to block each other for fear of being labeled “jerks” (I am not, it’s just a game!).

So, despite how much I love Ticket to Ride, I suppose it doesn’t go deep enough in terms of strategy for everyone. However, for anyone exploring the world of board games, Ticket to Ride is a great place to visit if you haven’t yet been there – I go back all the time!

To Summarize:
Players: 2-5
Time: 45 minutes
Strategy: 2
Luck: 3
Complexity: 2
Game Elements: Set collection, route building, indirect conflict

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