I don’t drive so spend a lot of time on trains (and in the north of England, at times, that can be quite a challenge), trams, buses and a lot of walking. Therefore, was playing a board game based on cross-country train journeys going to be of any interest? Initially, no. I had the strategy board game Ticket to Ride for quite a while before I started to play it, trains just didn’t interest me. Now it is one of my favourite games to play! What a brilliant game, strategic play and lots of fun. I can see why it has won dozens of international awards and sold over 8 million games to become one of the most popular modern board game series to date!
Ticket to Ride is a family-friendly cross-county train travelling strategy game suitable for 2-5 players, aged 8+. It has a playing time of 30-60 minutes.
Don’t be like me and be put off by the fact that it is a game based around trains and train travel or that it will only be of any interest to train spotters. It is an excellent fun game whether you like trains or not. It is not a game of playing with trains, but a game of strategy.
Ticket to Ride is a game that requires planning, forward thinking and strategic blocking to try and build train routes across North America (USA and the southern part of Canada). Players must collect cards of various types of train cars that enable them to claim railway routes, connecting cities together. The longer the route claimed, the more points you earn. But it is not that simple, other players can block your path and force you to abandon your route and take another more indirect and longer path.
In the box:
- Large Game Board of North American Train Route (6 Panels)
- 240 Coloured Trains (includes 15 spare trains)
- 5 Wooden Scoring Markers
- 110 Illustrated Train Car Cards
- 30 Destination Tickets
- Summary Card
- Rules Booklet
The aim of the game is to earn as many points as you can by claiming train routes and matching cards between different cities in North America and Canada. This is achieved by placing coloured trains along the route. It is a deceptively simple game to play but tactics and strategic planning to stop your opponents in their tracks make it very interesting and fun.
What routes are you going to claim? Do you go for the shortest routes (less points) or the longer, more complicated routes (to gain the most points)? Should you block routes of your opponents and force them take a more complex route or just concentrate on your own journey across the board? The one to collect the most points (not necessarily the one with the most routes) is the winner. There are plenty of permutations to achieve your goals, routes and ultimately the points you need to win.
Setting up to play Ticket to Ride is quick and simple, it only takes a few minutes. You will need a rather large playing area to play Ticket to Ride, a large table or some good floor space. The game board is nice and large (it is made up of six panels). The board is a map that represents train routes across North America and Canada, linking various cities together (Portland to Salt Lake City, Denver to Omaha etc.). Unfold the board and place it in the centre of your playing area so that everybody can reach it. Each player (up to five can play) is given 45 train pieces, each person has a different colour (blue, black, green, red or yellow) along with a matching colour scoring marker. Markers are placed on the number 1 position on the numbered squares that are around the edge of the board. Shuffle the train cards (do this well, especially on the first time of playing) and deal 4 cards to each player, placing the remaining deck of cards next to the board. Take five cards from the top of the deck and place them individually face up on the table. Place the Longest Path Bonus Card face up next to the board. Shuffle the destination ticket cards and deal 3 to each player (don’t let other players see your cards). The game is now ready for you to travel by train as far and wide as you can.
You will need to read through the rules first, but they do sound more complex than it is. It is quite a simple game to play. Once you start playing everything falls into place, you will just need the rules handy to check things on the first few plays.
To play, the starting player (in this case, the most experienced traveller – sorry kids, that probably won’t be you for a change – walking to and from school doesn’t count) draws two train cards from the deck or from the five face up cards on the table and then play continues around the table. On each turn each player can only complete ONE action – draw train cards, claim a route or draw destination tickets (players can draw 3 tickets, look at the cards and decide which to keep – at least one must be kept but you can decide to keep two or even all three should you wish).
The aim is to claim train routes by collecting matching train cards to earn points to move around the board. The train routes are all various lengths, but the longest ones are worth a whole lot more than a collection of short routes. Locomotive cards are wild cards and can be used as any colour. When you have claimed enough matching cards to complete a route (shown by coloured spaces on the board), you can claim the route and place your trains on the board to link the cities or segments of the route together. If you place trains on the board, depending on how many trains placed determines how many points you score to move your marker around the edge of the board. If you complete a route that matches a destination card that you hold, the number in the corner of the destination card is the number of points that you will win (these are added to your score at the end of the game).
Like I said, it is an easy and straightforward game to play. But that’s where strategy plays its part, yours and your fellow players. A lot of the routes are broken up into segments and other players can claim segments of another player’s route to block them, forcing them to take much longer, indirect route or even abandoning a route. This makes the game much more challenging and fun and adds an element of strategic thinking, plotting and cunning planning into the game.
The game ends when a player has 2 or less trains left in their train stock. But this player is not necessarily the winner. The winner is determined by points earned. Points need to be added up – points earned from moving around the edge of the game board and then all the points from completed destination routes. To make it more interesting, any uncompleted destination cards a player holds has those deducted from their score, so get your calculators out! The winner is one with most points, not the one that has got rid of most trains or collected more routes, or even who has the longest routes. You must be very strategic with the routes you plan to claim to get the best scores that you can.
Overall, I absolutely loved playing Ticket to Ride. It can be a time consuming game to play. Average game play is around 30-60 minutes, but our first game took about 90 minutes whilst we were fully getting to grips with it (and this just flew by and was enjoyable all the way). Once we were all on track (pun intended), we all found the game very easy to understand and play (our youngest player was 10 years old).
I think that Ticket to Ride is an excellent game to play. It is fun and interesting game. You are not only moving around the board but trying to work out the best routes whilst trying to strategically block other players (and hoping that they don’t block you), and we were even learning new cities and where they are situated within the vastness of North America and Canada (we got a geography lesson as we played).
The cards are small, but readable for all and the plastic train pieces are good quality and are easy to place on the board (and are a good size to pick up and place on the board – perfect for players of all ages).
With a retail price of around £40-£45, it is quite an expensive board game, but you do get a lot for your money and the entertainment value you will get from it is more than worth it (especially as you can register your game online for more maps and other benefits. You can even play along with Amazon’s Alexa).
I think that Ticket to Ride (USA) is an excellent family-friendly strategy board game. It is lots of fun and the strategic nature of it makes it a competitive game. Don’t be fooled about the trains like I was, it is not a game just for people with an interest in trains and travel – the trains are just a means to travel across a vast country and track progress. The game is suitable for kids, teenagers, adults and families – the playability is just excellent (people have been playing it for nearly 20 years and it is still going strong). There are also expansion packs and other versions of the game available – London, United Kingdom and Europe among many others, including the new Ticket to Ride: Legends of the West which I am looking forward to playing at some point.
Ticket to Ride is an excellent addition to any games cupboard. An excellent board game for game nights with family or friends. A fun strategy game and all without the fear of train strikes or late running trains!