Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ticket to Ride

Trains and train travel are pretty appealing to kids and adults. It’s fun to imagine settling down and crossing the prairie or taking a trip across Spain by rail. Days of Wonder Games took that fantasy and used it to create one of the world’s most popular games, Ticket to Ride.

The board in Ticket to Ride presents you with a map of the United States. The map shows the location of several dozen major cities and the rail lines that connect them. Each rail line has a length in spaces. For example New York is two spaces from Washington, DC while Miami is six spaces from New Orleans. Finally each rail line is one of eight colors. In each game turn the players draw and discard cards from a deck. When you have enough cards of one color you can “take control” of a particular rail line. For example it takes two orange cards to control the New York to DC line. A player could turn in two orange cards and place their playing tokens along that line. They now own that route and score points. You can try and save cards to control some longer route or play them quickly and take shorter routes faster. You win points in the game for each line you control, and the longer the line in spaces, the more points you get.

The rules add in a few refinements. You can get wild cards and extra points for specific routes but in general the game plays like rummy. Players score by amassing cards of a certain type but if they wait too long to play them another player may score first. This is probably one of the reasons for Ticket to Ride’s success- simple and familiar rules combined with a gorgeous board.

So who would enjoy Ticket to Ride? Anyone old enough to understand collecting cards of a certain color and trading them for points can play the game. One possible downside is that while trains are a theme and there are train illustrations on the board it’s otherwise a fairly abstract game. Classic games like Sorry and Tic Tac Toe are also abstract so this isn’t a strike against Ticket to Ride per se, but a younger child who’s told they’re going to be playing a “train game” may end up disappointed. I see this as being a terrific game for older children and adults, perhaps ages ten and up. You can finish a game is well less than an hour so attention is less of an issue. Finally, there are numerous expansions available so if you do enjoy the game you’ll have many opportunities to try different maps and variations. You can find this game at Hit and Run Games in Lexington or Pandemonium Books in Central Square.

Pros: Simple rules
No reading required
Relatively quick to play

Cons: Abstract game will disappoint people who want to push around models of trains

Beyond the Basics: The rummy system has good long term playability potential.
Plenty of expansions are available if you enjoy the game

1 comment:

  1. We really enjoy this game as a family, including our 6 and 9 year old boys. They were both able to pick it up quickly and play a good game. The younger one plays with the trains before they are played on the board, so there is still a chance to "push around models of trains." It is great for a wide variety of ages.