Take a cross-country train adventure. Collect and play matching train cards to claim railways across North America.
This simple premise and core gameplay has resulted in a new renaissance of U.S. board games. Ticket to Ride exploded into game stores in 2004, ten years prior to this review, spawned over ten spin-offs and expansions to date and fueled its publisher Days of Wonder to become one of the modern board game industry’s giants.
Designer: Alan R. Moon
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Date Released: 2004
Number of Players: 2-5
Age Range: 8 and up
Setup Time: 5-10 minutes
Play Time: 45 minutes or less
Each player begins the game with a collection of colored, plastic train pieces (each player chooses their color), a hand of four train cards (color-coded to match the point-to-point routes between the cities on the game board), and five destination ticket cards. Five train cards are dealt face-up for a draw pile.
At the start of the game, players keep which destinations they have in their hand that they think they can complete, and return the rest of the cards to the ticket pile. A destination ticket has two cities printed on it, and if the player chooses to complete the ticket, earning the points indicated on the card, they must construct a continuous route with their plastic train pieces across North America from one of the two cities to the other. Obviously, a route from New York to Los Angeles would be worth more points than a route from Vancouver, Canada to Portland, Oregon. But you lose points, equal to the points you would’ve gained, for every ticket you don’t complete.
Each connection between the two cities has a color-coded route, and players must match the colored route with the same colored train cards in their hand. Locomotive cards are wild and extremely valuable.
A player can do one of three things on their turn: claim a route with their train pieces, draw more train cards from either the draw pile or the deck, or draw more destination tickets (they have to keep at least one ticket). Play continues until someone runs out of train pieces.
Ticket to Ride is simple, elegant and difficult to master. Even though other games have overtaken Ticket to Ride as the gateway game (cooperative games have flooded the market and they’re excellent gateways), this game continues to go strong more than ten years after its original release.
Ticket to Ride could be this generation of game’s Monopoly, and what a beautiful Monopoly it makes.
I don’t play this game as often as I once did, but I’ll rarely say no to a game of Ticket to Ride. You can learn the rules in minutes, but it’ll take you a while to master the game, especially if you have the USA 1910 expansion.