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
Game Flow and Review:
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.
The rules are easily learned in minutes. Each player begins the game with a collection of adorable, 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 in the game, 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.
Those are the rules. Well, I should mention that each route you claim has its own point value, and the longer the individual route (from city to city), the more points you receive. You don’t necessarily have to complete all the tickets you have. You could build one continuous route across the entire country, blocking off your opponents and earning the longest continuous route bonus. You also have to be sneaky.
Since you can only claim one route at a time, cross-country destination tickets are difficult to claim. Your opponents can see which direction you’re headed and they can cut you off from your goal. If you take train cards from the face-up pile, your opponents can also glean which route you’re eyeing.
Ticket to Ride is simple, elegant and difficult to master. All of these characteristics result in an evergreen, a game that never loses the green it earns.
A must play for any designer game (a game that puts its designer’s name in a place of honor like an author of a book) enthusiast. You can learn the rules to Ticket to Ride in minutes, but it’ll take you a long to time to master them.