Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Big Game Hunting - Gateway Games: Ticket To Ride

I was introduced to Ticket to Ride not long ago, but already I've developed an unhealthy addiction to it (apparently). It's a fantastic board game that's easy to learn and great fun to play. It's also the perfect game for those wanting to graduate from the classic family games we've all grown up with like Monopoly.

In Ticket to Ride your goal is to create routes between cities on the board, which is designed as a map of modern day North America. You claim routes by collecting coloured Railway Car cards to match the colour of the route on the board. Every route you claim earns you points, and the longer the route, the better. Each player also gets a selection of Destination Cards, which gives you two cities to connect for extra points – but failing to complete these will take away from your score. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

The popularity of the game, created by Alan R. Moore, has led to the creation of several expansions and spin-off games, such as Ticket to Ride: Europe. As you can probably guess, the European edition plays very similarly, but with a map of turn-of-the-century Europe. This game also adds extra rules and elements of play, making for a more challenging game. Ferry routes demand a specific number of the rarer Locomotive Railway Car Cards and the ability to build Train Stations allows you to use a route claimed by another player. This resolves a frustration from earlier games, as some cities have only one route they are connected to - which would make it difficult if more than one person needs that route to complete a Destination Card. Of course, some people prefer the ability to block other players and scupper their chances, so it's a matter of taste.

Though this game rapidly became one of my favourites, it is not entirely without its faults, particularly the Tunnels in the European edition. When you try to claim a Tunnel route, a random draw of three Railway Car cards takes place. If the three random cards match the colour of the cards you were using to claim said route, then you must play an extra matching card from your hand to succeed. If not, you have to take your cards back and your turn ends. The random nature of this part is frustrating and can see a player stuck for several goes waiting for a stroke of luck. Of course, this game mechanic represents the escalating costs of building railway tunnels (who can forget the Channel Tunnel fiasco so many years ago?), but it can be a real nightmare when you're desperate to win! There is definitely a feeling that, after playing the more challenging rules of the Europe map, the original USA edition can feel too easy at times.

Other editions that have been produced include Märklin, USA 1910, Europa 1912, and several additional country maps plus Alvin & Dexter - giant monsters to terrorise your cities! You can also get a little expansion that replaces the Railway Car cards with dice, if you value a more random element to your games. There's even a separate card game that is perfect for journeys or smaller homes.

In fact one of the best things I've discovered about Ticket to Ride is how many ways there are to access the game. For those who enjoy taking their games with them and playing on the go, Ticket to Ride is available as an app for iPhone (North American pocket edition), iPad (several editions available), and Android. It can be played online with people around the world at the Ticket to Ride website with a subscription. The game is also available for PC, Mac, and Xbox Live Arcade.

For more from guest blogger Rae, please check out her website.

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