Well first off, I must apologise for the lack of posts over the last month or so. During October I was away on vacation and on returning I started studying a university course through distance learning (The Open University for those readers in the UK). So unfortunately all that together with work, has let me with little time to play games, and even less time to write about them. However I feel I’m now starting to get into a better routine, and so finding time to play more games.
Last weekend we played Ticket to Ride Europe. A game I purchased in a sale a couple of months ago. It’s one of those games that consistently receives high scores in reviews and is always recommended as a must have for any board game collection. So after much reading of reviews to see where the best place to start with the Ticket to Ride series was, I went for the Europe version.
- Players: 2 to 5
- Age: 8+
- Play time: 30 – 60 minutes
- Designer: Alan R. Moon
- Publisher: Days of Wonder
The game has a large number of versions and expansion sets available, and as I understand it, they can also be played together – someone can correct me if I got that wrong.
First impressions on opening the box was a colourful map board, which is made from a very sturdy board and folds out to a decent sized 32 inches x 21 inches. Underneath was a huge number of plastic pieces, mostly little coloured train coaches – 225 in total. Enough for the 2 to 5 players that the game can be played with. There are also a couple of decks of cards and tokens for stations and tracking your score.
Object and Set Up
The object of the game is to build rail routes across Europe, with routes worth different point values. Player with the most points at the end wins. Routes run between cities and are of different colours and lengths. The longer the route, the more points. For extra points, if you can build the route shown on your Journey Tickets, then you’ll be rewarded with even more points.
Set up is quick and straight forward. Each player gets their coloured collection of train coaches and 3 stations. They are then dealt 3 Journey Tickets and 1 Long Journey Ticket. And finally a hand of 5 train cards from the deck. The top 5 cards from the train deck are placed face up beside the board, the rest of the deck is face down. The remainder of the Journey tickets are also placed in a deck face down.
There’s a handy scoring track runs round the edge of the board for you to place your player token on.
Ticket to Ride is a set collection game. The object to collect the coloured train cards you need to be able to place your coloured train coaches on routes. Longer routes win big points.
Each turn you can do 1 of 4 actions;
- Draw 2 cards from the face down train deck
- Take 1 card from the 5 face up train cards, and replace it with the top card from the face down train deck
- Cash in a collection of train cards to lay down a route between 2 cities with your trains
- Trade train cards to build a station on a city
And that’s it. Choose 1 of 4 actions. If only it were that easy!
As well as laying down coaches to gain routes with your matching coloured train cards, you also have special journeys to build for additional points. These journeys come from the 3 journey tickets and 1 long journey ticket you were given. Build those and the points on the card are added to your score at the end. Keeping these journeys to yourself is wise.
If you want you can also draw another journey card from the journey deck. That’s for the real kings of the railroad that are steaming ahead !
If you find you need to build a route where an opponent has already claimed a section of your journey ticket, there is a solution. You can place a station token in a city either at the start or end of the opponents route. This allows you to join your route to the station and so create a journey.
The one final twist, which I believe was introduced in the Europe set, is the use of tunnels. Certain routes on the map go through a tunnel, and these will appear as a set number of coaches long. Sounds like a regular route. Unfortunately you don’t know how long the tunnel is when you go to build it! You have the required number of coloured train cards and go to claim the route. Then the top 3 cards of the train deck are turned over. If a card of the colour you’re using is turned, then you need to use another card of that colour from your hand to complete the route. This means careful planning and allowing for a few extra needed cards will ensure the route is built. Don’t have the cards you need, and you don’t claim the route.
How did we do?
Well, my wife is an information and data analyst by profession… and I’m not. 3 games, and she won them all. She puts it down to being able to analyse what routes she’s aiming for but also being able to switch strategy quickly if a required route ends up already taken. Whatever her secret, it worked!
There is certainly an element of strategy in when and where to place your tokens for gain routes. Also trying to out wit your opponent by not making it obvious you’re going for that super long 20 coach route! Because you can quite easily block your opponent from completing long routes…. unless they can build a handy station!
We both thoroughly enjoyed the game, and I can see why its a favourite on most gateway board game lists. The rules are very easy to pick up, even for younger players I would guess. Our first game only lasted about 1 hour and the later ones came in at around 40 minutes. So it’s an easy one to pick up when you have a spare hour.
I’ve already started looking at the other sets, which incorporate additional mechanics, and I notice there are smaller expansion sets too.
Now, I just have to work out how to win against my wife …..