Ticket To Ride: a NBG for everyone

Ticket to Ride pushes the elasticity of the term ‘nerd’.  There’s really nothing objectively nerdy about this game.  It has a familiar theme:  charting railroad routes across the country.  Ticket to Ride is really one of the most casual Eurogames you can buy and perfectly accessible, especially in a family setting.

TTR contains all the major NBG traits:  Victory points, actions, card combinations, but it packages it all with a trademark simplicity.  It’s so easy, I’ll just go ahead and explain right here.  You get a board charting railroad routes across the United States:

You receive ‘tickets’ that require you to establish a connecting route between two cities (e.g. NY to LA).  You get 45 little plastic railroad cars and your job is to claim routes of various colors by drawing differently colored cars.  If you have three green cards in your hand, you can claim a three-space green route.  Each ticket has a certain point value that you’ll receive at the end of the game.  If you successfully connect your two cities, you’ll gain the listed points, if you fail, those points will be subtracted.  Claiming routes comes with its own point system, so scoring is a balance between the immediate benefits of claiming routes, the future benefit of completing tickets and one additional bonus for whomever can construct the longest continual route.

How does it play?

Pretty quickly regardless of whether or not you know what you’re doing.  Claiming routes is instinctive and comes with a little thrill of cashing in accumulated cards and watching your lines grow.  It’s all anticipation and release.  You snap up cards for a few turns until you get the hand that you need, and it feels good to cash them all in to claim a really long route that gives you immediate score and adds to your overall goal of completing your ticket(s).   There is some spacial reasoning involved in completing routes, but it’s linear, since the board is essentially just a network of connecting lines.  There’s really no logic involved.  Bottom line:  quick, immediate benefit, not a lot of spacial or forward thinking required.

How many people can play it?

The basic game comes with enough for two to five players.  I think the best experience comes from playing with at least three.

Competition type

This depends on how many players are involved.  If two, then you’ll probably find the game to be a rollicking race to accumulate points, with little on-board interaction since there’s typically more than enough routes to accommodate both of your networks.

With three to five players, the board gets a little more crowded and the game can turn fairly confrontational.  Depending upon how you like to play, it can be fun to intentionally try and screw people’s routes up which makes playing your train routes a bit more strategic.  Since the players keep their tickets secret from each other, a secondary goal to block other players’ routes can form, but this kind of play is not strictly part of the mechanics.  It’s a good example of how a well-designed game can generate varying strategies without structurally forcing players to pursue them.

Time?

Around 20 minutes with two players.  Budget 30-40 with three to five.  Very low explanation time.

Any problems?

Not really.  TTR plays pretty perfectly for what it is.  It’s constantly engaging, involves just enough decision-making to decide which action you want to take on each turn:  draw train cards, draw tickets, or claim a route.  It involves some skeletal spacial reasoning:  connecting linear routes.  When played with more than two players, players’ turns can affect each other massively.

If you’re really into deep strategy and the ability to ‘out-think’ the other players, then this is not the game that will satisfy that desire.  Also, playing this game multiple times won’t necessarily make you significantly better at it.  Once you learn to play, there’s not really much nuance to it, but that’s not to say that each game will turn out the same.  There’s still enough randomness and variety to make each game a unique play experience, in which you’ll need to react to new developments on the board and your decisions will have big consequences on the outcome, you just probably won’t be able to predict anything like that.  This is a game a genius can lose just as easily as a ten year old, and that’s not a bad thing.  Though there’s little strategy involved, there’s still a very high chance that you’ll enjoy playing this game no matter who you are.  It is, in my mind, the most across the board (tom roll-cymbal splash) enjoyable game I’ve ever played and one that never fails in the party scene whether it’s couples over for dinner or a kids’ birthday party.

Expansions?

Many.  Check them all out here.  I’ve never played any of them, but some expand the play of the original game and others are just completely standalone ‘sequels’.  If you really enjoy the basic mechanics of TTR, and would like some expanded play styles, I’ve heard they’re really good.

Verdict

9 out of 10.  Perfect for what it is, pretty and fun to play.  Innovative in its simplicity, though not necessarily in depth.  Everyone will enjoy.

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About alexwilgus

Twentysomething from Texas. Living in Chicago. Working for a living. Writing for life.
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2 Responses to Ticket To Ride: a NBG for everyone

  1. Sarah Parr says:

    Colin and I love to play that game! Your right….not so much strategy that you can’t have a good conversation!

  2. Sally says:

    Hey A-boy. I was just looking at your NBG posts and saw ticket to ride. When F and I were in Richmond Leigh Ann taught me how to play it! I feel pretty cool now. We didn’t get through the game because we watched a movie with Gordon and Katy instead. But I’ll be wanting to play especially with you and La.

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