In 2004, Alan R. Moon released his simple game of train routes. It’s since become a household name for board gamers and has been one of the most defining games in the board gameverse.
Ticket to Ride has been a household name ever since and has sold a staggering number of copies. It’s also been one of the games that helped pushed the hobby out from under the shadow of Hasbro/Milton Bradley and into the modern era of board games.
A Brief Overview of Ticket to Ride
According to the rulebook, the characters are old schoolmates, inspired by the original bet made by Phineas Fogg to travel around the world in 80 days. The characters met every year to place a new wager, increasingly more difficult than the last. It’s October 2, 1900, 28 years after Phineas Fogg’s original journey and the stakes are the highest they’ve ever been. The new wager is $1 million… winner takes all. The goal: to travel to the most cities by railway in 7 days.
Those are literally the only thematic elements you’re going to get from this game. The entire theme is summed up in a short paragraph at the beginning of the rulebook.
I can almost guarantee that most players of Ticket to Ride have never heard the thematic fluff for this game, but… that’s okay. The thematic elements are completely secondary to the gameplay and the enjoyment of the game itself.
Ticket to Ride is a card-drafting, route-building board game. Players collect cards in their hands in order to pay for train routes between cities on the map. It also works especially well with 3-players.
Versions & Expansions
There are a ton of versions for Ticket to Ride. It’s one of those games that lends itself well to expansions. You don’t necessarily need to collect all of them (unless you’re into that sort of thing).
They’re mostly different versions of the same game with slightly different changes made to the rules. The expansions keep the same feel to the game but change the gameplay enough that they’re all pretty distinct. Kind of like the different versions of Pandemic.
My suggestion is to look for a map that looks interesting to you and start with that. You don’t necessarily need to snag the original first before checking out the rest of the series.
Check out our list of best Ticket to Ride board games to find your favorite map!
Unboxing Ticket to Ride
SO MANY LITTLE TRAINS!
If you’re a weirdo like me, you’re going to have to invest in some little Tupperware bins or baggies. If you’re handy with a needle and thread you could make little color-coded cloth bags for all of the trains.
There are a lot of them.
It doesn’t matter what version you pick up. All of the boards are well made and easy to see. I haven’t had any issues with warping from any of the components.
How to Play Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is easy to learn.
On your turn, you get to perform one of 3 actions.
1. Draw train cards.
There are 5 face-up train cards. You can pick 2 of any face-up cards unless it’s a wild card. If you take the wild, you only get 1.
Alternatively, you could pick up 2 random cards from the top of the deck. You don’t get to pick what you get, but you might end up with 2 wilds. It happens.
2. Claim a train route.
If you’ve collected enough cards of the same type or wilds, you can claim the route and place your train on the board.
Then you score points based on the chart on the board.
3. Draw destination cards.
Destination cards are like hidden objectives. If you can connect the two points on the map shown in the destination card, you’ll get bonus points at the end of the game. If you don’t complete them, however, you’ll get negative points.
The end game is triggered when a player has 0-2 trains left in their supply. Play continues and everyone gets one final round to scramble for points (including the player that triggered the end game).
Tally up all your Destination card points and the player with the longest continuous train route gets a 10 point bonus.
Those are the basics; simple, clean, and fun.
Love It Or Hate It?
Hate is a strong word. Maybe to be more accurate, I should say I really dislike it. Is it a bad game because I don’t like it? Absolutely not.
As a matter of fact, it’s probably one of the most technically-sound games out there.
- It deals with points very economically and there’s never really a runaway leader situation.
- The game can be played aggressively or friendly depending upon your group.
- It’s easy to learn.
- It’s educational and family/kid-friendly.
By all accounts, it’s a fantastic game. I just don’t like it. It’s a personal thing that I just find the theme boring and for me, that’s a big part of games. If I can’t throw my mindset into it, I start to wander.
That being said, I’m not saying I refuse to play it. If it’s out, sure, why not? I honestly prefer the digital version to the physical board version. I don’t think I’ve said that about any other board game ever. The digital version doesn’t require me to set up and put away all those trains. They’re cute but they’re a pain to keep track of.
For me, Ticket to Ride is like the Beatles.
I can appreciate everything it’s done for the industry, but it’s still not my favorite.
I’ll have no problem sitting down for a game and honestly most people I play it with love it. I’m probably in a weird 10% group of people who don’t like it and even then, I think it’s more of a preference to play something with a bit more story behind it.
While doing a bit of research for this article, I dug deep into the mechanics and design of Ticket to Ride. If you’re a game designer or have aspirations of becoming a game designer you need to look at this game. It’s technically-sound all the way through.
- No runaway leaders
- Kid & Family-friendly theme
- Easy to learn
- Excellent amount of strategy
- One of the BEST gateway games on the market today
The only downside I can really add is that it doesn’t have a lot of thematic elements, but it never promises that it’s a highly-thematic game so I can’t really fault it on that.
At the end of the day, I think it’ll eventually be a Monopoly killer. Monopoly is a terrible game that’s been in the spotlight and marketed for years as the quintessential board game, but it’s really only popular from nostalgia. I think given time, Ticket to Ride will eventually replace Monopoly as the household boardgame families pull out of their game closets.
What do you think of Ticket to Ride? Drop a comment below and let us know!