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Ticket to Ride
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Store:  Family Games, Ding & Dent
Edition:  Ticket to Ride
Series:  Ticket to Ride
Theme:  Train
Genre:  Connection, Set Collection
Format:  Board Games

Ticket to Ride

first edition

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 30-60 minutes 2-5

Designer(s): Alan R Moon

Manufacturer(s): Asmodee North America, Days of Wonder

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Product Description

One of the most popular games ever designed, Ticket to Ride is a simple yet strategic game of connecting cities in the United States with trains. On their turn, players simply draw train cards, claim routes on the board, or draw more destination tickets. Players must balance drawing cards into their hand with claiming routes before opponents in this friendly, yet competitive board game. The rules can be taught in only a few minutes, but games are varied enough to give the game unlimited replayability. With scores of plastic trains and a beautiful board, this is a game you'll find yourself playing time and time again with all ages.

Product Awards

Games Magazine Awards
Family Game Nominee, 2005
Spiel des Jahres
Game of the Year, 2004
International Gamers Awards
Best Strategy Game Nominee, 2004
Deutscher Spiele Preis
6th Place, 2004

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Alan R Moon

  • Manufacturer(s): Asmodee North America, Days of Wonder

  • Artist(s): Julien Delval

  • Year: 2004

  • Players: 2 - 5

  • Time: 30 - 60 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Est. time to learn: 5-10 minutes

  • Weight: 1,389 grams

  • Language Requirements: This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Game components are printed in English. Manufacturer's rules are printed in English.


  • 1 Board map of North American train routes
  • 240 Colored Train Cars
  • 110 Train Car cards
  • 30 Destination Tickets
  • 5 Wooden Scoring Markers
  • 1 Days of Wonder Online access number
  • 1 Rules booklet

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.6 in 21 reviews

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One of the best...
May 10, 2005

This is one game that should be in everyone's closet. It is simple enough to teach to your family and friends and interesting enough to be played with gamers.

The best aspect of the game is the tension that builds as players try and balance being efficient, with getting the tracks that they need before they are taken by other players. While the beginning of the game can be boring if people take a long time to play, the tension s builds so wonderfully that you'll always be riveted by the end of the game.

The only flaw in this game is that the original tickets are not very well balanced. In fact, the tickets that give you a lot of points are the ones that also enable you to place on the 6 space tracks, giving you an even greater bang for your buck. Next time I get some horrible tickets (the ones that go north - south), I might try and play a screw your neighbor game and see if that is a viable strategy. I doubt it will work but I am now certain that the outcome of trying to do your best with your cards will be middle of the pack at best.

Very Exciting Game
December 05, 2004

This game does a great job of creating excitment and tension as the game developes. You never know for certain if you are going to win until the very end. I think some of the ticket cards are better than others which makes it annoying if you start with "bad" cards but the game is so much fun regardless of this "flaw" that I still gave it a 5. Anyhow, you would only notice this after playing the game 10 times or so which is enough to give any game a top rating from me.

This is a great game
November 18, 2004
This is a excellent game for new and old gamers. It's simple to learn and play but there is plenty of strategy here too. A step up from Transamerica and simpler then Union Pacific (both good games), this is a good game to introduce to casual players and gamers alike. It may seem simple and without much strategy at first, but though it's subtle it's definitely there. I highly recommend this for mostly anyone.
An awesome game, one of our favorites.
September 23, 2004
It has a short set-up time, is easy to learn, and is great for people new to "gaming". It's much more fun when played with 3+ players, but is fun with just 2. My wife and I play this frequently and the key seems to be going for the long routes. The person who claims the longest routes seems to win the game every time.
Nice game even for hard gamers
September 02, 2004

I've been playing boardgames for 10 years, and play on a regular basis great games like Puerto Rico, Acquire, Machiavelli, Tigris&Euphrates, ... I'll add to my top-10 list 'Ticket to Ride'.

This game is very simple, so simple that newcomers will enjoy it. But also it need some strategy to win, so hard gamers (like our group) will like it.

I like the 'YES OR NOT' policy the game has with train tickets. If you achieve to connect the cities in the card, you'll get the points. But if not, those points will be substracted from your final score! Probably hard gamers will enjoy this feature more, because as newcomers will play to collect their own points, hard gamers can enjoy doing the others NOT achieving their goals, and see how they lose lots of points ;)

Examining other features, the game box and components are VERY GOOD. Nice components, nice map. And some details, like little plastic bags containing each players tokens, so you can keep your game perfect after each game.

So, long story short, I'll play this game again, and put it into my favourite games list.


A worthy Spiel des Jahres winner.
August 01, 2004

I own quite a few railroad-themed games spanning the complexity spectrum, from TransAmerica all the way to 1870, and including games like Rail Baron, the 'crayon-rails' (e.g. Empire Builder, British Rails, India Rails), Stephensons Rocket, and Age of Steam. So naturally, I did a little homework before acquiring Ticket To Ride. At first, it looked like a compromise between TransAmerica and another fine Alan Moon title, Union Pacific, but it's proven to be different enough from those tow games to stand up on its own merit.

In terms of complexity, Ticket To Ride is at the low-medium side. It is simple enough to use as an introductory game for those new to gaming, yet challenging enough to remain popular with regular gamers and families ---- a great combination of playability and strategy, and one that earned the coveted Spiel des Jahres award for 2004. It's not Puerto Rico, but it doesn't try to be. I think for what the design is trying to achieve and the audience it is appealing to, it ranks with Through The Desert as a classic.

Our group still enjoys this great game, and we've played over 120 different games over the past 4 years. Whether you're a veteran gamer or just starting your interest in the hobby, I strongly recommend adding Ticket To Ride to your collection.

Destination: Fun
July 30, 2004

In looking at games on the Internet to add to our collection, I initially eliminated this one. After it won Spiel des Jahres, we looked at it again and decided to give it a try. We are so glad we did. It has already become another of our favorites, and we can't wait to introduce it to our extended family. We enjoy the travel and train theme, and, as other reviews have mentioned, the 'bits' are great. If you're looking for a great couples and/or family game, we think you'll find that Ticket quickly becomes one of your favorites too.

by Andy
Just the Ticket for enticing new players!
June 03, 2004

Ticket to Ride is a great game to get those friends of yours that you want to get excited about board gaming but you don't want to try to explain Puerto Rico or Settlers of Catan as their first exposure to the new board games.

The game has the things that newbie players would expect when playing board games, be it colorful board, fast game play, easy to understand instructions or a running score track where you almost know where you stand plus the options to go for broke with the drawing of new route tickets.

Deceptively simple
May 24, 2004

I've played both Transamerica and Train to Ride. I feel Train to Ride is the better of the two. Maybe because it's cutthroat. Maybe because of the strategy of knowing when to take what train card. There's been many reviews mentioning rules, so I'll mention differences between the two so you can make an educated decision.


* You pick 5 cities in the US. Basically east coast, west coast, north, south, and central locations.

* Once you combine tracks you can share train lines, thus build off of them. Strategy being typically you'd want to hold off as you benefit your opponent (and eventually anyone else who links up to the joined tracks).

* You want to avoid connecting to cities that you don't have cards to. Since opponents can link to your track (and it will happen before the round ends), you may be assisting your opponent.

* You can only lay down 2 points of tracks per turn. Some track locations are 2 point segments (mountains and rivers).

* Once someone links up to the 5 cities, game ends and people count tracks left. They move their engine piece that many spaces closer to the cliff. Typically a game lasts 2 rounds (30-40 mins total).

Ticket to Ride

* No sharing of tracks. If you are locked out of a city, even if you need it to get a route, you're out of luck.

* You can only lay tracks when you play a series of matching colored cards that match the segment. The more tracks you lay in a single city to city connection, the more points you get.

* You start with 3 tickets (city to city destinations) and must choose to keep 2 tickets. Optionally, any time in the game you can pick up 3 more tickets and must choose at least one ticket to keep. Choosing additional tickets is very high risk as the destinations might as well be Eastern Slabovia when you look at how far away the cities are from your tracks.

* All routes link cities to cities, so linking to them is unavoidable. Not necessarily a bad thing as no one can use your tracks and if you get additional tickets, that city you linked to can help you.

* Longest continuous track at the end of the game gets bonus points. Those who played Settlers of Catan will be familiar with this mechanism.

* One round, that's it. Of course, as a variant, you can always keep score for a set number of rounds.

Looks similar but plays better than other Moon train games
May 02, 2004

Ticket to Ride once again has destination tickets of cities you'd like to connect like Santa Fe and Trans America. The card set-up is very similar to Union Pacific. The drawing mechanism is reminiscent of Get the Goods. But that's where the similarities end. Alan Moon keeps doing it until he gets it right.

Here, you never seem to have enough time to do everything you want. On your turn, you may either draw two cards (only one if you choose a face up wild card), play a set of cards to claim a route, or draw three destination tickets, keeping at least one of them. You are already limited with only 45 trains at the start of the game. You'll find yourself wondering if you should claim a route now or draw a card you need to make a set, or if you should get some more destination tickets now and build with them in mind as well. Do you take the wild card on the board, or draw from the top of the pile and hope to get lucky? All the while, every other player's actions affect your own, and defensive play can happen most accidentally.

You score points as you go by claiming routes, where bigger routes earn more points but also use up more of your trains. You earn points at the end of the game for every destination ticket you own that you personally connect up, and lose points for every destination ticket that you fail to make work. Lastly, the player with the longest contiguous track earns 10 bonus points (like the longest road in Settlers of Catan). That's all there is to it. It takes no time to learn, but if fun and challenging at the same time.

We played it three times in the same night, and I can't wait to play it again. You can even download new boards and play online at the company's website, to keep the game fresh should it grow stale. The best of the bunch by far, this is worth the purchase price even if you already have any (or all) of the similar Alan Moon games...just don't expect to want to play them afterwards!

It's Perfect, A Must-Buy Game
April 26, 2004

The mechanics of this game have been thoroughly described by others. I am weighing in only to say that I have enjoyed each of the many games I've played so far, with any number of players. Importantly, I've introduced a number of people to the game, and it has received rave reviews from each. It's accessible with simple-to-learn rules, it looks great, it's full of tension and difficult decisions, and it usually takes less than an hour to play. It's just fantastic. In my crytal ball, I can see the awards piling up now. Highly recommended!!!

Good for kids, yet still engaging for adults
April 17, 2004

I'm always looking for good family games, and this one is great. It's beautiful to look at. It combines all the best aspects of other train games. It's easy to learn. The play is fluid and allows for advance planning (though it may need to be adapted depending on what other players choose to do). The only necessary skills are addition and color matching, but the game allows for some fairly intricate strategy. Best of all, there's no direct competition (since you don't know what others' routes are).

We played Ticket to Ride at a convention this weekend, and we enjoyed it so much, we immediately played it again. (This is notable, as it was already 3am and we were exhausted!) A must-buy for families.

Moon Shines Again! Simple, Playable, work of genius.
April 16, 2004

I have to say that I was not always a fan of Alan Moon. Many of his games I felt were complex Acquire variants which, while delighting gamers, lacked the playability and fun of the new generation of German games.

I also see game designers like song writers. As they go on there output seems to decline in quality. (I wish Sir Paul McCartney had published his last record under Ringo Starr's Name. If you listen to it, be ready to light a match.)

This game is simple, fun and with good depth. I remember in the old Convention days of playing the Simple game of Football Strategy by Avalon Hill. Many gamer's saw this as a guessing game, but in fact it was one of great skill. Above all it was a blast to play. I put Ticket to Ride in that class.

All Aboard!

Simple rules, Quick Game
April 09, 2004

This game is VERY easy to learn. Quickly read over the rules, and you are ready to play. This game is perfect for people that don't play games very often, as the rules are so very simple.

The game play is very fun. We only played with two players and it was pretty intense. I really don't know how it would play with more, but I can see that it would become very hectic. Your plans would get stopped sooner and alternate plans would need to be made.

My wife liked the game though she lost dreadfully. A game that she can lose DREADFULLY and still want to play again is a good one in my eyes.

Gets better every time I play it.
March 06, 2004

When I first heard about Days of Wonders newest game, Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004 Alan Moon), I was excited. But how could I not be for all of Days of Wonders games so far have been fabulous, and it seems that each successive game gets better and better. And Alan Moon with a train game (shades of Union Pacific) sounded like a winning combination. I had an opportunity to play the final version of the game, and was quite impressed with how the game looked.

And is the game any good? The short answer is that once you play this game, youll never play TransAmerica again. Its a fantastic medium-weight game - one that plays equally well with two to five players. The components are superb, the artwork is great, the game is downright fun (and nasty sometimes), and the total package is a very strong contender for the Spiel des Jahres 2004. After my first playing, I ranked it an 8; but after multiple playings the rating moved up to a 9, then a 9.5 and if I keep playing the game at this rate may move into my top ten list. Game play is very tight, and I found that game scores can run very close making for an exciting game, all the way down to the finish.

Each player receives forty-five train cars in one color, and places a matching round token of that color on a scoring track. A large board is placed in the middle of the table, with a map of America (circa late 1800s) superimposed upon it. Thirty-six cities are there, each connected by one or two railroad lines. These lines are made up of one to six spaces, and are one of eight colors: purple, yellow, black, white, green, red, blue, brown, and gray (neutral color). A deck of tickets is shuffled, and three are dealt to each player. Players may discard one of them, but must keep at least two of them. Each ticket has two cities on them, and a point value that a player will receive if they connect those two cities, or lose if they dont connect the cities. The remainder of the ticket cards are shuffled and placed in a face down pile next to the board. A pile of train cards is shuffled, and four are dealt to each player. The remainder are shuffled and placed next to the board, then five of them are turned over and placed face-up next to the draw pile. The player who has traveled the most goes first, and then play continues clockwise around the table.

On a turn, a player may do one of three things. They may draw two cards, one at a time from either the face-up cards and/or the draw pile. Each card shows a different color of train car matching the eight different colored spaces on the board. There is twelve of each color car in the deck. There are also eighteen locomotive cards, which function as wild cards. When a player draws a face-up card, the card is replaced immediately before they draw another card. A locomotive card counts as two cards if drawn when face-up, but only one if drawn when face-down. If there are ever three locomotive cards face-up at any time, all five cards are immediately discarded, and five new cards are drawn. If the cards run out, the discard pile is shuffled back to form a new draw deck.

The second thing a player may do is to draw three ticket cards. They must keep at least one of them, but have the option of keeping all of them, if they like. The others (if any), are discarded.

The third thing a player may do is play cards to place their train cars on the board. A player may play one through six cards of the same color (including wild cards), to place the same amount of train cards on a corresponding line on the board. For example, Las Vegas is connected to Salt Lake City by an orange line consisting of three spaces. Three orange cards must be played to put three trains of that players color on those spaces. No more players could then place anything between those two cities, and if players want to connect those two cities with their lines, theyll have to go around the long way (if possible). Gray lines can have any color cards played to place trains on them, but the cards played must match the number of spaces in the gray line, and all of the cards must be the same color. When placing trains, the player doing so receives points 1 point for one train placed, 2 points for two trains, 4 points for three trains, 7 points for four, 10 points for five, and 15 points for six trains. Some cities have two lines connecting them, both of which can be used in a four or five-player game. In a two or three-player game, however, once one of these lines has been used, the other cannot.

When one player, after taking their turn, is down to two train cars or less, the final round begins. Starting with the player to their left, each player has one final turn, and then the game is over. The trains on the board are counted to make sure that the points were totaled correctly during the game, and then ticket cards are revealed. If players can trace a continuous path between the two cities on their card with their color train cars only, they receive the points, and move their tokens accordingly. Otherwise, they lose the points, and must move their token down the scoring track that many points. The player who has the longest continuous track also gets ten points. The player with the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game

1.) Components: As usual, the components for Ticket to Ride are supreme. Days of Wonder has, by far, more superior components for their games than any other company. The board is fantastic, with a nice map, and when the train cars nice plastic cars in bright colors are placed on it, the whole thing looks pretty fantastic! The cards are of the highest quality, and are about half the size of normal playing cards. Each color card not only has a different train car on it, but they have symbols in the corners to help differentiate between the colors (good for the color blind). Everything fits into a wonderful plastic insert that is in a beautiful, sturdy box the same size as Days of Wonders other Big Box Games.

2.) Rules: The rules are only four pages large, colorful, illustrated pages but only four! The game is being printed in many languages and has the distinction of being the first major game release that I know of that has been produced in Korea, something which is rather dear to my heart. The game can be explained in about 5 minutes, and I am very pleased at how easy it is for people to pick up. Even people who have a hard time understanding simple games (No, John, you cannot attack people in Settlers of Catan!) had an easy time picking up the game and I was amazed at how fast strategies were picked up.

3.) Strategy: When I first was taught the game by Eric Hautemont, CEO of Days of Wonder, I didnt think that strategy would be that important. Then, he beat us, scoring 162 points to my 82, and my friends 54. I was floored! I thought that I was doing well, during the game, but realized several things that I missed afterwards. I found out in the game that there are different strategies, and was impressed with how they differed. One can ignore their ticket cards and just try to place long trains, hoping to get a lot of points. Or one can try to complete as many ticket cards as possible, not worrying too much about how long of trains they place on the board. Then, there is the middle ground but is a compromise of the two strategies enough to win? Not to mention the fact that players must watch other players, and occasionally place trains to mess them up.

4.) Cutthroat: This gives the game a real cut throat atmosphere. Sometimes the best move for a player is to place train cars between cities they dont care that much about just to stop another player either from getting the longest chain of cars, or completing their tickets. This can cause some enmity, but its all in good fun, and I really enjoyed the player interaction from taking cards to placing trains.

5.) Holding cards: Its fun to get a big hand of cards (there is no upper limit). Players try to hoard cards so that they can place long trains of cars, scoring the big points. Also, players must always keep in mind that everyone else is watching them, trying to determine where they are going. The longer a player keeps the cards in their hand, the less they tip their hand. However, if one player suddenly uses up all their trains, causing the final round, and you are stuck with a huge hand of cards, it can be quite devastating. My wife found this out the hard way. She was about to connect three cities that would complete two of her tickets probably winning the game. Another friend of mine, in the same game, had the same problem. Either one of them could have won the game, but because they held the cards just one turn to long they lost. Of course, I was the evil guy who caused the game to end, but I got my just desserts, losing by only one point to yet another player and the winning point was caused by her having the longest continuous train of cars.

6.) Fun Factor: And yet, even with the bluffing, and the other little nasty tactics, the game is extremely fun. The decisions are short, causing the game to move quickly, but can be quite stressful at times. Yet these decisions really make the game fun! Blocking someone else off, using your own lines, pulling two locomotives from the draw pile, or finally connecting those two cities all of this adds up to a wonderful time of fun!

7.) Time and Players: The game runs quickly, because the decisions are important, but dont bog the game down to much. I was impressed with how well the game scaled, but found that the two-player game was much different than a five-player one. Both were fun, but needed different tactics.

As you can see, I really enjoyed this game. I think it has strong possibilities of being one of the best games of the year. Alan Moon has always been one of my favorite designers, and this is one of his best games in years. Days of Wonder has put a lot of time and effort into producing this game, and it shows. When I first played TransAmerica, I thought that it was a boring game what was the point, and where was the strategy? Fortunately, the strategy and fun in this game are wonderful. I dont need a dumbed-down game to introduce new folks to the wonderful world of board games. I can just use games like this tremendous, fun games, filled with tactical choices and enjoyable times.

Tom Vasel

The Traveling Salesman Problem
November 30, 2004

This is a great game on a number of levels...for one, is strategically just plan and simply fun, and easy to understand. But for two, it's actually kind of a puzzle, if played correctly. Basically, you'll end up trying to find a common set of routes that you can extend to meet the requirements on your destination cards, and that can really introduce some advanced and difficult problems to even very young minds...

By being motivated to win the game even young children will try to figure out how to increase their chances. (In computational science these problems are called "NP Incomplete", because even computers have a very hard time with them.)

Once this is understood, then you'll end up taking additional destination cards (a practice I avoided completely for my first few games).

Has this ticket been punched too many times? Read on...
April 26, 2004

The last thing we need is another train game. That's pretty much true all the way around the board. But do we really need ANOTHER 'route' game by Alan R. Moon? Well ... ermm ... yes, actually we do. At least, we do when the game is this simple and addictive.

When you start reading the rules, you many end up, like me, saying: 'That's it?!' The idea of laying track all over North America using sets of cards sounds like a slightly more cerebral version of TransAmerica (which was about as cerebral as a fruit-flavored marshmallow). Worse, it uses the same card-drafting system Alan Moon ALREADY used in ANOTHER one of his train games, Union Pacific. And it adds in the dreadedly luck-dependant Bonus Tickets seen in games like Rail Baron. Noooooooooooooooooo! I can not play this game! It is so DONE! So passe! So 3 years ago.

And my opinion was justified after my first playing. Listen to this:

A player may do one of 3 things:

1. Draw cards. This is about 85% of the game. And the method for getting cards is straight out of Union Pacific. Either take a face-up card (so you know what you are picking up -- but then everyone else knows too) or take a blind card from the draw pile. Only now you get to take two cards (instead of 1 in UP) and there are jokers that can be used as wilds to add in to any color set. Players are collecting sets in order to...

2. Claim routes. This is about 13% of the game. Routes link all the cities up and when a player wants a route, he must collect a set of cards that match so that he can claim it. For example, the route between Calgary and Winnipeg is 6 White. In order to claim it you must have a set of 6 White cards. When you play the set, you then place your trains on it claiming it for yourself only. Big routes are worth far more points than small routes, so claiming a 6 is far more valuable than claiming three '2's', but some 2's will have to be claimed in order to keep your network together and to complete your bonuses. Most of the routes are color specific, but some are 'gray' allowing a player to play a set of any color he wishes to claim it. If you find yourself with routes all over the board, you may be in a great poisition to...

3. Pick up additional bonus tickets. This is about 2% of the game, but NOT 2% of the points. This is often a big chunk (20% or more) of the points. Each player starts the game with 2-3 of these tickets (a much needed mechanism to make the game more than a childish set-collecting game). But a player may use a turn to aquire more by picking up 3 tickets; he must keep 1, but may keep up to all 3 of them. The tickets picture two cities that the player must link up. If successful the player gets the bonus points listed on the card. If the player is unsuccessful, he loses that number of points! So choose carefully! Of course picking up tickets that compliment routes you already have claimed is a good idea, but feel free to take anything you are sure you can link up.

First person to use up 43-45 of their trains announces one last round of play, and that ends the game. Successful bonuses are awarded, unsuccessful ones are subtracted. Winner is player with the most points. That's it.

Ha! I told you it was boring and redundant! One playing justified my disdain. And so did the second playing. Mind you, the third playing was kind of fun, and the 4th-8th playings were pretty tight, and playings 9 through 15 have been quite tense. Hmmm. I notice a pattern. Okay, so it is simple. So it does feel a lot like a couple other games. But why is this game so addictive and appealing?

It's sounds simple, but the fact is that knowing what card to take and when is fairly important, for it can help you get sets you need and deny them to others. Then claiming routes, you don't want to do it too early and get blocked off (blocked off? Yes, and defense adds a spicy little twist to this game); yet if you wait too long you may not be able to get into a city. (The last game I play I waited too long and was left with no available routes into New Orleans, costing me 20 bonus points.) Claiming routes that you don't need should be suicide, but the fact is that claiming lots of 5 and 6 routes gives players ample points to may a run for the win. And you MUST stay flexible. You might be collecting yellows only to have the route you wanted get claimed, so then you have to find a different way into the city AND you need to find something useful to do with the yellows!

Challenging but simple. Very addictive, very appealing. This is a great game for families and non-gamers, yet the gamer in me finds it pretty fun too! It scales fairly well from 2-5 players, but seems to really shine with 3-4 players, and despite it's rather high price, this is the kind of game that could catch on bog in the U.S. if only people get exposed to it. All I know is this is my number one requested game right now...

Alan R. Moon does it again.

Transamerica ++
April 17, 2004

Its hard not to compare 'Ticket to Ride'(TTR) to Transamerica, but in the comparison TTR comes out the winner! Like Transamerica it is easy to learn and appealing to non-gamers, but unlike Transamerica it has a strategic bent to it that makes it interesting to gamers. It is lightweight but works well in a game session between more taxing games.

I have played with gamers and non-gamers and I have enjoyed it tremendously both ways.

I have only played with 2 players so far, but I think it will work with 3 and 4 players just as well.

I highly recommend this new game from Alan Moon!

Yes, another train game ... but this one is quite good.
April 05, 2004


Days of Wonder

Designed by: Alan Moon

2 5 Players, 1 1 hours

Review by: Greg J. Schloesser

Just the advance pictures of this new Alan Moon train game were causing shivers of excitement throughout the hobby. It was no surprise that such handsome quality should be produced by Days of Wonder. Eric Hautemont once confided that the Days of Wonder approach was to produce games with top quality production standards, feeling that an appreciative public would be willing to pay the few extra dollars for such quality. It seems as though his theory has proven correct.

Ticket to Ride seems destined to be another Moon gem. It seems to be an eclectic marriage of systems merged from Santa Fe, Union Pacific and TransAmerica. Unlike most celebrity marriages, however, this one works and will likely have considerable longevity.

The theme is that fans of Phileas Fogg that eccentric London gent of Around the World in 80 Days fame have gathered and announced a new contest. At stake is $1 million to the player who can travel by rail to the most cities in North America in 7 days. Interesting, but the theme pretty much stops there. In reality, players are collecting cards, claiming rail routes and connecting cities. There is some time pressure present, but try as I might, I cant seem to see where that 7 days fits in! No matter, as the game works smashingly, even though the theme is a bit, well, contrived.

Lets talk components. The extra-large board depicts dozens of North American cities with various train routes connecting them. There are eight different colored routes in all, as well as neutral gray routes, and the length of the routes vary from a quick trip of one train to a red-eye route of 6 trains. There is a small scoring chart on the map, as well as a scoring track circling the exterior. Since the board is so large, everything is easy to distinguish and there is no crowding.

Each player is given a collection of 45 brightly colored plastic trains. These trains will be placed upon the various routes in order to make connections between cities. In order to place the trains on a route, the player must collect a set of cards matching the color of the number of segments in the route. The large deck of cards contains 12 cards in each of the eight route colors, plus 14 locomotive cards, which serve as wild cards. The cards are relatively small, but the colors are easy-to-distinguish. A tiny (too tiny) unique icon is on each card to assist those who have trouble distinguishing colors.

Completing the components is a deck of destination cards. Each of these cards depicts two cities and a point value. Cities that are located further apart carry a higher point value than those located in close proximity. If players successfully link the two cities depicted on a card, the value depicted on that card is earned as victory points. Indeed, the number of points earned for completing a connection is exactly equal to the number of trains needed to complete the shortest possible route between those two cities. However, if a player fails to connect the two cities by the end of the game, those points are deducted from his score. Boom or bust, so-to-speak.

Players begin the game with their 45 trains, 4 train cards and 3 destination cards. Each player must keep two of the destination cards they are dealt, but may keep all three if they desire. Similar to Union Pacific, five train cards are then dealt face-up, forming a drafting row.

A player has 3 options on his turn:

1) Draw 2 train cards. The player may draw the cards from the drafting row, or from the top of the face-down train deck. However, if a player chooses a locomotive from the drafting row, he may not select another card. Of course, a player may attempt to get lucky by drawing a card from the top of the deck, hoping to get a locomotive. If so lucky, the player is not prohibited from choosing a locomotive with his next selection.

2) Claim a route. To claim a route, the player must play a set of train cards that match the color and number of segments in the route. The player then places one of his trains on each segment in that route. Neutral gray routes may be claimed by playing a set of identically colored cards, so these are a bit easier to grab. A player may only claim one route per turn.

3) Draw Destination Tickets. The player draws three destination tickets. He MUST keep at least one, but may keep 2 or 3 if he desires. The points earned from successfully completing destinations can be significant as can the penalties for failing to do so. Choosing whether to select new destination cards AND choosing which ones to keep can cause some anxiety. Although it would seem wisest to select destination cards early during the game in order to give yourself a chance to make the required connections, Ive seen some players grab cards late in the game and successfully finish the links. This tactic is certainly riskier, but does make some sense as a player has likely already developed a rail network from which he can make short connections to the necessary cities.

When a player claims a route, points are scored according to the following table:

Route length Points Scored

1 1

2 2

3 4

4 7

5 10

6 15

Longer routes are certainly more lucrative, but it takes longer to accumulate the cards necessary to claim the route. During this time, several smaller routes may have been claimed by opponents, making it more difficult for a player to link the cities on his destination cards. Again, another choice: go for the shorter routes in order to build a network of connected routes, or try to amass enough cards to claim the larger routes and earn more victory points.

It is worth noting that there are two routes between several cities. This helps prevent the game from being too brutal and allows more players to make needed connections. However, there isnt an abundance of these two-route connections, so there is still ample opportunity to play defensively and deny opponents routes they seem to be seeking.

Once one player reduces his supply of trains to two or fewer trains, every player gets one more turn, after which the game ends. The player who possesses the longest contiguous route of trains receives a ten-point bonus. Each player then reveals his destination cards, earning points for they have completed and deducting points for the ones they failed to link. The player with the most points has emerged as the champion of the competition.

Ticket to Ride is being promoted as being so easy to learn that the rules could be written on the back of an actual train ticket. Unless the ticket is very, very large, this may be stretching the truth a bit. Still, there is no denying that the game is easy to learn, easy to teach, and easy to play. But dont let its ease fool you. There are some very interesting things going on her, and players are continually faced with some nagging choices. Much of the anxiety experienced is similar to that experienced in Union Pacific, another Moon design. Do you choose new cards on your turn and risk having an opponent claim the route you desire, or do you go ahead and claim a needed shorter route and forgo grabbing those extra cards you need to extend your set? The time pressure may not fit the 7 Days in the story, but rather relates to the risk of having an opponent claiming a route before you do. Further, there is a time pressure to complete the links on your destination cards before needed routes are claimed or the game ends.

These decisions are just a few of those faced by the players. There are numerous others, all providing a degree of angst. But it is a good angst, the type that makes games so deliciously appetizing.

The comparisons to TransAmerica are unavoidable. Yes, the game does have some similarities and some of the feel. However, it is certainly more complex and richer. Does that mean, as one reviewer has claimed, that one will never play TransAmerica again? I dont think so. The games are sufficiently different to warrant having both in my collection and have both see table time. Even though both are high on the easy to learn scale, I think TransAmerica is the easier of the two to both learn and play. TransAmerica will still likely appeal more to casual gamers or family, and fits the filler role more snuggly. With gamers, though, Ticket to Ride will likely be the preferred ticket.

Get Union Pacific
November 16, 2004

Ticket to Ride isn't a bad game, it's just not a really great game. I realize it is designed for the mass market and is more for families than for gamers, but I think even it its niche it has problems. It can be a bit too cutthroat and even if you try to be "nice", you easily can ruin another player's plans accidently. Alan Moon is a great designer, but I don't think this is one of his best. A better choice, in my opinion, for both the gamer set and for family play, would be Union Pacific, which is still available on this site (the German edition, but it is language independent) and it is significantly cheaper with just as good components.

Not so good
September 04, 2004

I played Ticket to Ride 6 or 7 times with 2 players and I found it quite boring because each player can follow his strategy without problem and so it's only a matter of luck and ability to draw the right cards.

Playing with 4 players the game is more intriguing an fun, there is much more struggle for claiming route and you really try to stop other players. Ticket to Ride may be a good game for three or more players, however it's not a masterpiece.

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