Sunday, 28 October 2007

Ticket To Ride appreciation

Ticket To Ride, by Alan Moon, won the Spiel Des Jahres (Game of the Year in Germany) in 2004. Michelle likes it. I find it just OK, but I've bought all the available sequels and expansions: Ticke To Ride: Europe, Ticket To Ride: Marklin, and Ticket To Ride: USA 1910. There is a Ticket To Ride: Switzerland which just came out and I have not decided whether to buy (I probably will), and also a Ticket To Ride: Nordics which is only available in the Nordic countries. There are actually many fan-made maps too.

All the while I have not really been a big fan of the Ticket To Ride series. The game is quite simple. There really is not that much to think about or to strategise about. So, from the first time I played, I felt it was just an OK game, not especially interesting for me. However, all my friends whom I introduced it to loved the game. Lately I'm starting to appreciate it more. It is still what it is. I have not discovered any hidden strategies or new approaches of playing it. But I have come to enjoy it as a simple, relaxing, and at times also exciting game (e.g. when you have just managed to collect the cards of the right colours for you to start laying down your trains, your opponent claims one crucial track that forces you to replan your route all over again). I have learnt to enjoy its simplicity. It's not a heavy thinking and planning game like Princes of Florence or Puerto Rico, but it is fun in its own way.

I usually play Ticket To Ride in a non-aggressive way. With Ticket To Ride, that's the way I prefer to play. Some people like to play aggressively, finding opportunities to intentionally block other players, making them unable to complete their tickets. It is not against the rules, just that in the games I play we tend to be not as competitive as that. We focus on completing our tickets, and then try to draw and complete more, or we try to claim the long routes to score more points. Sometimes we do need to compete for the same routes, but that's only when we do need them to connect the cities required to fulfill our tickets. So, we let the game create the competition, rather than actively hindering one another.

Ticket To Ride: USA 1910 is a small expansion which contains a few variants that can be played on the original Ticket To Ride (USA) map. One of them, the Big Cities variant, does just that. Every ticket card in the deck requires a connection to one of the major cities in USA, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago etc. This creates much more tension in the game, because players are often forced to compete with one another. I bought this expansion mainly because of this Big Cities variant. Now I can play a more exciting 2-player game with Michelle using the most basic rules in the original Ticket To Ride. So far I have only played with the Big Cities variant from this USA 1910 expansion. I have not tried the other ones.

27 Oct 2007. End of a game of Ticket To Ride with the USA 1910 expansion, specifically, the Big Cities variant contained within this expansion. We really enjoyed playing Big Cities as a 2-player game. Very exciting. In this game we both completed 8 tickets! But I also failed to complete 1. I shouldn't have kept that one.

Ticke To Ride: Europe is the first sequel to Ticke To Ride. It introduces some new elements like train stations (if you can't reach a city, you can put a station there and borrow an opponent's track), tunnels (a random element that may force you to pay more cards to claim a route) and ferries (you must use some locomotive cards, i.e. a jokers, to claim these routes). The game is slightly more complex, but not by much. I feel so-so about this sequel.

The 3rd game in the series is Ticket To Ride: Marklin, this time using a map of Germany. The biggest addition here is the passengers. You have 3 passengers, which are powerful single-use tokens, that allow you to pick up goods tokens from cities connected by your network of routes. This is one new dimension to the game which I find very interesting. When to use your passenger is tricky. You are torn between using him early to claim the higher value tokens, and using him late so that he can visit more cities to claim moretokens. You are also under pressure to use him quickly, before those valuable tokens get claimed by your opponents' passengers. I like Ticket To Ride: Marklin the most among the first three versions of the game. A little bit more to think about, but not too taxing. And the train cards are very beautiful. Every card shows a unique train model. Marklin is the top model train company in the world.

I think I will likely buy Ticket To Ride: Switzerland, because it is designed for 2 or 3 players only, and according to reviews, it is a tension filled game due to tight competition for routes, and the map is designed in such a way that you can easily get blocked off if you are not careful. This should be fun to play with Michelle.

So now I won't be saying I'm buying yet another Ticket To Ride game just because Michelle likes them (which I always did). Actually I myself do like them too.

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