I wasn't planning on buying this, even after seeing it at 60% off in Meeples Cafe's ding-and-dent box. I already own many Ticket to Ride maps, so I don't really need more. But of course I bought it eventually, after some encouragement from Michelle. I had a hard time trying to find where the game was damaged. I could only see a tiny sign of one corner of the box having been crushed. After I opened the game, I found one corner of the rulebook showing signs of having been damp before, but there was little damage. There was some powder on the game board which was easily wiped off, but I suspect it was part of the manufacturing and not caused by any damage during transit. So all in all I got a great deal.
The main new element in this version of Ticket to Ride is the terrain cards, which can be used to double the points when claiming a route. There are three types of terrain cards - mountain cards which can be used on black, white and grey (i.e. any colour) routes, desert cards for red, orange and yellow, and jungle cards for blue, green and purple. When you claim a route, if you also play the required number of matching terrain cards, you get double the route score. You need just one terrain card for routes of lengths 1 to 3, and two terrain cards for routes of lengths 4 to 6. Terrain cards are drawn in the same way as train cards. You draw from the display or blind draw from the draw deck. The only difference is the terrain card display has two cards instead of five. Naturally, those long length-5 and -6 routes can be quite lucrative in this game.
The terrain cards.
Another key difference from other Ticket to Ride maps is the colour distribution of the routes. Typically the colours are all mixed up and evenly distributed. In the African map, the colours clump together. The southern part is mostly red, yellow and orange. The middle part is mostly blue, green and purple. Along the eastern coast are mostly black, white and grey routes. The result of such a distribution is you often find yourself needing many cards of the same colour, no matter how you plan your path. That makes collecting cards quite a challenge.
Another challenge is most routes are single routes. The only double routes are along the coasts. That means you can get easily blocked and you will have to reroute.
Red, yellow and orange in the south, green, blue and purple in the centre, and black, white and grey along the eastern coast. Double routes are only available along the coasts, and many of them require the same colours.
The terrain cards are an interesting new option for scoring, but I find that it is the colour and route design (which actually require no new rules) that leaves a bigger impression. The game is quite challenging and feels different. It is hard to reroute, which makes the game more tense. The rules actually suggest not to play with five if you don't like brutal games. Well, not in these exact words, but I have never come across a Ticket to Ride game that issues such warnings. Even though I only played against Michelle, and we played with an implicit no-intentional-blocking agreement, blocking still happened, in a big way. Having to reroute can be quite painful on this map. It is hard to get the enough cards of a colour you want, that the jokers (locomotives) look more and more attractive.
My painful hand of starting cards. One route was along the western edge, one was along the eastern edge, and one was along the northern edge. The fourth one was mostly in the south.
Sudan is a country and not a city. It can be reached by three different routes. Such a concept has appeared before in the Switzerland map.
The artwork of Days of Wonder never disappoints.
Quite stereotypical - elephants and lions.
If you are a fan of the series, this is worth checking out. It's probably not something you want to use as an introduction to the series though. You may scare people away. The terrain cards mechanism is a nice-to-have feature. It is the overall map design that makes the game challenging and exciting.