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One of the best "Gateway" games ever.
on January 11, 2006
Ticket to Ride Europe is perhaps the best game of its kind. And part of what makes this easy to say is Ticket is really quite innovative and in a class of its own. I'll provide a short and detailed review for those interested.
Ticket to Ride revolves around collecting different cards that correspond to a color. Those cards are then used to build railway lines of that color on the gameboard (a map of Europe). Each player is trying to build certain routes from city to city in return for points. But there are only so many ways to get from place to place and the intrigue of the game is balancing when to collect more cards used to build rails and when to play cards to make sure you secure that critical link in your transcontinental railway. Ticket to Ride, as I mentioned above, is a great "gateway" game because it's not a classic board game style (e.g. Monopoly, Sorry, Cranium, etc.) and so those who are new to the "enhanced board game" field (e.g. Settlers of Catan, Axis and Allies, Pirate's Cove, etc.) will still be comfortable playing Ticket to Ride. The rules are pretty straight-forward and the game moves quickly. It also takes less then an hour.
Ticket to Ride revolves around getting rail cards of certain colors and securing city-to-city lines of that color. The colors of the rail lines vary and the trick to this game is getting to where you need to go in the most efficient manner.
The game starts with everyone receiving "tickets." These tickets have two cities on them and a point value. Your goal is to pick a few of these tickets to try and make a railway between the cities during the game. You try to pick routes that are overlapping and, throughout the game, you can choose new tickets. But, you never know what routes you'll get and any tickets you don't accomplish by game's end are worth negative points.
Once everyone has chosen their initial tickets, play commences. Each player may choose two of five face-up rail cards (the color cards discussed above that you use to lay rail of that color). Or, you can choose to take 3 new tickets (of which you must keep at least 1) or take two face-down rail cards (so you risk getting colors you can't use yet). The final option on your turn is, instead of taking any cards, you can lay rail using your cards. I won't go into detail here but suffice it to say you can only lay one city-to-city rail line at a time and you must use the required color or colors.
Play continues like this as each player tries to complete his or her route while taking new tickets to branch off into additional routes. The game ends when someone runs out of rails (which can happen suddenly). After a few games, the turns go quickly and the game is fairly fast-paced.
I would be overlooking a whole population of readers if I didn't comment on the differences between Ticket to Ride Europe and the original Ticket to Ride (which takes place in the United States). Europe adds the ability to build stations which allow you to piggy-back from one city to another on another player's rail line. These cost you points, however, so should only be used sparingly. Again, I won't dive into the details, but stations are necessary to Europe since now you start the game with a long route that is sometimes hard to reach without using a station (or two in worst-case situations).
Europe also adds "locomotive" cards which are essentially wild cards. You can use them as any color rail but they are also needed for certain lines (e.g. to get from London to any city, you'll have to build across water and this requires a locomitive card). And as I mentioned above, another change in Europe is that you often start with a long route that is worth 20 or more points.
Overall, Ticket to Ride Europe is a fun game that even those used to traditional board games will probably enjoy. For those who like extremely complex strategy games, this isn't one. But even still, this is still a great game that you will likely enjoy for its quick and versatile gameplay. It even won me over, and I'm more towards games like Risk 2210 and Settlers of Catan Knights and Cities.
I strongly recommend this game. To learn more or play a demo, go to the Days of Wonder website and check it out (but it can't beat playing at home with friends!).