I'm a huge fan of the Ticket To Ride series; I own all the board games and am proud to say this new Asian expansion set does not disappoint. You get not one, but two, extremely challenging new maps on a durable, double-sided board. The new maps feature cities from Mecca to Kobe. You'll build routes between the Middle East, Russia, India, China, Korea, Japan and all points in-between. Side one features cooperative team play for 4 or 6 (not five) player games. Side two offers traditional competitive play for 2-5 players featuring ferry routes (as seen in the Europe and Nordic Countries sets) and all-new Himalayan Mountain Tunnels.
Both maps are fun and having the ability to accommodate six players is always nice for when we manage to get that many people together for game night. As usual there's only one page of easy rules, and if you're already familiar with previous editions, all you need to do is understand the tweaks they've made to freshen this version up and make it stand out on its own.
As this is an expansion set, not a standalone game, this review assumes you are already familiar with how to play Ticket To Ride and will focus on the new rules in Asia.
NEW RULES IN COOPERATIVE PLAY: You split up into teams of two. Each team uses one set of colored plastic train pieces (45), adding in the nine matching color bonus pieces provided in Asia; you then split the trains up into two piles of 27. Each teammate gets that to build with. You and your teammate can only share commonly-held information, not discuss what it is in your private hand of cards and route tickets. On your turn, you may put up to two of your route tickets in your common route ticket holder so both of you know where to build them. That takes up your entire turn. When you draw train cards, you draw one, decide if you will put it in your hand or in the common train card holder, then select your second train card, which you must then do the opposite action with. The exception is if you draw a face-up locomotive (wild card), it automatically goes to the common holder. When building a new route, you may use any number of cards from the common train card holder and your hand to complete the route. The challenge is trying to coordinate with your teammate while not having all the information available. Especially if your teammate is not sharing his or her routes with you or is taking cards you need out of the common card holder or is just not much of a strategic thinker. End game is initiated when a team has four trains or less (either together or separately). You and your teammate are scored together collectively at the end of the game (including minuses for failed routes). Longest route gets a 10 point bonus, as does most tickets completed (you can earn both if you're lucky).
Also new to cooperative play are Himalayan Mountain Tunnels. These work like regular tunnels in the Europe, Nordic Countries and Switzerland editions, but with the added twist that you must turn over more cards from the train deck in order to complete them. Previous editions used a standard three card flip. Asia uses a variable 4-6 card flip, determined by the number written on that route on the board.
NEW RULES IN COMPETITIVE PLAY: Unlike cooperative play, in order to claim a Himalayan Mountain Tunnel, you need the usual cards of the same color (and/or locomotive wild cards), plus you must discard one additional card (of any color) for every "x" on the mountain route. These discarded cards are worth an extra 2 points each, but if you don't have enough cards to discard, you can't claim the mountain route. Longest route gets a 10 point bonus.
TWO MINOR COMPLAINTS: 1) As with Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries
, some of the route tickets are hard to figure out, with the ending city given first, rather than the starting city. I think all routes should be listed with cities from left to right or top to bottom, not randomly. With my limited knowledge of Middle Eastern, Russian, and Asian geography, it makes it difficult to know where the tickets go. Also, since the game takes place in 1913, not all of the city names are the same as used today (Peking instead of Beijing, for example).
2) Japan is not shown on the cooperative map, but thankfully, it is available on the competitive map. My friend's Japanese wife couldn't believe that her country was not included on the coop map, and not better represented on the competitive map. It's definitely the most disappointing feature of this set, as Japan is one of the first countries most people think of when they think of Asia. Maybe a Japan-only expansion will be coming in the future, like the India-only one already scheduled for release in December 2011. If so, it makes more sense that Japan was shortchanged in this set, but it's still lame. On a related note, The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia are completely absent from both maps, either because they are too far from the mainland to ferry to or for space considerations.
Regardless of these nitpicks, if you love Ticket To Ride, this Asia Map Pack is another winner in this amazing series. Definitely a worthy addition to your Ticket collection!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is an expansion set, not a standalone game (hence, the lower price). It does not include the plastic trains (except the additional ones required for team play), nor does it include the train cards. You will need one of the following games to get the required pieces: Ticket To Ride
or Ticket To Ride - Europe
. While Ticket To Ride - Marklin
has these pieces, the plastic trains are not all the same color as the previous sets and there are a bunch of Marklin-only passenger cards you'll need to remove from the train card deck. Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries
has all the train cards, but it is only for 3 players max, and again, the plastic train colors don't match previous sets. So you'll want either the original (North America) version or the European one in order to make use of this new Asia map pack. Keep this in mind for Ticket To Ride India: Map Collection - Volume 2
and other map pack only expansions.