Ticket to Ride Series – Game of the Month Review

Ticket to Ride
A Glance at the Entire Series

Designer: Alan Moon
Publisher: Days of Wonder
# of Players: 2-5
Play Time: 45 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: #39/7.53
Weight: Medium Light

Ticket to Ride is a fantastic game that has an incredibly wide appeal. It strikes a delicate balance between being accessible to everyone while still providing the opportunity for real strategic action. It is touted as probably the best overall “gateway” game, and its popularity has given rise to an ever-growing catalog of expansions and sequels. I’m going to take a few moments to explore this game system and share how it fared as the Game of the Month for the Hypermind BoardGamers.

Components and Setup

Being one of the flagship games for Days of Wonder, the componenets for all the games are simply fantastic. From the linen-finished boxes to the sturdy mounted boards to the simple but nicely-molded train pieces, everything is of excellent quality. The graphic design and artwork are all very attractive, and they consistently do the “little things” right (such as have the city names in TtR Europe be in that country’s native language). The only thing I could have against them was the use of itsy-bitsy, little cards that my sausage-like fingers have trouble shuffling and maniuplating. They obviously realizes this error, however, and have gone to using full-sized cards in every game past the original.

Setup is pretty simple. At the beginning of the game, all the Destination Ticket Cards are shuffled and three (3) are dealt to each player. The Train Car Cards are likewise shuffled and four (4) are dealt to each player. The remaining Train Car Cards are placed on the table to form a draw pile and five (5) of these cards are turned face up. Each players takes all 45 plastic train cars of one color, and all the scoring markers are placed on the starting space of the score track

Basic Gameplay (click here for full rules)

The goal of Ticket to Ride is to score the most points. The first way to get these points is to complete Destination Ticket Cards, which show two cities found on the map along with the point value for successfully connecting them. Players are dealt 3 of these cards at the beginning of the game and must keep at least two of them. Any tickets that are kept by the player but are not completed by the end of the game score negative points for the player (the point value on the card is subtracted from their score).

Tickets are completed by claiming routes between cities. This is done by trading in sets of colored Train Car Cards that have been collected in prevous rounds. The cards traded in must all be the same color and must match the color of the route printed on the board. When this is done, the player places little plastic train pieces on the route claimed. In addition, the player scores a number of additional points depending on the length of the route: 1 point for 1 train, 2 points for 2 trains, 4 points for 3 trains, 7 points for 4 trains, 10 points for 10 trains, and 15 points for 6 trains. Therefore, you can balance your strategy between completing routes and attempting to claim longer routes to maximize your score.

During a player’s turn, they take one action from the following list:

Draw Train Car Cards – The player may draw 2 cards from either the 5 face-up cards or from the face-down draw deck. If a face-up card is chosen, another card is flipped over from the draw deck before the second card is chosen. If a face-up Locomotive (wild) Card is chosen, the player instead only gets to draw that one card for their action (therefore, you cannot draw a face-up Locomotive as your second card draw). Note that Locomotives randomly drawn from the face-down draw deck do not have this restriction.

Claim a Route – The players may trade in a set of Train Car Cards to claim a route between two cities. The cards must all be the same color (or wild), which must also match the color of the route claimed. Gray routes may be claimed by using a set of any color. One card must be turned in for each space in the route, and routes must be claimed in their entirety. Points are then scored based on the length of the route (see above). Note that some cities are connected by side-by-side “double routes”. In a 4- or 5-player game, both of these routes may be claimed by different players. In a 2- or 3-player game, only one of the routes may be claimed.

Draw Destination Tickets – The player may also draw 3 more Destination Ticket cards from that draw deck. They must keep at least one of the cards, placing any not taken back on the bottom of the deck
Players take turns choosing one of these actions each round until one player claims a route leaving them with only 0,1, or 2 remaining Train Cars. At this point, one last turn is taken by all players, ending with the person who triggered the last round. The player who has constructed the longest continuous path gets a 10-point bonus, and then each player reveals all their Destination Ticket cards and adjusts their score up or down for each depending on whether or not they managed to complete it. The winner is the person with the highest score.

Ticket to Ride: Europe

In addition to the different map, a few minor elements were added to the core system for TtR Europe. Destination Tickets are divided into “long” and “short” routes, and the only opportunity players have to get a long route is at the beginning of the game. When drawing more tickets later in the game, players draw only from the deck of short routes. In addition, they also added Tunnels and Ferries to certain routes, as well as the ability for players to build Train Stations.

Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition

Ticket to Ride: USA 1910

This small expansion does two things: gives full-sized Train Car Cards to replace the little-bitty ones that came in the original game, and it gives a new set of Destination Tickets that can be used in different ways. There is a set of “Big Cities” cards that make the game a little tighter is used exclusively, because all the tickets involve certain big cities. There is also the original Mystery Train expansion that just offers an alternative set of tickets. Or, you can just throw all the Destination Tickets in together to have one big Mega Game.

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland

This is a brand new expansion that uses the Train Car Cards and pieces from the original game along with a brand new map (of Switzerland obviously) along with a new set of Destination Tickets. It is for 2-3 players only, and has been available as part of the Ticket to Ride computer game for some time. I just picked this up, but haven’t had the chance to play it yet, so I can’t comment further on this.

What I think…

Personally, I agree wholeheartedly that Ticket to Ride is the best gateway game ever. It is a very approachable game that still has lots of opportunty for real strategic and tactical decisions, while still having enough luck involved that relatively new players can be competitive. The “train” theme is very attractive to children, and most kids of age 8 or 9 should be able to pick up on basic game play.

You can also choose the “tone” of the game, either formally or informally. By this, I mean that it is wholly possible to play the game in such a way that there is very little interaction between the players. This “nice” way is great for beginners and children. But for people who like more conflict, the game can also be played in a very cut-throat manner, where blocking paths for no reason other than screwing over your opponents is encouraged. I really like this variability, and am looking for some opponents who want to really get down and dirty with it.

While I’m sure that the main reason Alan Moon and Days of Wonder developed the expansions and sequels was to make more money, I really appreciate the careful way that they gradually added complexity to these games, allowing for a rather natural progression as players develop and seek new challenges within a familiar system. The system is perfect for “growing” a gamer.

While this series was Game of the Month! for the Hypermind BoardGamers, we managed to play Ticket to Ride itself three times and both TtR Europe and TtR Marklin once each. In addition, I’ve played the base game countless times with my wife and other groups, and I have significant experience with the 1910 Expansion as well. Overall, our experience with this series was very positive, with the base game ending up with an average rating of 8.21 and Ticket to Ride Europe falling just a little less at 8.1. Ticket to Ride Marklin fared far worse, with an average rating of only 6.2.

Just to spend a second comparing the two sequels, I think that the reason everyone liked Ticket to Ride Europe so much is that it added just a few new elements to the core game to add some variety and freshness to the system. Plus, we all really liked the map itself, which was a nice change of pace. Obviously, they were trying to make Marklin more of a “gamer’s game”, and so a whole other level of complexity was added. Most of us felt, however, that the passenger element seemed to have been just tacked onto the core system and that it didn’t really fit too well. Plus, the map just didn’t seem as interesting as that of Europe. In other words, Marklin added a rather fiddly element to a very streamlined game, and we didn’t care for it much at all. I also recognize, however, that we have only played it once and any of our conclusions about either of these games should be taken with a bit gran of salt.

The Verdict!

Rules: Simple to learn, accessible to most every age, easy to teach.
Downtime: Turns are very quick with simple, clear-cut choices.
Length: Our games averaged 47 minutes in length, and we were teaching new people to play in 2 of the three.
Player Interaction: Opportunities for competition over routes and to block opponents, if the group chooses to play that way.
Weight: Medium Light
GamerChris’ Rating: Overall, Ticket to Ride is a great gateway game with legs, and I still enjoy it enough to give it a very solid 8.


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  2. Rasputin

    We like TtR Marklin better of the bunch because of the passengers. They cut down on the cut throat blocking for the sake of nothing more than a block as you need to consider your passengers routes, passenger cards, aka you can’t waste turns, energy, as you need to focus on passenger route lengths and connecting up. These points add up, big time. We have learned how quick a city can empty of points, especially the ones that start off at lower values. This hurts a lot. Airlines Europe has replaced TtRM for the most parts. Yeah, it isn’t the same game, just more interesting and a block most likely will not break your leg or pick your pocket as in TtR. A bad block in TtR can force you into damage control, not so much in AE.

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