Back a few months ago, I won a copy of Ticket to Ride: Märklin from a giveaway contest that Kid Game Ratings has every so often for people that post reviews to their site. Anyway, Gwen and I had been meaning to play it ever since, but it didn’t hit the table until Saturday night after little Ms. Samantha finally gave in and fell asleep.
I had played once before, but it was Gwen’s first time with the Märklin rules. In my opening Destination Tickets, I drew and kept two long tickets while discarding two short ones, and Gwen kept three of hers (1 long and 2 short). My plan was to build up from München to Berlin (one of my tickets), and then connect across from Berlin to Düsseldorf (my other ticket). As I was getting up to Berlin, however, Gwen blocked off all northern access to Düsseldorf, so I had to come up from München through Nürnberg, Würzberg, Frankfurt, and Köln instead. It made one of my Passenger placements a little less efficient, but I still racked up a lot of points taking some of the longer routes.
Gwen, however, swept down through the center of the country from north to south. She connected to Denmark through Kiel, built through Dortmund and Frankfurt, and finally split her track in Mannheim to get to France (via Freiburg), Lindau, and München. While I used all three of my passengers (going through Berlin all three times), Gwen only used two (partly because I forced the end of the game and she had to choose between completing a ticket or moving her third passenger). What she did, however, was draw a heck of a lot of Destination Tickets throughout the game, and her more central and branching network made it a lot more likely that she had already completed (or nearly so) at least one each time.
In the end, I picked up 73 points from my passengers, but only completed 6 tickets for a total of 214 points. Gwen only got 44 points from passengers, but completed a dozen tickets (getting the 10-point “most tickets” bonus) and ended up with a total of, if you can believe it, 213 points. Yes, despite taking significantly different paths to get there, the game was decided by just one little, glorious point!
On the last turn, I actually chose to do nothing. I could have taken a chance on drawing some extra tickets to see if I already had some completed, but I didn’t want to blow the game (or win it, for that matter) because of blind luck (especially since I had drawn extra tickets a few turns earlier and not matched any of them right away). Just for kicks, we looked at what they were, and I actually had two of them already, which would have given me an extra 18 points. Of course, I could just as easily have ended up getting a handful of negative points, and with as close as it was, lost the game. So I think that I made the right decision anyway.
In general, I had fun playing Ticket to Ride: Märklin. But still, my feelings mostly match what I felt after my first play (which I echoed in my Ticket to Ride Series GotM! review as well). Basically, I think that the passenger mechanic feels tacked on and adds an unnecessary complication to an otherwise elegant game. The reason I like Ticket to Ride is that it’s simple, quick, and fun. But just organizing and putting out the little trip tokens alone doubles or triples the set-up time for Märklin, and while the game time is not significantly longer, there is a lot more potential for analysis paralysis with the added complexity.
However, I actually think that Märklin actually “works” at what it’s supposed to do. The passengers add another factor to consider in track constructionin as well as introducing both another path for scoring and an element of timing. This session was actually a great example, where I used route building and passenger movement to score most of my points while Gwen focused heavily on Destination Ticket completion, and in the end, we were only one point away from each other.
But in the end, I still come back to my main impression. If I want a deeper play experience, I’ll play a more complicated game – not just a version of Ticket to Ride with “more stuff” thrown in. (I feel the same way about Cities and Knights of Catan, by the way.) Maybe I’m guilty of putting Ticket to Ride in an unnecessarily small “box”, but I’m just not that interested in the “one game for everyone” concept of turning great gateway/family games into gamer’s games by continuing to add in extra mechanics… Even when it’s done as well as it’s done in TtR: Märklin.