Board Game Review – Ticket to Ride

Board Game Review - Ticket to Ride

By: Jennifer Duetzmann

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Players: 2-5

Ages: 8+

Play Time: 30-60 minutes

Price: MSRP $49.99 (we found it on Amazon for $36)

Ticket To Ride contains 1 nicely designed heavy cardboard map of North American train routes, 225 multicolored train cars, 144 really tiny cards, 5 wooden score markers, and a rules booklet that is very simply organized. It takes up a lot of space, so you’ll need a big table to play on. Since pieces are tiny and easily lost, you’ll want to save the bags that the pieces come in and make sure you keep uncoordinated little hands out of the way when you’re putting things away.

During gameplay, players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout the United States.

It only takes about 15 minutes to learn the game. One of the nicest things about Ticket To Ride is how deceptively easy each turn is. On each turn you can only take one of 3 actions:

  • Draw Train Car Cards (you need specific colors to match up with routes)
  • Claim a Route between two cities on the board (you earn points based in the length of your route)
  • Draw additional Destination Tickets (you earn extra points if you connect the two destinations by the end of the game)

The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points.

It sounds simple and almost too basic, right? Think again. Each round allows for players to plan, think strategically, and make tactical decisions. Do you try to claim as many long routes as you can to earn the most points? Do you choose to risk negative points and collect and fulfill Destination Tickets to get your points in big chunks? Do you attempt to build the longest continuous route? Or, do you attempt to block your opponents from scoring points?

When playing the game with a mixture of adults and children, we found that the 8+ age range seems to be spot on. Maybe an advanced 7 year old could play, but the strategy would be completely overlooked by younger players. Also, fine motor skills would be a problem due to the tiny cards and pieces. Since the map is fairly geographically accurate, we found that adults with a knowledge of North American cities had a slight advantage over the children who didn’t know their geography. The children had to give away some of their ‘secrets’ by searching for or asking an adult to help them find their cities. Also, children needed to talk through their actions, while adults often made their plays quietly.

During gameplay, a few interesting things happened. It seems that when adults took their turns, the tension was higher. I know for me the tense feelings came from choosing between greed (picking up more colored cards or wild cards) and fear (keeping an opponent from claiming a critical route). Also, another adult player actively tried to block opponents routes, which led to frustration. The children who played either focused on achieving Destination Card connections, or making the longest route. Most of the children seemed to take the possibility of taking the longer routes in stride when they got blocked off. I’m guessing it was because they were unaware of the time management part of the game and were simply enjoying the playing. Every child seemed surprised when it was time for the game to end (based on a mechanic in the rules) and tally up points. Another aspect that the children overlooked was the point deduction from not achieving Destination connections.

Overall, Ticket To Ride has a high replay value. We don’t see it getting boring any time soon. And, because the game has expansions for other geographical areas (Europe, Asia, India, etc), we can add to it later on to keep things fresh. We love the fact that this game includes opportunities to learn counting, patterns, color matching, planning, and geography without actually seeming like it’s teaching.

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