This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Ticket to Ride.
I enjoy board games, but without the actual board. Does that make sense? Maybe I should posit this point another way; I enjoy turn based games with either classic or crazy concepts (and in rare cases, both) but without the process of making schedules meet for everyone to get together, setting up the board and all of the manual stat tracking that comes with it. Unfortunately, this is the single biggest barrier for many gamers who would otherwise be interested in a board game aside from price. With Ticket to Ride, developer Next Level Games has created a surprisingly addictive game for Xbox Live that fans of this style of game will enjoy.
Each player starts out with a set of cards, which each represent a single train and a single colour (with a wild multi-coloured one mixed in for variety). You also start out with up to 3 destinations, which represents routes between major cities for a score bonus. Each turn allows you to pick cards, pick additional destinations or claim a route. Card selection presents a choice between adding a couple of visible cards, a single visible multi-coloured card or drawing a couple of random cards from the deck. Alternatively, you can add up to another 3 destinations or to claim a route on the map.
And that’s pretty much it! A series of cities dot each of the available maps, connected with either generic grey or specifically coloured paths weaving across from coast to coast. There are multiple paths to link up with every city, including some key connections with double the lines to avoid congestion through the middle of the map. That said, strategically denying crucial links between cities stands out as the only real form of defense against an opponent’s score; cards are plentiful and destinations are simple, so controlling the board by cutting off an opponent’s plan is a key to victory.
There’s a bonus for the longest continuous path and a deduction for any uncompleted destination cards you hold at the end of each game, a risk vs reward portion that makes a big difference in the final score as well. I should really emphasize this point; by tightly controlling your overall ownership to keep as many of your routes connected as possible, and making sure that you commit to only claiming destinations that you can safely complete, your chances of winning are extremely high. Hunkering down for a couple of afternoons, I reached #3 on the North American scoreboard on the strength of a 95% winning percentage which included a 25 game winning streak. Plan, stretch and complete if you want to win!
The graphics are plain and the audio is repetitive, although the main theme is pretty catchy (I still catch myself humming it occasionally). That said, neither detract from the experience as the game moves briskly from turn to turn as you carve out your paths and cut off your opponents. The simplicity of Ticket to Ride’s presentation actually works in its favour, as everything on its interface loads really quickly and the network performance is flawless.
This style of turn-based, territory claiming and score accumulating game isn’t for everyone, but any gamer who wants to enjoy a fast paced casual game with a cool concept should give Ticket to Ride a spin.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars