Monday, 23 December 2013

Ticket to Ride Europe

Trains, some people love them and other people hate them, where do you sit? Personally ever since I played the original Ticket to Ride I have been against train games. A few things changed that, first I picked up Trains from AEG, its a Deck/Route Building Game which let me play a "Train Game" without all the focus being on the trains, and even better they just used cubes instead of plastic trains. Trains as a theme has always been a big turnoff for me and why I have had a hard time getting into train games, but lately I have been asking to play one. Next a friend that I got into board gaming discovered TTR on his own and brought it over, having a new tolerance for trains I could not say no and found myself enjoying Ticket to Ride much more than when I tried it previously. Then I discovered TTR Europe, there are a few differences between Europe and the original Ticket to Ride that make it a much more enjoyable game for me, below I will highlight the basics and then the differences between the Europe and the original game, then I will give my thoughts and explain why why it doesn't see much table action.

Objective: In Ticket To Ride Europe your goal is the same as in the original TTR, gather train cards, complete routes between cities corresponding to your Destination Tickets to score points.

Gameplay: On a turn each player will perform one of the following actions:

1. Place Trains: You must complete a route in 1 action (1 turn). In order to complete a route you must play one train card of the corresponding colour for each train you will place on the board.

2. Draw Tickets: You draw 3 destination cards and must keep one of them, you can keep any number of them but keep in mind incomplete tickets count as minus points at the end of the game. Tickets that are not kept are placed on the bottom of the deck.

3. Draw Train Cards: You may take 2 train cards at random or one face up train card of your choice from the 5 face up cards, if you take a face up train card it is immediately replenished.

4. Place Train Station: A train station may be placed in order to use an opponent's route as your own. The first train station you play will cost 1 train card, the second will cost 2 and your last train station will cost 3 train cards, the train cards used to pay for a train station must be of matching colour.

End of Game: When one player gets down to two trains left every player gets 1 final turn and then scores are calculated.

Scoring: Through the game players are awarded points for each route they finish according to the number of trains in the route. At the end of the game players will score points for any destination tickets they managed to complete, in addition players are awarded 4 points for every Train Station they did not use and the player with the longest route is awarded 10 extra points.

A lot of people get the wrong impression that TTR Europe is just a new map, well it is not! In fact I don't really enjoy the original Ticket to Ride so let me explain the key differences and why I prefer Europe.

Train Stations: For me this is the big one, not because I dislike getting blocked but because I enjoy the added level of strategy, without them there is only so much planning you can do but with Train Stations Ticket to Ride feels like an entirely different game. With 4 players I feel like they add to the urgent/rushed feeling that TTR creates, at the beginning of the game do you take those valuable routes or stash train cards, you will have to make similar decisions with your train stations.

Destination Cards: In TTR Europe you seperate the long routes from the short routes and players are each given only 1 long route at the start of the game, during gameplay you can only draw short routes. This helps make the game more balanced and strategy based instead of luck dependent, however I feel like it is a bit counterintuitive to introduce this mechanic after adding Train Stations to the game (which fix the long vs short route problem for me).

Locomotives: Locomotives serve two purposes, first they are a wild card that allows you to help construct routes easier, secondly they allow you to use ferries. To build a route over water you will need to play a number of Locomotive Cards equal to the number of Locomotive symbols on corresponding on the route. To me adding new water routes and wild cards are great because they help speed up the game as well as give more options.

Tunnels: These are a special route that may require additional train cards. Tunnels are noted by their dark black border on the game board. When a player wishes to claim a tunnel route they first turn over the top 3 train cards from the deck, for each card corresponding with the colour of the route, you must pay 1 additional train card to complete your route. Note that locomotives always count against you. The way tunnels work also seems counterintuitive to me because they slow the game down while Locomotives seem to be put in place to speed the game up, they also make things more random while Locomotives allow for more in depth strategies.

My Thoughts: Although I enjoy Ticket to Ride Europe it does not get played much, mostly because my main group is starting to get into less light games. I think where TTR Europe sits best is as a family game, it is not nearly as frustrating as the original game and has some fantastic mechanics that make it easy for non gamers to really "get into the game". That being said my personal bias has always been that trains are too boring to hook anyone on our hobby which leaves me with an easy to learn, somewhat addicting, G rated boardgame perfect for families to enjoy together.

Who Would Enjoy Ticket to Ride Europe?

Family Gamers: Ticket to Ride Europe is a great game for families, it has a family friendly theme and the rules are easy to grasp, the box recommends 8 plus. The rules are still deep enough that they allow you to develop a strategy. Also you can learn some geography while playing and playing doesnt take long at all.

Casual Gamers: Ticket to Ride Europe is still every bit as accessible as the original Ticket to Ride and a great way to introduce friends, I like it because it allows room for a bit more long term strategy which is in my opinion a very important aspect when trying to hook new gamers on the hobby. I enjoy TTR as a casual game because of the very fast setup / packup time, and more importantly because turns go around the table at a quick pace.

Gamer Gamers: Although not first choice, many serious gamers I know do enjoy TTR but as a much more cutthroat game where the focus seems to be blocking and keeping hidden the route you are working on is much more important. Although the original Ticket to Ride is better for this, TTR Europe can still be fun and I find makes a much better game to play with your non gamer friends.

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