Review: Ticket to Ride/Ticket to Ride Europe
Last year's Spiel des Jahres winner was the excellent Ticket to Ride. This year, author Alan R. Moon and publisher Days of Wonder have sought to improve upon that winning formula by releasing Ticket to Ride Europe.
Just in case there's still someone who isn't familiar with Ticket to Ride, here's a brief synopsis:
Players are attempting to claim routes between cities. Routes are claimed by playing sets of colored cards: three red cards claims a red three space route, six black cards claims a black six space route, and so on. On your turn you either take two cards into your hand (choosing from either five face up cards or the top card in the supply), or you may play a set of cards to claim a route, or you may take two "ticket cards" from the ticket supply of which you must keep at least one. Ticket cards list two cities and a point value. If at the end of the game you have linked those two cities with your routes then you score the points. If, on the other hand, you fail to connect those two cities then you are penalized and you LOSE the same amount of points. Players start with at least two tickets, which means that players start the game with their own unique goals.
Ticket to Ride is a wonderful game that thoroughly deserved to win last year's Spiel des Jahres. It's engaging. It's fun. It's extremely easy to learn and yet it can be quite challenging to play well. On top of all that, Days of Wonder went truly first class with the production values. The board is magnificent, the train pieces are a joy to play with, the colors are vibrant and the entire game just oozes aesthetic appeal.
This year, Ticket to Ride Europe seeks to build upon its predecessor's success. Naturally, the most obvious change is that Ticket to Ride Europe employs a map of Europe rather than the United States. But more has changed than just the map. There have also been some very minor rules enhancements that attempt to make Ticket to Ride Europe a better game.
First of all, most of the tickets in Ticket to Ride Europe are over relatively short routes. There are six long route tickets in the game which are easily distinguished by a blue background on the front of the card (the back side matches the other tickets so your opponents won't know you have a long route). At the start of the game, each player receives at random one long route ticket, the other long route tickets are removed from the game, and then players are given three more regular tickets. From these four tickets, players must choose at least two to keep. This eliminates one of the complaints that some players had with the original game: that players who lucked into longer route tickets often had an unfair advantage.
Next, two special types of routes have been added between cities: tunnels and ferries. Ferries work just like the grey routes from the original Ticket to Ride: they can be completed by a set of any color cards, the exception being that ferries contain one or more spaces marked with a locomotive symbol. For every locomotive symbol on a ferry route, players must use a locomotive card. This has the effect of increasing the value of the locomotive cards because now players are required to use them to complete some routes.
Tunnels are also grey routes but the added twist is that when a player tries to complete a tunnel route she must turn over three cards from the supply. She must produce one additional card for each of those three cards that matches the color of the cards she's played, otherwise she must abandon the route, take the cards back into her hand, and give up her turn.
The final change is the introduction of stations. Each player is given three stations. For his action, a player may elect to place one of his stations on a city. The first station placed costs one card, the second costs two cards of the same color, and the third costs three. Having a station on a city allows the player to use one of his opponents routes out of that city as if it were his own for purposes of completing the routes shown on his tickets at the end of the game. This allows players a way to complete an otherwise blocked ticket but at some expense. Each station that is left unplayed at the end of the game is worth four points.
One other minor cosmetic improvement is that Ticket to Ride Europe uses full sized cards instead of the half-sized ones used in Ticket to Ride. It's a nice touch but I don't know that it really adds all that much. The cards are certainly easier to shuffle.
There is only one complaint I have with Ticket to Ride Europe and it's a very minor one. The map is rather cramped (this is Europe after all) and as a result, some of the routes are crooked and bent in order to make them fit on the board. This makes the board a little more cluttered compared with the original.
All in all, I think the improvements are quite nice. Ticket to Ride Europe is definitely a worthy successor to Ticket to Ride and indeed, I think in many ways it's a slightly superior game. Is it enough to merit purchasing Ticket to Ride Europe if you already have Ticket to Ride? That's hard to say. If you really enjoyed Ticket to Ride and you are looking for another game that's almost exactly like it but just a bit more "gamerly" then you might want to pick it up (I did) but if you think that the original Ticket to Ride suits you just fine and you don't want another game that's very similar then you probably should pass. If you don't have either game then I would definitely recommend that you consider Ticket to Ride Europe as it's ever so slightly superior in my opinion.