The Herald Bulletin

December 6, 2012

Ticket to Ride gathers steam

Board game expands to Africa and beyond

By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin

Ticket to Ride, designed by Alan R. Moon and published by Days of Wonder, has long been considered as one of the best gateway games of all time.

“Gateway” is a term understood by dedicated gamers, but what does it mean to those people who are diving into the modern world of tabletop gaming whose experience in any gaming is mostly limited to classics like Sorry, Monopoly and Yahtzee?

The term “gateway” means that a game is more easily understood and played by people who have no experience in the current tabletop landscape. It means the game isn't overly long or complicated and it generally means that a new player won't be at a severe disadvantage against experienced players.

The game was released eight years ago and has continually sold through printings.

“There are several reasons why Ticket to Ride continues to strike a chord with so many,” said Mark Kaufmann from Days of Wonder. “First, the game is not only simple to play - there's basically only 3 rules you need to remember - it's also easy to teach others. This gives casual players confidence when bringing it out to play with new people that their friends or family will start having fun right away and not worry too much about having to learn complex rules. Second, there seems to be a universal appeal to building train routes. There's just something that people find satisfying about watching their routes grow and their Destination Tickets get completed.  Third, while the gameplay is relatively simple and can be played on a very friendly and casual way, there are a lot of underlying strategy to the game, giving more advanced players much more to think about and consider. Finally, there is an inherent tension that continues to grow throughout the game as the map gets more crowded and you risk the game ending before you complete your tickets.”

Basically, the game is about connection destination cities on a mapboards with plastic train pieces of the color assigned to a particular player. Each route is marked on the board in a certain color. There are train cards available each turn to match the colors on the board.

So in effect it is a card set collection game much in the way that Rummy is. On each turn there is a stack of facedown train cards and five which are face up next to the deck. A player can choose two cards that can either be face down or up. There are locomotive cards that are wild but if they are selected face up, that is the only card a player can choose that turn.

Bonuses are given for completing Longer routes are depicted on map cards that are also available to each player. A shorter route between two cities is worth victory points dependent on the number of trains needed to complete. The route cards make it mandatory to connect mutiple cities and those points are worth more points.

Once a player is down to three train pieces, the game has just one more turn and it is over, with the person winning who has the most points.

The original game has a map of the U.S. There is also a version with Europe and then several map boards to play in other geographic areas.

“Alan R. Moon has always insisted that it's not just new maps that matter, it's small changes to the game play that make each of the follow-on editions so interesting and fun to play,” said Kaufmann. “The core game play always remains the same, but small changes can make a big difference in how to map out the best strategies.”

for instance, Europe introduced station pieces to handle a more crowded gameboard.

The popularity of the game allowed it to be converted into an electronic product.

“We've passed the 1 million downloads mark for Ticket to Ride on iOS and have hundreds of thousands more users who play on their personal computers,” said Kaufmann. “A new online game of Ticket to Ride starts about every four seconds. While the gameplay for Ticket to Ride the board game and the digital versions is identical, the actual experience is quite different. The boardgame is about a shared experience with friends or family around the table. Online is for fast play, when you are by yourself, and,especially if playing on a small device, it's something you can do while you have a few minutes of downtime, on the train or while waiting for your coffee at Starbucks.”

There are other products that are periodically released including a card game based off the board experience. The recent addition of map packs have proved popular.

:So far fans have responded quite well to the map collections,”said Kaufmann. “Ticket to Ride Asia sold out within six weeks of its release date. We've reprinted it now though and it's available once again.”

The newest map expansion is the Heart of Africa, which will probably be out by the time this is published. It adds a new type of card to allow for terrain considerations.

In addition, many enterprising fans of the game has designed their own game boards and destination tickets.

“To be honest, we are extremely surprised and happy that so many fans have created their own maps,” said Kaufmann. “When we held our map design contest last year, we received over 600 entries from players in 40 different countries. The most popular theme for designs was Outer Space/Mars/Moon with 64 entries.”

Days of Wonder plans a map pack to be released once each year.