Este artigo é a versão em inglês da resenha do jogo “Ticket to Ride”. Você pode conferir a versão em português aqui.
“Daddy! Can we play the train game?”
Ever since I got deeper into the board gaming hobby (as if I needed any other hobbies. I blame Thiago and Monty for that in case my wife is reading this) I knew this next step was coming, I just didn’t know it would happen so fast: introducing board games to my family.
Back in the day me and my wife used to play board games. Yes, we were still stuck with the very same board games that entertained generations before us, but, at that time, that was the pinnacle of gaming as I understood it. We used to play the Brazilian version of “Pictionary” with our friends when we were dating and after getting married “Scrabble” kept us company in many a long night when power outages prevented us from watching TV or sleeping, however, as anything that’s new, the new age of boardgaming here at home belongs to my daughters.
As I said it was inevitable. Ever since I began experimenting with “modern board games” I could see the top of their heads peaking from the edge of the table, watching and keeping me company as I’d set up a game or play with my friends. Their presence was constant until the day they asked “can we play with you, dad?”. That question rocked my gaming world and it has never been the same.
I had contemplated playing games with them before, but at that time that’s something I had reserved for the future since they were still pretty young (my eldest girl is 9 and the youngest 6 years old), but given their interest now seemed a pretty good time to get them started in the board gaming hobby.
My first challenge was finding games with themes that would appeal to them, and with enough complexity to allow them to play and present them with a challenge suitable for their age, allowing them to entertain themselves, have fun and play without the need for a helping adult. I never intended to dumb down the gaming experience for them, but to have them as gaming partners and apt opponents from the get go.
When I experienced the Survive game for the first time (a game I’ve already written about here on the blog) I immediately identified a potential game to play with my girls, while also being introduced to the concept of “gateway game” (that being a game that lends itself well to the task of presenting board gaming as a hobby to non initiated players), and that’s when I came across “Ticket to Ride”.
If you google “gateway games” you’ll come across quite a few lists compiling good games to use when introducing board games to friends and family and “Ticket to Ride” figures in a lot of them (if not all). Board Game Quest, Paste Magazine, Reddit, Dice Tower and BoardGameGeek all include it in their lists and this prominent recurrence put the game on my radar.
Doing some more research I noticed it would be perfect for my needs as it featured simple mechanics, an interesting theme, it wasn’t language dependent (as my youngest wasn’t literate yet) and to my surprise it had just been published in Brazil by Galapagos Jogos, so a few weeks later I got my game in the mail and on the very same day announced, to great glee from the girls, we’d be playing a new game that day: “The Train Game”
My English reading reader might be wondering at this point if I’m really reviewing, and this excited about, a game which is already 12 years old. Well if you remember this article, modern board games have only recently began being published in Brazil and “Ticket to Ride” was first published here in 2014, so it’s safe to say a lot of us here hadn’t heard about it prior to its release in the country.
Originally released in 2004 by Days of Wonder, “Ticket to Ride” has earned versions in many different languages (one of the most recent ones being the Brazilian one through Galápagos Jogos) and has amassed many different game of the year prizes in 2004 and 2005, most notably the prestigious “Spiel des Jahres 2004” in Germany. It has also earned favorable and passionate reviews from players all over the globe ever since (it should come to no surprise that mine is yet another such review), and is placed today at the 99th position in the ranking of best board games from BoardGameGeek while also being featured at the 10th place in the list of best family games at the same website.
In the wake of the original game’s success “Ticket to Ride” has earned at least 15 versions and expansions (and I’m only counting the official ones, leaving out all the fan made versions and maps), a card game version and quite a few electronic versions as well (for mobiles, computers and video games). While versions like “Ticket to Ride: Europe”, “Ticket to Ride: Märklin” and “Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries” offer the complete game experience with new maps, other versions like “Ticket to Ride: The Heart of Africa”, “Ticket to Ride: India” and “Ticket to Ride: Asia” feature only new maps to be used with the components of one of the “full” versions of the game. Other expansions such as “Alvin & Dexter”, “USA 1910” and “Ticket to Ride: the Dice Expansion” add new elements to the main game adding small twists to gameplay and gaming experience as a consequence.
With such a rich background of success, prizes and referrals from many different players, “Ticket to Ride” wasn’t really a surprise and delivered on its promise of a strong, satisfying, fun, family gaming experience. The game itself couldn’t be simpler: The board shows a map of the United States (or other places around the globe depending on your version of the game) with some cities connected by train lines which the players will compete to claim for themselves during the course of the game.
To that end, at each turn, players get to execute one of three possible actions: Buying wagon cards, buying destination cards and claiming routes on the board, with the winner being defined by the sum of points accrued doing so over the course of the game.
Does this sound complicated? It’s not. If you’ll notice the routes on the board connecting the different cities are marked by rectangles, either gray or colored ones and this rectangles indicate the amount of wagons you’ll need to claim that given route, and in order to do so you’ll need to collect enough wagon cards to match the indicated amount. When you have enough card you’ll put them on the table and connect the two cities using wagons of your player color.
Having said that, collecting enough wagon cards isn’t that simple a premise, as routes marked with gray rectangles can be claimed by any combination of wagon card colors, however, routes marked with an specific color on the board can only be claimed if you have on your hand enough wagon cards of the specific color on the route (with locomotives functioning as a joker to be used as any given color).
You’ve conquered a route? You’ll get points according to the numbers of wagons you used (more wagons meaning more points). Extra points are gained at the end of the game if you manage to complete any of your destination tickets connecting specific cities on the map and helping to determine the winner (the points of each destination ticket are deducted from your total if you’re not successful in claiming a route connecting the cities on your destination cards).
Do you think the game sound too simple? It can be misleading, but trust me, it’s not. Despite the simple mechanics, fast turns e clear goals, the game offers additional complexity through the management of resources (when do you spend those wagon cards?) and short and long term goal management (when you try to strike a balance between claiming those easy routes and working towards completing your destination cards). There’s even room for some strategy when it comes to blocking your opponent’s attempts to complete his destination cards.
It should come to no surprise to you then that the sentence that opens this article is also the one which starts our gaming nights here at home. My daughters and wife all love “the train game” and, to my surprise, happiness (and a little bit of jealousy), they no longer need me to play it and it’s not uncommon to find them playing by themselves while I paint. After all these months since its debut, “Ticket to Ride” still sees the table and the high point of it to me was a couple of weeks ago when my parents came over to visit (a couple over 60 and with no habit of gaming of any sort) and they all sat down to play a game, leaving the table entertained and happy at the end of it. I’d say it’s mission accomplished as THE gateway game.
If all the adjectives spent thus far co commend the game, I feel I must compliment Galapagos’ exquisite job in delivering to the Brazilian public a fantastic version of the game, with top notch components and great translation work.
I honestly couldn’t be happier with “Ticket to Ride” and I highly recommend it not only to beginner board games (where it will masterfully fulfill the job as a gateway game) but also to veteran board gamers looking for a great game to add to their collections. Having said that, if you find yourself at the very same crossroads I was when looking for a great game to enjoy with your family, look no further and add “Ticket to Ride” hastily to your collection.
And I guess that’s it for now. Have fun on the gaming board and I’ll see you soon.
Over and out.