Board Game Night: Ticket to Ride

When somebody tells me, “I’m not really into board games. Clue and Monopoly lose all of their appeal after a while,” I feel the need to try and introduce them to something a little more complex while still maintaining that same level of fun those older board games once instilled. Games like Settlers of Catan, Stone Age, and Photosynthesis might be a bit much for them to handle right out of the gate. Instead, I like to use games like Ticket to Ride as a good catalyst into more complex board games.

How do you take a standard board game like Monopoly or Clue and add in a level of complexity that even kids can play while still maintaining the core essence of a typical board game? Simply put, you create a game like Ticket to Ride.

You and the other players take on the role of a railroad baron attempting to build long and successful railroads across the United States. It’s a very simple game at its core with great artwork, a somewhat accurate representation of the geography in our country, and an elegant design that looks extremely pleasing when the board is full of trains.

Ticket to Ride is a game for 2-5 players, takes approximately 30-60 minutes to play, and is for ages 8 and older.

Setup for Ticket to Ride is extremely easy. Place the board in the center of the table. Each player chooses a train color (I always choose yellow, not really sure why) and place all 45 of your trains in front of you. Take a matching color scorer and place it on 0 along the scoring track. Shuffle the Train Car Deck and deal 4 cards to each player. Afterwards, place the deck within reach of each player and then turn over the top 5 cards of the deck and lay them out on the table near the deck. Place the Longest Path card next to the game board. Finally, shuffle the Destination Ticket Deck and deal 3 cards to each player. Each player is required to keep at least two of those destination cards, but he or she can keep all three if so wished. Place the discarded Destination Tickets on the bottom of the deck and place it where everybody can reach it. You are ready to begin the game!

The person with the most points at the end of the game wins!

The object of the game is to use cards from the Train Car Deck to play trains on the board. You want to use trains to connect cities on the board in order to fulfill the connections on your Destination Tickets or to have the longest continuous route of trains…or both. Your Destination Tickets have routes on them, and you have to try to fulfill those routes in order to gain the points listed on each card. You do this by gathering cards and using them to build trains.

There are several colors on the board that represent the various routes. Those colors are:

Pink, White, Blue, Yellow, Orange, Black, Red, Green, and Rainbow (Wild)

In order to build trains on any of those routes, you must play a number of cards of a certain color equal to the number of spaces in the route. For example, the route from Seattle to Helena has six yellow spaces. You must play six yellow cards from your hand in order to build your trains on that route. You can substitute a Rainbow (Wild) card for any of the yellows as needed.

On your turn, you can do 1 of 3 things. Those actions are:

Draw Train Car Cards
Claim a Route
Draw Destination Tickets

Draw Train Car Cards
If you decide to draw cards, you can do it several ways. You can take one of the face-up cards (remember the 5 we turned over at the beginning of the game?). If you take a face-up card, immediately replace it with the top card from the deck. You can also choose to blind draw a card from the top of the deck. You get two cards following this method. So you can draw both from the deck, take two face-up cards, or you can do one of each. The only exception to this rule is Rainbow (Wild) cards. If there is a face-up Wild, and you choose to take that, that is all you can take. You only get the one card. If you are lucky enough to draw the Wild card from a blind draw, you still get to draw a second card (although you can’t take a face-up Wild at this point).

Claim a Route
If you have enough cards in your hand to place your trains on a route, you can discard the appropriate number of cards to the discard pile and place your trains. This will be your entire turn. Scoring a claimed route works as follows:

1 train length = 1 point
2 train length = 2 points
3 train length = 4 points
4 train length = 7 points
5 train length = 10 points
6 train length = 15 points

Draw Destination Tickets
Regardless of how many Destination Tickets you already have, you can choose to draw more. You must draw three cards from the deck, and you are required to keep at least one. You can keep two or three, but you must keep at least one. Remember you keep these cards, as well as the ones in your hand, secret from the other players.

You take turns performing one of those three actions. There is no hand limit, so feel free to keep drawing Train Car Cards until you get a mix of what you want.

One thing I forgot to discuss are those gray spots on the board. The gray spots mean that you can discard any color you want to fill those spots. You can’t discard different colors in the set, but it can be anything you want otherwise. Three gray spaces could be claimed by discarding three green cards, three blue cards, or three pink cards. Some connections between cities have double routes. One player cannot claim both routes. In a 2-player game, the second route cannot be claimed once another person claims the first.

The last round kicks in when one of the players is down to 0, 1, or 2 train cars remaining in front of them. Once they take the turn that moves them to 0, 1, or 2 train cars, the other two players get to take their final turn. Once that is done, it’s time for final scoring.

You should have already moved your marker when you claimed routes throughout the game based on the scoring table listed above. You can always double check to make sure it all adds up if you’re not sure by counting the points all of those routes would have gotten you.

Then reveal all of your Destination Tickets. Any completed Destinations net you the points listed on those tickets. Any routes you didn’t complete are then subtracted from your point total. The player with the longest continuous path of trains across the board gets the bonus card and gains an extra 10 points.

After all of that scoring, the player with the most points wins the game! In the case of a tie, the player that completed the most Destination Tickets wins!

Ticket to Ride is a simple game that is easily learned from even the greenest of board game players. There’s something satisfying about seeing all of the trains built on the board with the intertwining paths and intersecting colors. Like the age old cliche, it’s a relatively simple game that’s extremely easy to play but very difficult to master. Certain strategies definitely exist that help facilitate more points, but it’s a learning process.

If you want to introduce your greenhorn friends to the world of more complex and intuitive board gaming, Ticket to Ride is a fantastic place to start.

Board Game Geek: Ticket to Ride

As a final sidenote: this game has tons of expansions for different cities and countries. Some of the more popular ones are:

New York
Heart of Africa

We also own Ticket to Ride: First Journey. It’s a simpler and easier version of the game to play with your children. We have it to play with our six-year-old, and she absolutely loves it (and even wins a good majority of the time).

Happy board gaming!

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