Tabletopping It – Ticket To Ride

So, I missed putting this up at the actual appropriate time… due in part to my playing this game. As well as several rounds of Munchkin (I won one and co-won another) and a round of Settlers of Catan (my winning streak continues thanks to a severe amount of development cards).

A few of my friends and I got together to play some board games, something I think we’re just starting to do as a semi-regular thing, which is cool. And I’ve been watching a lot of Geek & Sundry’s show hosted by Wil Wheaton, “Tabletop.” So, of course, I ended up going to Target and buying almost $200 of new board games from the show. Munchkin, Pandemic, Wits and Wagers, Dixit and Ticket to Ride. …I’m totally going to have them double as Christmas gifts, too, so, money well spent. Hopefully.

Anyway, the last game of the night we played was Ticket to Ride, which has tones similar to Settlers of Catan, I think. Ticket to Ride is a game about building trains all across America in an effort to connect cities, create the longest route and, potentially, prevent other people from making their own train lines.

…like Settlers of Catan, the game doesn’t actually sound that interesting the way a game of Risk (global domination and all-out war) does, but I really think it’s pretty entertaining. Let me explain how the game works in order to try to play it up as much as possible.

The game’s board is a map of North America with several cities in the U.S. and Canada selected as hubs for the train routes. In between the cities are train routes of various lengths (from one to six) and colors (eight colors plus colorless). Some routes have double routes, allowing two people to claim the same routes between the same two cities.

You start the game with four random train cards of various colors and three destination tickets. Destination tickets are cards that tell players to connect two cities. If players connect those cities, they receive the points indicated on the card. If they fail to connect the cities, they lose those points. Players are allowed to dump off one ticket from the original three they’re dealt, but only one. The random colored train cards are what allow players to claim train routes. In order to claim a route, players must match both the number and color of the route they try to claim with their cards. Colorless routes can be completed by matching only number (though the cards’ colors still need to match), and random colored cards can act as any single color.

During a player’s turn, they can perform one of three actions: They can draw cards from the piles, claim a single route or  draw three new destination tickets. The cards to draw lay in six piles. Five piles are made of single face-up cards, replaced any time those cards are drawn. If a random card is face-up, that is the only card you can draw that turn. The other pile is the face-down pile, from which the replacements for the face-up cards come. Players can draw cards from that pile as well. Destination tickets must be drawn in threes, but players are only required to keep a single destination ticket if they draw the tickets.

There are no dice involved in the game. The most random functions are your initial destination tickets, which will craft most players’ beginning strategies, and the train draw pile. When routes are claimed, longer routes get more points. One train gets one point, two gets two, three gets four, four gets seven, five gets ten and six gets 15. Therefore, while it’s riskier and more difficult to go after longer routes (riskier because the longer it takes, the more likely someone is to potentially take it), it’s also more beneficial to claim them. Also, if you can manage it, the person with the longest continuously connected route gains an extra ten points at the end  of the game.

…it’s really pretty simple. No joke. I may not have made it sound as simple as it is, or quite as entertaining as it really can be, but it’s a great little strategy game with a very easy mechanic. Watch the “Tabletop” episode about the game if you don’t believe me. Wheaton’s probably better than me at explaining it anyway. If you’re interested in the game, you can find it at Target, as most of the “Tabletop” games are found. Give it a try. I’ll test out the other games I bought at some point to let you know how they are.

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