Ticket to Ride: Europe… All aboard the colour express.

Base Game Review

Player/s: 2-5

Play Time (Box): 45 Minutes

Play Time (Goof): 30 minutes – 60 minutes

Producer/s: Days of Wonder

Designer/s: Alan R. Moon

 

I like to think I come from intelligent genes. It’s not like I come from a family of doctors and lawyers but you know…Dad knows how to tell a half decent joke…

My family got together last night to play a board game or two. There’s a lot of us- five children still at home with the youngest being four. So this is a fairly common activity when I go back home. But we have to be selective with what we play, because some games are so complicated we end up taking three times as long and get caught up explaining the rules. As I’m discovering with Android: Netrunner. That game… It might be easier to learn actual programming.

So I was apprehensive when my eight year old sister decided she wanted to play ‘Ticket to Ride: Europe’. Not because she’s not smart; as I said, we come from intelligent genes. But she’s young and easily distracted. And it’s got a couple of complicated elements the original doesn’t. I sensed a bogged down session with many frustrations ahead. My dad suggested maybe they work together on a team for this game, and she could play the next. But she was adamant that she wanted to do it for herself.

So how did it go? Were we stuck at the station or was it full steam ahead? Let’s take a look.

 

Gameplay (9/10)

One thing that can really be said for ‘Ticket to Ride: Europe’ and I’m sure is likely to hold for the rest of the series (truth time, I’ve only ever played Europe) is that the rules are really simple. It’s built around the simple concept of matching colours on cards with colours on the board. There are a couple more mechanics but if you can grasp this one, you’re more than half way there.

I’ve played a number of different games and I find that it works well with all numbers. The use of the double track lines in larger games and the ‘lockout’ effect of not being able to select one if the other is taken in smaller games keeps things interesting. In a five player game we played, the fight over Western Europe was fascinating and furious, with people claiming bits and pieces of lines to make sure they didn’t get cut off, and then having to get creative to link up the different lines.

The tunnel system is apparently new in Europe, it’s one of those times you have to make the decision whether it’s worth the risk to waste a turn with the minimal resources and a risk that you might fail, or wait a couple of turns to get some backup resources and maybe lose the tunnel to another player. I’m a big fan of decision making in games. I have to be able to weigh up the options and decide what I think is the best route or  I find the game less interactive and more of a simulated experience (looking at you, Monopoly), and this game really nails that combination of simplicity and decision making.

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The black and white parts are tunnels in this pic

When I played my first couple games of Europe, I thought the Ferries seemed pretty useless. Same goes for the Train Stations. I thought it would be few and far between that I use them. And to be honest they’re not big game changers. What can be said for them though is that they provide more options in larger games. Whenever we’ve played a three or four player game they tend not to come into it as much. But in a five player game they become much more useful and necessary. A locomotive card may not make it all the way around the table if you happen to flip it on your turn. So taking a turn out to grab one or two if the opportunity arises might end up being the best decision.

Turns take place incredibly rapidly. I originally hated the idea that you get to take a single action on your turn, incorrectly assuming that it would feel like I’m never accomplishing anything. However since your turn comes around so quickly, it feels more that you are consistently making decisions, with a little thinking/card organizing time between each action.

Pros: +Easy to learn, +Works with all numbers, +Decision Making, +Rapid turns

Cons: None

 

Theme (8/10)

Trains…I just don’t get it. There is a huge following of train lovers out there. And sure, when I was young I thought Thomas the Tank Engine was a pretty swell guy. But he had a face and had cool adventures with his friends (if that happened in the real world I would be all aboard). Growing up in a small town and moving to a big city meant catching a train back to visit family. And I couldn’t think of a more boring way to spend three to four hours, especially when a car trip would have been two.

Having said that, THIS GAME IS SO COOL! Playing as train barons trying to claim routes and somehow connect places like Stockholm to Cadiz while other people working at odds with you is fascinating. It really sucks you in. And I don’t see this game working with another theme quite so well.

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I always seem to end up going through Paris

Much the same as what I discussed in ‘Pandemic‘, I love it when games teach me a little more about the world. The map here is interesting and I can use the excuse that I’m helping my siblings study for Geography to play it with them when they should be doing their homework. And if I’m ever lost in Europe, I’ll likely know which way Paris is from where I am…which will probably be less helpful than it sounds.

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I wonder if Europe really is this colourful?

I usually talk about immersion in games, because I love being sucked in and imagining myself in the world and situation of a game. That doesn’t exist here. This game is a lot more lighthearted. It’s the sort where you’d throw on a train conductor’s hat for a chuckle but if someone brought a whistle you’d have to resist the urge not to hit them with a real train. The lack of immersion doesn’t detract from the overall game, but if you’re like me then you might be looking for something a bit meatier for your game days.

Pros: ++Well integrated theme, +Makes learning fun

Cons: None

 

Production (7/10)

The cards in this game really satisfy me on a visual level. They allow me to revert to childhood for a moment: omg they’re sah pretty! I’m gonna decorate my school books with them!…*cough*. Right. Moving on.

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It’s a rainbow!

But seriously, the artwork in this game is both functional and beautiful. It’s not overly complicated and yet it’s enjoyable to play with. I’m really trying very hard not to use the word of the day “simple”…but it really is. The cards have trains on them with fun colours in the background. The tickets clearly name and indicate the parts of the country you need to connect and the cards are a nice size to fit in your hands.

I don’t think you’ll find many gamers out there who don’t enjoy playing with minitures. And the trains in this game are really enjoyable. There are lots of them, which can be a little fiddly. And you have to be careful not to lose any pieces (the game comes with spares, just in case) but it also gives you that really satisfying feeling of accomplishment when you start with a large amount and slowly work your way down to one or two trains left.

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Pros: +Pretty cards, +Functional artwork, +Miniatures are fun

Cons: -Fiddly pieces

 

Conclusion 

That game with my sister went so well it blew me away. I think it speaks volumes when a young child, young adult and old man (I’m going to cop flak for that) can sit at a table together and all become really involved in a game. And I had so much fun playing it I went home and downloaded the iTunes app so I could play it when I wasn’t visiting my family, something I never usually do.

I give Ticket to Ride: Europe:

7/10

All in all, ‘Ticket to Ride: Europe’ is a good game. And it is really fun. You’ll notice in the review how it lacked a lot of Cons. That’s because the game really is well designed and enjoyable. But it does feel a lot more like an introductory game that both new and experienced board game players can really enjoy. It’s a very simple game. And I sometimes need that, in between my immersion filled slogfests like ‘Twilight Imperium’ and ‘Arkham Horror’. Now excuse me a minute while I look through the different Ticket to Ride versions and see which one I want to purchase next.

If you’d like to see this game in action, Geek and Sundry’s ‘Tabletop’ has an entertaining episode on it, hosted by Wil Wheaton. Watch it here

2 Comments on "Ticket to Ride: Europe… All aboard the colour express."

  1. I love this game!! Albeit we have the original on the iPad – much easier to take on holidays with the spawnlings (less mess) and the animation on the platform is beautiful (pun intended). Interested in the stations as a new element, but I refuse to get suckered in to the multitude of variations available … Even with Nefarious’ birthday in 56-days and counting… Btw: Go Little Sis!!

  2. Genuinely love playing this game with the kids – and that is something I don’t say after Monopoly or Cluedo. In fact, I’m as likely to suggest a game as they are.

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