08-Jun-2008All month
Ticket to Ride: The Card Game

There are at least three versions of Ticket to Ride boardgames out there. Does the world really need a card game too?

Veterans of the board game will immediately recognise most of the cards. They mainly consist of train "components" (carriages and locomotives) or tickets. The rest are bonus cards, which I'll come back to. The purpose of the game is familiar too. Take cards and use them to achieve routes. Of course there are no plastic bits and no board. So how does this all work then?

Well, closer examination of the tickets will show that each has one or more coloured circles on them. To score them, you need to match them with the appropriately coloured train cards - locomotives are wild, and can be used for any colour. Failing to score them is a bad thing. The penalty for this is being clobbered by a negative score.

But matching them isn't as simple as picking up train cards and laying down matches. And this is where the mechanism unique to the card game comes into play. Throughout the game you will be laying cards down in front of you. You can lay down a set of like (coloured) cards or three different coloured cards. These are stacked by colour. If they're still there by your next turn you get to put the top card from each stack into a facedown pile. It's the cards in this pile which you match against tickets in the scoring rounds. Again, it's not quite so simple as this as there are restrictions on which cards you can lay down. But let's not worry about that, and go back to my earlier comment about the cards being "still there" at the start of your next turn. This is due to a nasty little rule, whereby if you lay down a stack of a colour, anybody else with this colour in front of them has to discard them. Ouch!

Scoring happens twice in the game. After the first depletion of the deck, you score any tickets you can. You can keep any others until later, but you lose all the cards which you've played so far. The second scoring is after the second deck depletion. Again you score as many tickets as you can, but this time you get negative points for any tickets you have left. Last but not least, there are bonus points for whoever has the most tickets which include particular cities.

Turns are pretty straightforward. They consist of two phases. The first is to move cards from your open display into the face down pile. The second is to take one of three actions. These are to draft cards, take tickets, or play cards to your display.

All in all then, a combination of the familiar and the new. It plays like a cross between Ticket to Ride, Union Pacific and Mamma Mia.

Our overall feeling was positive. We clocked quite early that we wouldn't be able to do our normal "two from the top" until the deck was exhausted, as we wouldn't be able to score any tickets in the first scoring phase. Thus we found ourselves cagily laying cards in front of us to see what would happen. By and large, most of these cards ended up in the face down piles, though we all had a fairly large set of cards left after the first half of the game. we seemed to be achieving around three or four tickets each. By the second half we'd got into the swing of things, slapping down large sets of cards much to the chagrin of anybody who'd laid a slightly smaller set of the same colour. Insincere apologies were flying around the table. Despite this we managed to accrue better scores in the second half of the game, further boosted by the bonus points.

All in all we enjoyed this, especially the injection of a bit of nastiness. To answer the earlier question, the world doesn't really need this game. But it does play a bit differently to the board game, and is much more portable.

 Comment by Andy 
Slight correction - scoring only happens once if playing with less than 4 players. Personally I can take it or leave it with this game which feels a bit like 4-player-but-solo version of Mama Mia with a nasty twist.

Scores: Paul 115, Oggie 115, Andy 109, Tel 82
Ratings: Paul 8, Oggie 8, Andy 7, Tel 7
Winner(s): Paul