If you don’t enjoy board games, it is probably because you have never played a good board game.
Growing up in The United States of America is wonderful, and I am very grateful that I live here. But American board games are terrible. I grew up playing Monopoly, Candy Land, and the like. Monopoly is so boring that everyone has invented their own “house rules”, and Candy Land has no choices to make.
When I was in college, I was introduced to German games and my love of boards games began. German games are games that started in Germany, or games that fit that style. There are a few key characteristics that makes a German game: a lot of strategy, a little bit of luck, and multiple ways to win. The classic German game that started it all is Settlers of Catan.
Settlers of Catan, like many of these games, has a high learning curve. Most of your first game (or two) is spent learning the rules and trying to figure out a strategy. So I will save the review of Settlers until later even though it is my favorite game.
A great game that does not have such a steep learning curve is Ticket To Ride!
The board is a map of the USA with colored train routes connecting cities. The goal is to score points by playing trains and completing tickets. You start the game with ticket cards that tell you which cities you need to connect (and you can draw more ticket cards later in the game).
In addition to your ticket cards, you also have colored train cards. These are the cards that you will use to play trains on the board. For example, if you want to connect Little Rock and Nashville, you would need 3 white train cards (or some white and some wild cards) to match the white route on the board that is length 3. The longer the train route is, the more points it is worth. (The routes that you play match the color of cards that you play, not the color of your little plastic trains).
Some of the routes are gray. You can complete these routes with any color of card, but they must be the same color.
On your turn you can draw ticket cards, draw train cards, or use your train cards to place trains on the board.
When you draw train cards, you can choose from one of the 5 cards that are face up, or choose to take cards from the top of the deck. This helps take some of the randomness out of the game.
The original game comes with tiny little train cards and few ticket cards. I would strongly recommend that you get the Ticket To Ride 1910 Expansion. It has normal sized train cards to replace the small ones, and it has additional ticket cards.
You can try to complete longer tickets that worth more points, or you can complete more shorter tickets. You can just try to complete tickets, or you can try to use long routes so that you score more points.
Very often in the game, you get cut off when someone else plays a route that you want, so you have to be able to adapt your strategies.
Why I like the game:
There is a lot of strategy, and a little luck.
It is also a good review of geography.
It is fun without being too complicated.
We recently had the chance to play the Europe version of Ticket to Ride with our friends from Half a Hundred Acre Wood. The game had 3 major rule changes (and obviously the board was a map of Europe).
Ferries: Some of the gray routes cross water and are referred to as ferries. Some of the spaces on these routes have the wild card symbol. You must play wild cards for these spaces and only these spaces when completing a ferry route. For example if a ferry has 5 spaces and 2 of them have wild card symbols, you must play exactly 2 wilds and 3 matching colored cards.
Tunnels: Some of the routes through the mountains are marked as tunnels. When you play a tunnel route, you reveal the top 3 cards from the deck. For each card that matches the color you played, you have to play another card.
Stations: I like the stations, because they can make the game less frustrating. If you play a station in a city, you can use one of your opponent’s routes from that city to complete one of your tickets.
Because Ticket To Ride – Europe has all of the same rules as the original game, plus some extras, I recommend playing the original game first. If you are already familiar with the original version, Europe is a nice twist.