Ticket to Ride is a game that needs no introduction. Not only is it a popular gateway game between mainstream and niche, but it’s also won numerous awards. Yet the most telling feature of the game is how incredibly simple you can pick it up. This is thanks in part to the game’s relatively easy gameplay mechanics.
The goal of Ticket to Ride is to complete train routes across a map of the United States. Routes are completed by placing trains on a track on the board. Each track is color coded; there’s yellow, green, orange, and etc. Your specific routes are determined by destination cards drawn at the start of the game. Each route has a numerical value: you’ll gain those points for completing the route, but lose them if you don’t.
From there, you’ll draw different color cards as the game progresses. The color cards match up with the color tracks. In order to place your trains on the board, you’ll need to turn in cards equal to the amount of trains you’re placing. For example, if you’re looking to place down six trains on a purple route, you’ll turn in six purple cards. Relatively easy to pick up, but as is the case with all excellent games, the real depth lies within the strategy.
The biggest issue that a newer player will have is the fact that you only have one action per turn. You can draw cards, draw new routes, or place trains on the board. Timing is everything in Ticket to Ride; you can’t place too early or too late because you run the risk of missing out on an ideal route. While there are always multiple ways to get from point A to point B, there’s usually only one ideal way. The game’s biggest strength is the strategy that needs to be taken into account while playing the cards they draw.
Let’s examine a recently played game that included a newcomer. The two of us were neck and neck throughout most of the game and as the end neared, we were both tied at 44 points. I was about to complete a game clinching route when I was blocked off for the sole purpose of screwing me over. The result was a loss of ten points, a second place finish, and my stunned silence. She was quite happy, though.
Since Ticket to Ride‘s core mechanic is so simple to pick up and understand, such strategic moves are possible very early on. You don’t need to sit with the game a couple times and continue to learn its nuances to be good at it. Unlike the (arguably) most popular gateway game on the market, Ticket to Ride doesn’t drag on, rely on dice, or frustrate. You know why you win and why you lose. So long as you’re good at planning, you’ll do well.
Oh, and you’ll also have fun.