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Board Game Review # 13 – Ticket to Ride: Europe

2011 April 29
by Michael Schroeder

There’s a couple items as far as media goes, which I enjoy, that has trains and Europe in it – National Lampoon’s European Vacation and Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express. But neither of these come close to the anxiety, tension and overall fun that I get from playing, Ticket to Ride: Europe by Alan R. Moon.

Number of players: 2-5

Age: 8+

Time: 60 minutes

Ticket to Ride: Europe by Days of Wonder

Ticket to Ride: Europe by Days of Wonder

What’s the game about?

A description from the publisher…

From the craggy hillsides of Edinburgh to the sunlit docks of Constantinople, from the dusty alleys of Pamplona to a windswept station in Berlin, Ticket to Ride Europe takes you on an exciting train adventure through the great cities of turn-of-the-century Europe.

The second installment in our best-selling Ticket to Ride series of train adventures, Ticket to Ride Europe takes you into the heart of Europe. In addition to the new board map, Ticket to Ride Europeoffers you brand new game play elements including Tunnels, Ferries and Train Stations. We’ve also upgraded you to First-Class accommodations with larger cards, new Train Station game pieces, and a lavishly illustrated game board.

When Alan R. Moon, the game designer, and we embarked on this new adventure, we worked hard to make sure we’d bring you more than just a new map, but rather a whole new game experience on the tracks of turn-of-the-century Europe.

Basic idea in my own words:

Ticket to Ride Europe takes you on a trip to Europe where anxiety and high tension await,  which makes for a lot of fun. In TTR, you are laying your own color trains down, along many tracks spread throughout Europe, in the hopes of scoring higher than anyone else, hence, winning you the game. the mechanics of this game are extremely simple, and yet there is a good amount of strategy, which makes it a fun game for families, serious gamers, and people of all ages. Take a look at the image below…that is the game board. Notice all the color track sections and cities and such.

Ticket to Ride: Europe - Game Board

Ticket to Ride: Europe – Game Board

“I want to see what the trains look like!” Sure, here’s an image of your trains.

Yellow, green and blue trains in TTR

Yellow, green and blue trains in TTR

As you can see above in the train image, everyone has a bunch of small, plastic trains of their respective color. In addition, you’ll receive a wooden token which is placed on the game board score track, which indicates what your current score is. I also forgot to mention, in the European version, you also receive 3 train stations, pictured above, too (I’ll explain these later).

So I bet your wondering how these trains get laid down and what a turn is like…I’ll gladly explain.

What’s a game turn like?

On your turn, you have 1 action you may take.

  1. Take train cards – Throughout the game, train cards are laid down, face-up, on the side of the board for players to draw, in addition you may also draw from the face-down draw stack. Why would you want to draw cards, you may ask? Because you need these cards in order to plop down your trains! So, this game contains a mechanic of set collection and hand management. Take a look at an example of a train card in the image below…
    Ticket to Ride Train Card

    Ticket to Ride Train Card

    This train card is a red train card, which means, that if you want to lay down your train cars on a track that has red track sections on it, you’ll need these cards. Take a look back above at the game board, you’ll see some all red tracks that are 1 or 3 lengths. When you lay down a train or trains, you must complete the track. A track section is between two cities. So between Berlin and Frankfurt, if you want to claim that red section of track, you’ll need 3 red train cards. But don’t do that now, I’m still explaining the action of drawing cards.

    So back to basics here, this action, of drawing cards, you draw 2 cards. If you draw a locomotive, which is a multi-colored wildcard, that is face-up, that locomotive must be your first and only card drawn. the wildcards are great, they can be used as any track color and type, but the penalty for taking it is, you can’t take another card.

    Another thing to note is, during your draw cards action, if say, you draw a white train card, that is face-up, then you may take from the top of the draw stack and hope to get lucky…and if you’re really lucky, you’ll receive a locomotive wild card – which is legal! Just don’t tell anyone what you drew. And as a 3rd option, you may even draw both of your 2 cards off the draw pile, and in some cases, I’ve received 3 locomotives.

    After you have drawn your two cards, if any face-up cards are gone, replenish them from the draw deck. Your turn is done. Move onto the person to your left.

  2. Lay down trains – In this action, you will discard X amount of train cards and lay down X trains. So, if you wanted that red track section of 3 length, you must discard 3 red train cards, into the discard deck. Then you may place a train in each red track section of that segment. Your turn is done, Move onto the next player (but I have a bit more explanation to do…). I haven’t mentioned ferries or tunnels. Fairies are track segments that cross water. In these situations, you must have at least 1 wildcard locomotive card along with all the same of any one color. Look back at the player board at the top. See on the bottom middle of the board there is a track segment crossing water that is 6 segments long, 2 of which have train icons on them? That means you must supply 2 wildcards and 4 of any one color, so 2 wildcards and 4 red. Then you can lay down your trains. Also to note, that in a 2 or 3 player game, only one player may put his trains across any double track segment. If you take a look in western Europe, near France and Germany, there’s a lot of track segments next to each other – that gives players opportunity to lay their trains down and not get cut off, but these are only legal in 4 and 5 player games. Also, note, in these 4 and 5 player games, that you may only claim 1 track segment, not both.Tunnels: Tunnels are the most complicated part of the game. If you look at the track board, you’ll see tracks that look different, and have notches on the sides of them. these are tunnels. In order to lay down trains on tunnel spaces, you must lay down X of 1 color as usual, but before you do that, you must turn over 3 cards from the top of the draw deck and if any of these trains that are turned over, match your color that your trying to lay down, you must pay an additional card of that color. Here’s an example. See in the lower right corner of the board, the 3 red tunnel segments? Well, to lay down track there, you’d need 3 red, and hope that you don’t turn over any other reds. Say you turn over 1 red and 1 wild, oh darn, you must pay an extra 2 red! And if you don’t have it, you get your cards back into your hand, and the random cards drawn off the top of the draw stack go into discard. So as a tip here…I’d have at least 2 extra red or a red and wild in this case, because at that point, everyone is going to know what you’re going for and may try to cut you off. But that’s about about laying down trains! Next turn.
  3. Take new tickets – at the beginning of the game, everyone must choose, I believe, 1 large destination ticket, and gets to choose other, shorter destination tickets, if desired. you better hope the tickets you got handed during the setup of the game all overlap, if so, take them all, you’re in luck! If not, it’s up to you, either way, to decide what destination tickets you want to keep. What destination tickets are for, is to give you bonus points, or deduct points from you, at the end of the game. Larger destinations offer points such as maybe, 20. While shorter destination tickets will offer points, around 10, maybe. These destination tickets can make or break the game for you. Generally, when people start the game, they are either going to start collection train cards to complete section of track that is in the middle, or in highly contested or central areas, or they will try to start building track based off their destination tickets. That’s what I typically do. Because if you don’t get that large destination ticket satisfied at the end of the game, you’re screwed.
    Ticket to ride Destination Cards

    Ticket to ride Destination Cards

    So, your main objective in this game is to complete your destination tickets. So, let’s say you do, and you want more! Well, for this action, you may take a set of new destination tickets, I believe you get 1 or 2, and among these, you must take one. This action could be the end of you, if its toward the end of the game and your taking a destination ticket, and it’s not overlapping track you already laid, you could be in trouble. Next turn! And when the turn comes  back to you, you must by this point, decide what destination tickets you want, and put the others in the box, and take your new turn.

  4. Lay a train station – The other type of action unique to this version of TTR is the train stations. What the train stations do, is allows you to connect your track for destination card purposes to have a connected route. “What do you mean?” Well, in this game, the high anxiety and tension is mostly driven from the fear that someone else is going to claim the track that you wanted. I know a friend of mine that stormed out because someone took his track at the end of the game – and my friend that laid that 1 train, really had no business being there! So there’s always this feeling of racing in this game, which is great, but if your one track segment away from having a completely connected set of trains, and you need it to complete a destination ticket, well, for 1, 2 or 3 train cards of any color, you may place one down in a city, that currently does not have one. This will make it so that you can complete that destination ticket. BUT, this is not good for having the longest track, which gives you an extra 10 points at the end of the game.

So there you have it, that is an explanation of the actions you may take in this game.

Game end and scoring:

The game ends when one person has at least 2 or less trains in his supply. Upon which, everyone, including that player, may take 1 more action.

At game end, the person with the longest track, will receive 10 extra points.

For any train stations you did NOT use, you’ll receive 4 points – so your greatly encouraged not to use them.

You receive X points for completing destination tickets. And for any non complete, you lose X points – where X is indicated on the destination ticket.

You receive X points for completing segments. So for instance, if you lay down an 8 segment track, you’ll get 21 points, I believe (only one of these in the game). This scoring is actually done throughout the game, but when I play it, we always do it at the end, due to risk of people accidentally hitting the score markers.

And the player with the most points at the end of the game, is the winner!

Component Quality: 4/5

The components in this game are top notch quality. Typical of Days of Wonder. The trains are decently detailed but it’s the stock of the cards, the board, the box and the manual where the components shine in this game. It’s a square box game too, which is my favorite and easily stackable. Inside the box, there are compartments to put each color and the cards.

Theme: 5/5

I’m liking train games more and more it seems. This game has a great theme and blends well with the mechanics.

Luck Factor: 3/5

There’s a lot of luck in this game due to the luck of the draw with cards and destination tickets. There’s plenty of strategy, but it’s not overwhelming. The luck factor is something that makes this game more accessible and enjoyable by a more main stream and non-gamer audience.

Strategy: 3/5

Even though there’s quite a bit of luck in this game. There’s good strategy, too. For instance, I find I like to hold onto my cards and collect and collect, before I lay down any track, because once you lay down track, people are going to get pressured and need and want to cut you off. So I like to see what I need a head of time and in addition, see what I need for alternative routes and then start laying down train one turn after another.

Overall feelings: 5/5

I absolutely love this game! And so does everyone else I know that’s played it. In fact, I’m getting the urge to play it now, as I’m writing this. It doesn’t get as much play as it used to, due the owning so many more and more complex games, but this is a staple game that I will never want to part with. I love the tension and anxiety this game causes, coupled with the simplicity, it is a great balance to make a great game! If you don’t own this game, or another TTR variant, where have you been! I personally like this edition better than the US version because there’s the bigger cards, and the option of the train stations.

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