Over the last few decades, there have been a few board games that populate people’s closets and toy boxes. In the past, games like Sorry, Monopoly, Battleship, and the Game of Life have been the primary inhabitants of family game shelves. In the last ten years however, there’s been a trend toward slightly more complex games carving out a niche, supplementing the old classics. The late 20th century and early 21st century has brought us Carcassone, Settlers of Catan, and other games labeled with a “Eurogame” moniker.
This summer, Days of Wonder released their contribution to the Eurogame scene, Ticket to Ride for the iPad. Not everything is well suited to a smudgeware implementation, so how easily does Ticket to Ride adapt to this new iteration of technology?
The basic Ticket to Ride game is widely considered a classic family game after only a very few years of release. It’s a great example of the oft-repeated marketing line “easy to learn, difficult to master” popularized by Mastermind in the seventies. Summarizing a scant few pages of game manual, Ticket to Ride’s subject matter is the railroad rushes of the early 20th century starting with the basic USA map included in the $50 boxed set. A non-collectible card mechanic provides both the random and resource gathering element of the game, leaving the overall strategy of when and where to build tracks to complete route cards completely up to the players. Up to five players can play.
Every player starts with four railroad cars and up to three route cards. Each turn, you can either draw a single card from the five visible railroad cars, pick two railroad cards blindly from the deck, build tracks, or pick new route cards. Picking cards from the deck is self-explanatory. Each card has a color or is wild. Routes between cities are built by having the appropriate number of colored or wild cards to complete the track. More than one track completed between cities may complete one of your route cards. Points are scored by completing tracks, the longer the better, and completing routes. Don’t pick too many route cards- incomplete route cards at the end of the game count against your score. Depending on the rule revision you’re using, either the longest continuous stretch of track or the most route cards completed get a point bonus. Whichever player accumulates the most points, wins!
On the iPad, the initial Ticket to Ride purchase is $6.99. Most iDevice games are priced well below this, but I feel that the cost-to- benefit equation on this purchase is pretty clear. I’ll be succinct: the $6.99 initial purchase gives you 100% of the basic Ticket to Ride set. There are no omissions. And yes, the 1.1 revision fixed a major issue with the game in adding pass and play to the game, which was lacking in the original 1.0 release.
Given the $6.99 cost of admission, let’s to do some quick Amazon.com math. At press time, the basic boxed set of Ticket to Ride costs $35.48. The Europe Expansion costs $40.27, the 1910 expansion runs $16.20, and the out-of-print Switzerland map expansion is available from one seller for $125. Not even including the collectible Switzerland expansion, the basic sets and all the expansions will run you $90. All told, the iPad versions of all these expansions and the basic set cost around $14 total. Buy the entire collection for the iPad and come out at least $75 ahead!
I was fortunate. I found my basic meatspace boxed set of Ticket to Ride at our local super-sized thrift store for not much more than the iPad version of the game. Even though it was at the thrift store, it’s still important to note that it still cost more than the iPad version.
Competition on the Rails
The artificial intelligence is passable for a quick game for when you’re out of range of your internet provider. Where Ticket to Ride shines is its integration with Days of Wonder’s Ticket to Ride online opponent matching service, which has been available for the PC and Mac for some time. I’ve signed onto the service at many times of the day and night over the review period, and there’s always been somebody available to play. I didn’t experience any inadvertent (or intentional!) disconnects in my trials.
In-game communication is a little rough, with a “speech bubble” popping up that’s often truncated, appears and disappears too quickly, or has an overzealous automatic profanity filter interacting with what’s said. I’m 41. I know it’s hard to enforce online, but I think I can deal with seeing the occasional profanity pop up in this bubble and not be psychologically scarred.
Continue to the conclusion on the next page!