Telegraphing Ticket to Ride

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Since 2007, the 2004 Spiel des Jahres award-winning board game Ticket to Ride from Days of Wonder, has been supported with new maps, beginning with Ticket to Ride: Switzerland. That new map would be collected in the Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland, the second entry in the Map Collection series begun in Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 – Team Asia & Legendary Asia. Both of these have proved to be worthy additions to the Ticket to Ride line, whereas Ticket to Ride Map Collection vol. 3: The Heart of Africa and Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 – Nederland have proved to add more challenging game play, but at a cost in terms of engaging game play. Further given that they included just the one map in the third and fourth volumes rather than the two in each of the first two, neither felt as if they provided as much value either. Fortunately, Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 5: United Kingdom + Pennsylvania came with two maps and explored elements more commonly found in traditional train games—stocks and shares in railroad companies and the advance of railway technology. The next map collection in the series, Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West, explore a common theme, but each offers very different game play.

As is standard with the Map Collection series, both maps in Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West will require the use of the train pieces and train cards from a Ticket to Ride core set. Designed for between two and five players, it includes fifty-eight Destination Tickets cards, two Bonus cards, and sixty-four Track Pieces. The map board is played vertically rather than horizontally and depicts the rail routes across France. The very first thing that strikes you about the France map is that nearly all of the routes are blank—not grey, but blank. Single routes are coloured as standard, nearly all of them running west from Paris to Nantes on the Alantic coast and from Paris north to Le Havre on the English Channel. Besides the city to city routes, the map has links to four countries—Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, and grey ferry routes to the island of Corsica. The routes on the Destination Tickets include the standard city-to-city routes as well as city-to-country and country-to-country routes. The bonus cards are the Globetrotter card for the most Destination Tickets completed and the Longest Route card for the longest continuous route. The Track Pieces come in the standard colours of the Train Tickets from a Ticket to Ride core set and are either two, three, four, or five sections long.

At the start of the game, each player receives eight Train Cards and five Destination Tickets—of which a player must keep three. He also receives forty Train pieces rather than the standard forty-five. On his turn, a player can do one of three things as per
Ticket to Ride. Either draw two Train Cards, play Train pieces and claim a route, or draw new Destination Tickets. What prevents a player from claiming most of the routes is that they are blank, so before a player can claim a route, he must lay the track first. After a player draws two Train cards, he also takes one of the Track Pieces and places it on one of the blank routes. That route can now be claimed by anyone, including the player who placed it. When the route is claimed, the player places the requisite Train pieces, claims the points, and removes the Track Piece which goes back into the regular supply from where it can taken on any of the players’ subsequent turns.

There are also routes which cross over other routes. When a Track Piece is laid over one of these, it renders all of the other blank routes it is played inaccessible and means that nobody can claim them. It is possible that when a player does this, he will block shorter routes to cities that another player might want to get to, forcing him to take a longer series of connections that he had originally intended. And in a game where a player has forty Train pieces rather than the standard forty-five, this may well mean that a player will finding himself running out of Trains if this happens too many times.


So, in order to connect the cities or countries on the map, a player has to build the routes first. Fundamentally, what this means is that when a player lays a Track Piece, he is signalling to the other players where he intends to build. Sometimes the other players can use this against him, for example, by claiming the route before him or by placing a Track Piece of a colour on a connecting route which they think he does not have Train Cards for. A player could also place a Track Piece elsewhere on the map completely away from where he actually needs to build as a means of misdirection. As the game progresses, there will be more and more Train Pieces on the board, which will often limit what and where a player can place a Track Piece. In these later stages of the game, the placement of Track Pieces is not always relevant and does feel like an unnecessary step, slowing the flow of the game down.


At its heart, the France map for
Ticket to Ride adds another set of choices for the players to make, not just what routes they claim, but what routes to lay first. So, it is more complex whilst at the same time the colour of the routes change from game to game. Overall, the France map is more complex to play and so not quite as light as other Ticket to Ride maps, and longer to play because more decisions need to be made. So the France map is definitely one for Ticket to Ride devotees rather than a family audience.

Designed for between two and five players, it includes fifty-eight Destination Tickets cards, two Bonus cards, and sixty-four Track Pieces. The map board is played vertically rather than horizontally and depicts the rail routes across France. The very first thing that strikes you about the France map is that nearly all of the routes are blank—not grey, but blank. Single routes are coloured as standard, nearly all of them running west from Paris to Nantes on the Alantic coast and from Paris north to Le Havre on the English Channel. Besides the city to city routes, the map has links to four countries—Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, and grey ferry routes to the island of Corsica. The routes on the Destination Tickets include the standard city-to-city routes as well as city-to-country and country-to-country routes. The bonus cards are the Globetrotter card for the most Destination Tickets completed and the Longest Route card for the longest continuous route. The Track Pieces come in the standard colours of the Train Tickets from a Ticket to Ride core set and are either two, three, four, or five sections long.

At the start of the game, each player receives eight Train Cards and five Destination Tickets—of which a player must keep three. He also receives forty Train pieces rather than the standard forty-five. On his turn, a player can do one of three things as per Ticket to Ride. Either draw two Train Cards, play Train pieces and claim a route, or draw new Destination Tickets. What prevents a player from claiming most of the routes is that they are blank, so before a player can claim a route, he must lay the track first. After a player draws two Train cards, he also takes one of the Track Pieces and places it on one of the blank routes. That route can now be claimed by anyone, including the player who placed it. When the route is claimed, the player places the requisite Train pieces, claims the points, and removes the Track Piece which goes back into the regular supply from where it can taken on any of the players’ subsequent turns.


There are also routes which cross over other routes. When a Track Piece is laid over one of these, it renders all of the other blank routes it is played inaccessible and means that nobody can claim them. It is possible that when a player does this, he will block shorter routes to cities that another player might want to get to, forcing him to take a longer series of connections that he had originally intended. And in a game where a player has forty Train pieces rather than the standard forty-five, this may well mean that a player will finding himself running out of Trains if this happens too many times.


So, in order to connect the cities or countries on the map, a player has to build the routes first. Fundamentally, what this means is that when a player lays a Track Piece, he is signalling to the other players where he intends to build. Sometimes the other players can use this against him, for example, by claiming the route before him or by placing a Track Piece of a colour on a connecting route which they think he does not have Train Cards for. A player could also place a Track Piece elsewhere on the map completely away from where he actually needs to build as a means of misdirection. As the game progresses, there will be more and more Train Pieces on the board, which will often limit what and where a player can place a Track Piece. In these later stages of the game, the placement of Track Pieces is not always relevant and does feel like an unnecessary step, slowing the flow of the game down.


At its heart, the France map for Ticket to Ride adds another set of choices for the players to make, not just what routes they claim, but what routes to lay first. So, it is more complex whilst at the same time the colour of the routes change from game to game. Overall, the France map is more complex to play and so not quite as light as other Ticket to Ride maps, and longer to play because more decisions need to be made. So the France map is definitely one for Ticket to Ride devotees rather than a family audience.


If the France map from Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West is different to Ticket to Ride, the Old West map is really different. First, it is designed for two to six players, something that rarely features in a Ticket to Ride game. To support this, an extra set of Train Pieces—in white—is included in Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West, along with a white scoring marker. It also comes with fifty Destination Tickets, two Bonus cards—Globetrotter and Alvin, eighteen City Markers, and the Alvin the Alien Marker. The map is again played vertically and looks like a standard Ticket to Ride map, that is, a mix of coloured and grey routes (rather the blank ones of France map). It depicts the western half of the United States of America, from Roswell and Wolf Point in the east to Seattle and San Diego in the west on the Pacific coast. A single ferry route runs from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

At the start of the game, each player receives five Destination Cards and must keep three. He also receives three City Markers to match the colour of his Train pieces. As part of the set-up, each player places one of his City Markers in the city of his choice. This is important because when a player begins claiming routes and placing Train pieces, he must start from the city where his City Marker is placed. And then when he next claims a route and places Train pieces, it has to be connected to a route he has already claimed. He cannot claim a route that is not connected to a route he has already claimed. So just like the France map, players on the Old West map are telegraphing where they are building to, if not more so!


When a player claims a route, he can also place one of his City Markers in the city he is building to if the city does not have one already. This costs two extra cards of the same colour as the route just claimed. Or a player can use Locomotive (or wild) Train cards.


The placement of City Markers not only affects what routes a player can claim, it can also affect what points he will score for claiming a route. If the route claimed is connected to a city with a City Marker, the points go to the player who owns the City Marker—even if that is another player! If the route connects two cities which both have City Markers, then the two who own the City Markers score the points score the points. If it happens that the player owns both City Markers at either end of the route being claimed, then he scores twice—one for each for City Marker—even if the route is being claimed by another player!


What is interesting here is that play on the Old West map—like the France map—involves the players signalling to each other where they planning to build next. On the France it is with the Track Pieces and not always quite as obvious, but on the Old West map is more obvious because each player must claim routes which connect to his existing network. The addition of the City Markers brings an element of area control to the game because players will want to avoid connecting to cities which have other players’ City Markers in them as it costs them points to connect to them. Conversely players who have City Markers will want other players to connect to these cities for exactly the same reason. Of course, the likelihood is that the players will have to connect to cities with other players’ City Markers in them in order to complete their Destination Tickets. This is especially so with more players as they compete for the same routes.


The Old West map includes a variant. This involves Alvin the Alien, a character from the Ticket to Ride: Alvin and Dexter expansion released in 2011. Fortunately, that expansion is not required to play this variant as a cardboard counter is provided to represent Alvin the Alien. In this variant, the Alvin the Alien counter is placed—naturally, or unnaturally, enough—in the city of Roswell. The first player to claim a route which connects to Roswell also captures Alvin. This scores him an extra ten points and he has to move the Alvin the Alien counter to a city which he controls, including his starting city. If another player then connects to the new city where Alvin the Alien is now located, then he scores ten points and has to move Alvin the Alien to a city that he controls, and so on, and so on. This can occur multiple times, but the player who has control of Alvin the Alien at the end of the game scores another ten points.


The effect of this variant is to counter the inclination for players to not want to connect to cities already connected to by other players, especially if that city contains a City Marker. This is because connecting to a city with Alvin the Alien in it will score the player points and score him more if one of his cities contains Alvin the Alien at the end of the game.


Thematically, the Alvin the Alien variant does not really suit the Old West map. Of course with the inclusion of Roswell on the map it does, but this is a map of the Old West and not the modern west of the post-Roswell alien saucer crash.


Physically,
Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West is for the most part, the same high-quality product we have come to expect for the Ticket to Ride line. Both maps are large, mounted, and clear and easy to use, both sets of cards are easy to read and orientate to the board, and the rulebooks again, clear and easy to read and understand. The new plastic Train pieces are serviceable, but the cardboard Track Pieces do feel somewhat cheap in comparison. They are not done on thin cardstock, but not thick cardstock either. They are also a little fiddly in play. Thematically both maps and cards match their settings, so there is a richness of colour and style to the France map and cards, whilst those for the Old West are dusty and dry. Certainly the Old West map feels as if you are playing the expanded half of the North America map from the original Ticket to Ride (which leaves one to wonder if there might be the equivalent of an Old East map covering the eastern half of the United States, and if there were, could the Old West and Old East maps be joined and played together?).

So both maps in
Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West are about telegraphing to your fellow players where you intend to claim routes next. Each map presents a different solution though and thus different challenges for the players. Of the two, Old West is the easier, even more direct when it comes to claiming routes and so will be easier to play by the more casual audience, whereas France includes a greater complexity which forces every player think about the routes they need to claim, not once, but twice—once to build and once to claim. Overall, the combination of new mechanics and challenges serve to make Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West a solid expansion which will definitely appeal to the Ticket to Ride devotee.

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