Friday, January 17, 2014

MIXED BAG. TABLETOP TALES REVIEW! TICKET TO RIDE!

TABLETOP TALES PRESENTS

Designers: Alan R. Moon
Artist: Cyrille Daujean & Julien Delval
Publishers:  Days of Wonder
Type: German-Style Board Game
Themes: Train-Themed, Transportation, Travel
# of Players: 2-5
Ages: 8 & Up
Time to Play: 30-60 min.
Approx. Price: $40-50


There is a certain type of person. This type of person is obsessed with trains. Like really obsessed with trainsLike obsessively compulsively neurotically erotically obsessed with trains.

These people will buy DVD sets with literally dozens of hours of nothing but trains, people talking about trains, and people singing about trains. People like trains. Lots and lots of trains. Big trains, little trains, steam trains, diesel trains, and passenger trains, old trains, new trains, fast trains, slow trains, and especially toy trains.

And that's perfectly okay. It's like any other hobby. It may seem funny to some, but it's an understandable think to geek out about. Trains are a part of every day life, whether we realize it or not, as a means of transportation of both people and products. The railroads infrastructure built in America, for example, made expansion from East to West possible and the train is a symbol of industrialization and progress. While traditional steam train technology has become somewhat antiquated, many different sorts of trains are still used today and new trains will be used in the future, changing with the times.

Trains are, all at once, antique, modern, and futuristic, making them a timeless subject for entertainment. This leads us to the article's topic, my review of Ticket to Ride, an award winning board game (2004 Game of the Year in Germany) that takes us chugging forward into 2014. Let's get to the review:

Ticket to Ride is probably the most accessible game I've reviewed so far; it is appropriate for children, adults, and the elderly. It's appeal is also universal because it is about trains:

WIL WHEATON'S TABLETOP: TICKET TO RIDE FT. COLIN FERFUSON, ANNE WHEATON, & AMY DALLEN!

If you don't want to read my explanation of the game's premise and rules, feel free to watch Wil Wheaton explain the simplicity in elegance in the video linked above.

Specifically, the story behind the game is that you're simulating a group of wealthy industrialists trying to travel the longest distance, across destinations in America, during the same period of time with a million dollar prize as the stake in the competition.

To simulate this very turn of the 20th Century fantasy, each player collects and plays matching train cards to claim railroad routes between connecting cities throughout North America. The longer a player's route/s, the more routes they claim, the more points they receive, with the person with the longest route receiving ten bonus points at the end of the game. Additional points are reward for players successfully completing the routes on their Destination Ticket cards and points are lost for every Destination Ticket Card they fail to complete.

In order to achieve these goals, each player takes a turn each round and does one of the following three actions:

Draw either one or two Train Car Cards,  claim a route by discarding Train Car Cards of the number of units and color matching the route, or take the risk of drawing additional Destination Tickets.

The premise is simple and, in the end, the player with the most points is the victor and victory is sweet.

PRESENTATION

Keeping with theme of elegance and simplicity, the board, cards, and train pieces are extraordinarily pleasant & presented in gorgeous color, the cards telegraph their function with ease, and the board serves the game as both a place to place trains and keep track of score. This game is easy to set up, easy to clean up, and, as aforementioned, easy to learn and teach. Talking about Ticket to Ride's presentation is incredibly easy because it is so good.

It only comes with a few components that easily stored in the box:

A board representing North America, five different colors of train piece for each player, two decks of cards-- the Destination Ticket cards and the Train Car Cards (pictured to the left)-- and a player piece for each player to use to keep their score.

As you can see in the many images plastered across the article, the components are colorful, easy to read, and easy to understand. There really isn't anything I can think of to improve the game as it looks fun on the shelf and on your game table.

A good game with good design sensibility? But does it play? You can probably already guess how this review/love letter is going...

PLAYABILITY & REPLAYABILITY

Alrighty, so Ticket to Ride's big strengths, so far, are how easy the game is to learn and how nicely all the pieces come together. But how does it play?

Well, the first time I played it, my friends seemed to have trouble understanding the rules for about one turn. This seems to be commonplace with most games, especially if someone doesn't play close attention when you explain, you miss out on an important feature, or someone just scans the rules quickly before you play, but, with Ticket to Ride, the simplicity of the game makes it so easy to pick up that these weaknesses in teaching the game, any game, are eliminated. Everyone quickly figures out how to play and anyone can teach the rules, but is it fun?
 
Does the Simpsons make almost any train jokes as they do math jokes? 

While the simplicity may put off some more experienced gamers expecting a deeper story and strategy experience in their games, Ticket to Ride is the perfect game for short breaks between other more complex games and a must-have for your family game night. My friends like Ticket to Ride. My family loves Ticket to Ride. My mother and sister got me to play the game about ten times already since Christmas and I think they'll be getting me to play it again and again for the rest of our lives.

If that isn't an endorsement, I don't know what is an endorsement.

P.S. With an over a dozen expansions and editions to the game, you can always spice up your board game travels.

PROS VS. CONS
+ The competitive premise of trying to gain a monopoly on train routes is surprisingly fun.
+ The pieces and board, like the game, are elegant, simple, and well-made.
+ The game is easy to learn, easy to teach, and easy to pick-up & play any time that you, your friends, and/or your family are in the mood for some

CONCLUSION?
 MUST BUY: TIMELESSLY CLASSIC. LIKE TRAINS.

I Choo Choo Choose Ticket to Ride to be my favorite casual board game and family night go to board game in 2014 and for years to come!

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