Ticket to Ride is another example of how Days of Wonder are truly capturing the transferrence of their games to the iPad. Not only does it transition to the iPad well as a game, but it is one that has been executed brilliantly.
For those who do not know this classic game, the premise is acquiring train routes in a set map between cities. One starts the game by chosing at least two tickets that require you to link lines between them. Throughout the game, you can choose more tickets to create higher demands with better payoffs. However, be careful, because while completed routes will gain you points at the end of the game, incompleted routes will penalise you that same amount.
To do so, you will have to claim a number of tracks as necessary between those destinations to link them. Of course, since you’re not the only one trying to do so, there is a careful balance between hoarding tickets to allow you to purchase the longer more wealthier roads and getting in first to buy some of the smaller (and often critical) routes. While there are often alternative routes that you can take, such digressions are costly and can easily set you back.
Additionally, you and your opponents have limited numbers of carriages, and the game’s last turn occurs when someone is down to two or less carriages. A number of times I, and other players, have been caught out because we had our eyes so fixed on our own network of train routes that we lose sight of how close to finishing. Don’t be left in the lurch with a bunch of unfinished tickets because you ran out of time, or worse because you ran out of carriages. The latter occuring because you’ve had to digress is understandible, but not having enough in the first place is just embarrasing (don’t ask how the iPad knows… it knows… it watches me).
To complete a given track, you need to collect tickets of the same colour equal to the number of spaces in a single tracks. Tracks on the board will either be grey or coloured. Grey tracks can be completed with tickets of any colour, while coloured tracks must be matched by tickets of the same colour. During each turn, you have the option of picking up cards of carriages (and locomotives), claiming a track, or acquiring new tickets. However, the last is a bit of a gamble since the choice is random, and you could be stuck with a real bad choice that changes your winning game into a losing one. For reference, locomotives count as wild cards that can be used to replace any colour. However, if you draw them from the face up choice of cards, that’s the only card you draw that round.
The game also scales up well from two and three players to four and five players. This occurs because there are a number of double tracks on the board, of which both lanes can be claimed independently for 4-5 players, but only one in lower numbers. This is a clever use of the board that constrains the game where necessary.
There are a few winning strategies, and they’re all about a balance between conservation and risk. You can go for shorter routes with less pay off, or larger routes and better pay off. Obviously, where possible attempt to select tickets whose routes potentially double up, thereby saving you some carriages. I often find it helps if I’m feeling confident to simply make my first move to draw another set of cards. So far I’ve managed to successfully complete the game with up to seven completed ticket routes.
However, I would suggest that the best strategies employ at least one (preferably two) long routes. Partly because the longer the individual track that is claimed, the more points you get compared to shorter routes of equal carriages (ie: one track of six lenghts is worth more than two tracks of three lengths), and these accumulate towards the end. Last but not least, there’s an additional ten points waiting for the longest consecutive tracks, so sometimes it’s worthwhile making a side loop or detour it it means your entire track is one continuous line.
There’s still more! There are a range of expansions or companion games that you can buy in game. This includes the popular European variant, the Swiss variant, and all the 1910 ticket expansions (with new and more demanding routes for the US board). With the European variant (my favourite), you encounter tunnels of variable length, ferries that require locomotives, and an opportunity to revise your European geography if you live in the USA.
Days of Wonder has once again set a benchmark for iPad games. Every bit of the game has been translated to the iPad remarkably. All the graphics are crisp and faithful to the colourful designs that are the hallmark of Days of Wonder. It is peppered with lovely little animations and sounds that are just downrighth cheerful. All of its visual presentation goes above and beyond providing a game at its most basic necessities. This is what Days of Wonder do best, they use the visual and audio stimuli to draw you into the game, and I certainly lost a good part of my day to this fact.
The tutorials are brilliant, in that they take anyone from the novice to the expert through the game, and will even help you play your first part of the game for you if you like. They have youtube video tutorials linked in the game to teach you about the game itself if you need a more in depth demonstration of the rules. This cannot be understated, the ability for the iPad as an interactive medium allows for us to capitalise on these tools, rather than simply refer to a written piece of rules that don’t always help us visualise the game play.
As you can see, the menus and other back-of-house aspects to the game have been given detail and attention, including an option to switch things around for left-handed players.
I have found the AI to be challenging enough that I don’t always win, and cannot simply breeze through, but not so torturous that I want to try and find some high schoolers to beat out of sheer indignation. With the multiplayer options and variants already available, there is an immense replay value for this game.
Verdict – 10/10 – it’s a tick in every box!