Designed by Alan R. Moon
Release Year: 2004 Complexity: Low-Medium
👥 2-5 Players ⏰ 30-60 min 💸 ~$45 🔗 Buy
Note: Pictures in this review show cards from the 1910 expansion.
The goal in Ticket to Ride is to claim routes on the map in an effort to form connections between the cities on your destination tickets. Each turn, you can either collect train cards, spend train cards to claim a route, or draw additional destination tickets. You will need to balance collecting new cards with locking in routes on the board, all while adapting to the actions of other players and deciding how much to push your luck with additional destinations. The player who can accumulate the most points from completed destinations and routes will be the winner.
Ticket to Ride is an extremely accessible game, but this low rules overhead does not translate to trivial decisions or a lack of depth. Every single decision that players make comes with a tradeoff: can I keep collecting train cards, or will someone claim an important route before I get the chance? Since all the Destination cards are secret, no one is quite sure of which routes are valuable or useless to the other players at the table. As the first routes are played, players' intentions are slowly uncovered, but it is not uncommon for someone to claim a route that catches other players off guard, as it is nowhere near their other connections.
However, playing conservatively is rarely the winning strategy in Ticket to Ride. You will likely need to take additional Destination cards at some point in the game if you want to compete, but when is the best time to acquire them? Do you take extra Destination cards long before you have completed your starting ones, gaining the advantage of being able to optimize how they overlap, but allowing your opponents more opportunity to get in your way early in the game? Or do you focus on finishing your initial destinations, ensuring that you have a solid base before pushing your luck with more Destination cards? And toward the end of the game, is it better to risk taking additional Destination cards, or do you think you are in a position where you could push the end of the game by quickly playing the rest of your trains? There is a satisfying tension running through a game of Ticket to Ride as the map slowly fills up and you weigh the tradeoffs of the three actions each turn.
Player Counts - With just the base game, Ticket to Ride is really best with 3-5 players. 2-player is “fine,” there will just be less interesting interaction on the map. That said, it is a game that has been expanded continuously over the last 20 years, and there are map expansions available that cater more to specific player counts.
Abstract vs. Thematic - The railroad theme using real-world geography is nice, but it is definitely abstracted pretty far as players collect sets of colors to complete links in the board’s network.
Luck vs. Skill - The random draw with destinations and train cards certainly adds a luck factor, but in our experience there is a lot of room for skillful play with knowing how to time your actions, predicting your opponents’ plans, and being opportunistic with the train cards and routes that are made available. Over a larger sample of plays, it becomes more evident that more skilled players tend to win more often.
Multiplayer Solitaire vs. Highly Interactive - While you are working towards your own goals by collecting cards without a lot of influence from your opponents, the shared map ensures that, especially with higher player counts, this is a very interactive game. As the board fills, almost every turn has you weighing which routes you think are most likely to be taken, informing how you prioritize the pieces of your strategy.
Short Setup vs. Long Setup - Ticket to Ride is super easy to set up: just lay out the board, shuffle the decks of cards, and then deal everyone their starting destination and train cards.
Easy to Teach vs. Hard to Teach - It is a game that is easy to teach, largely because the objective of connecting routes is so tangible and intuitive and the set collection is often a familiar concept. That said, for someone who hasn’t been exposed to modern board games, there is a little more going on here than what they may be used to.
Low Setup Variability vs. High Setup Variability - Games of Ticket to Ride begin with each player getting a unique set of destination cards, and that alone is enough to force the game to unfold differently every time. The overall feel remains similar from game to game, but you are always interacting with the shared network in new ways that keep the game from getting stale.
Things to Like
✅ Great Tension Among Available Actions - The core interest in Ticket to Ride comes from the great tension among the 3 actions in the game. Each one has advantages to doing it sooner than later: collecting cards gives you more complete information on your route-building resources, playing routes allows you to claim key links before other players, and taking destination cards gives you more information on how to connect them all efficiently. So whenever you take one action, you are actively delaying the benefits of the other two actions, and the result is a game filled with meaningful decisions and tactical interest.
✅ Tactical Decisions Shaped by Opponent’s Actions - And that tactical interest is fueled by the fact that your opponents’ actions on the board can really shift your strategy. Whether you are blocked outright or simply threatened by the proximity of an opponent, you always need to be ready to adapt and recognize when your priorities need to be reevaluated based on other players.
✅ Supports Different Play Styles - Players can decide how much they want to push their luck with destination cards, which means that the game does a great job of catering to different play styles. A really conservative, non-competitive player can just work on completing their initial tickets, while a gamer that wants more strategic excitement can really make it hard on themselves by taking on the risk of additional destinations in the face of ambiguity. Ticket to Ride’s ability to cater to different players’ strategic preferences within a single session is a huge strength as a family-weight game.
Things to Dislike
❌ “Almost Completed” Goals are Fully Penalized - The full penalty of incomplete destinations is the driving factor in the fun tension of Ticket to Ride, but it also can mean that players can have a sour ending when they take tons of negative points just because they couldn’t make one final connection. This is mitigated by players defining their own level of risk, but it is a game where players can have very unfortunate endings that may turn them off from the experience.
❌ Luck of the Draw Can Cause Big End-Game Swings - On the other hand, there is the chance that players get huge amounts of points near the end of the game simply because they were lucky enough to draw a destination that they have already almost completed. Getting 20+ points due to a random card draw while another player draws tickets that don’t align with their network at all can definitely rub players the wrong way if they don’t have their expectations set appropriately.
❌ “Long Route” Strategy is Less Fun - Some players will argue that it is a better strategy to mostly ignore their destination cards and just focus on scoring points from long routes while blocking other players around the map. While it is debatable and situational whether this strategy is effective, it definitely feels like it goes against the spirit of the game and tends to be less fun than if everyone is playing with a conventional strategy. A group can certainly mutually agree to avoid that strategy, but it is kind of a weird dynamic if a player believes it would help them win and is entirely within the rules of the game.
Ryan (146 Plays) - 8.5 Daniel (121 Plays) - 8
Is It For You?
If you don’t like getting blocked in games or having the possibility of a random card draw really swinging the final scores, then there be parts of Ticket to Ride that prevent you from enjoying it. 👎
But if you want a proven game that can appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike, enjoy working towards completing a visual goal, and enjoy a healthy amount of tension as you figure out the best order to take your actions, then we highly recommend Ticket to Ride and are evidence that more strategic gamers can still enjoy it after 100+ plays. 👍