Reviewed: July 3, 2008
A few years ago my group of friends would get together about once a month to play board games and have some laughs. At one such gathering one of them brought a new game called Ticket to Ride. Most of the games we played were pretty addictive… Catch Phrase, Sequence and various card games. Ticket to Ride was a little more work to learn, but it quickly became our favorite game.
Eventually I moved west and one of the things I missed from my years in Indiana was the much anticipated game nights. So imagine my excitement when I heard my favorite board game was coming to Xbox Live! I had high hopes for some long distance Xbox Live games with my old friends.
When the game begins you are dealt three “destination cards” with various point values based on distance between two cities. Your secret goal is to connect the two cities on your destination cards. Players take turns drawing colored cards to match routes on the map. When you play your cards you earn points. When you connect your train cars to complete a destination you earn more points. The game ends when one of the players has used all of their train pieces. When this happens, each player gets one more turn then everyone reveals their destination cards. Additional points are given for completed routes, but points are taken away for incomplete routes. The person with the longest continuous train gets bonus points.
It sounds fairly easy, but there is some strategy involved. You can go straight out for your destination cards (basically ignoring your opponents), or you can play defensively and block your opponents.
The Xbox Live Arcade version of Ticket to Ride is a surprisingly good translation of the original board game. Obviously there are some accommodations for the media used, but in this case it predominantly is an improvement. The only real difference is a tactile one… the view of the map. On the Xbox you use the right and left triggers to zoom in and out. Occasionally the zoom level can be frustrating, but it is a very minor issue.
When you first start Ticket to Ride, you can pick from a local or Xbox Live match. In either game you can play from 1 to 5 players. Just a word of warning, the ‘easy’ level of AI players makes some occasional bad choices, but overall is fairly challenging.
Games generally last from 20 minutes to an hour depending on the number of people playing and how quick they are to move. Thankfully they put a 90 second time limit on moves, so people can still play even if someone isn’t paying enough attention to the game.
The only issue I had with Ticket to Ride is the lack of a ‘save game’ function. There are times when I have 4 other people or AI’s playing when real life interrupts and there isn’t an option to save the game to resume at another time. This would really have been a nice feature to have – especially for those late night XBLA games.
The graphics are in a 1900’s old railroad theme fitting to the game. The cards, while small, are easily identifiable and readable. The only area where I had some struggle was the shades of grey for some of the train routes. There are light grey, dark grey, and black routes. The dark grey routes are basically wildcard routes where you can play any color card of the same color to claim the route. I had to do some adjusting on my TV to make the color variations more apparent.
The sound is also themed to an old railroad. Menus, music, and effects are all in the ironworks train theme and look very good on my 1080p HDTV. Text is crisp and easily readable. The banjo music gets old quickly, but it can be turned off in the settings menu.
Ticket to Ride comes with only one map (the USA). Days of Wonder (the original publisher of the board game) has several expansion versions available for 1910 USA, Germany, Europe and others. There is even a ‘mystery train’ variation with some alternate cards. Reportedly there are plans to bring the other available maps to XBLA via download. Many Xbox Live games are capable of “content download” but the developers rarely follow through. Ticket to Ride is a game that is perfect for new maps and expansion packs. I hope this is one game the publisher continues to support and expand.
There are 12 achievements available for the usual 200 points. Half of them are easily achievable just in the normal course of playing. A few others such as connecting all the Canadian cities during an Xbox Live game are ones you’ll have to specifically target.
Ticket to Ride costs 800 Microsoft Points and it’s one of the few games I’ve seen that is actually worth my precious points. Hopefully any future expansion packs are reasonably priced.
I flat out love this game. The XBLA version of Ticket to Ride is faithful to the original. It’s actually better. One of the time consuming parts of the original board game was figuring out how many points you get with train lengths etc. It wasn’t really difficult, but when I was tired and playing late at night it got old quickly. The Xbox Live version takes care of all that plus all the other rules for you. This is one of the few XBLA games I will be playing a month or even a year from now. It really is that fun and addictive for anyone who likes board games.