Regular readers of this blog probably already know that my favorite board game of all time is Ticket to Ride. The reason I like the game so much is that it has quite a bit of strategy and yet is simple enough that almost everyone can play the game. It is the perfect example of a game not having to be complex to be a great game. While I have never actually reviewed the original Ticket to Ride on Geeky Hobbies, I have looked at Ticket to Ride Europe in the past. Being a big fan of the franchise I was excited when I found Ticket to Ride Marklin at a rummage sale. Seeing as I loved the original and Europe version of Ticket to Ride, I was excited to see what Marklin would add to the formula. While Ticket to Ride Marklin is a fantastic game, I don’t think it quite lives up to the original two games in the Ticket to Ride series.
How to Play Ticket to Ride Marklin
If you already know how to play Ticket to Ride, there are only a couple changes to the rules in Ticket to Ride Marklin. The differences in the game involve the +4 locomotive card, and the passenger mechanics. For experienced players of Ticket to Ride you will only have to check out the passenger section along with the paragraphs indicated with a *.
- Place the board in the center of the table.
- * Separate the merchandise tokens by color. Create stacks of each color with one token for each number. Place the highest number token on top. For example a red token stack will have a red 4 on top, then a red 3, and finally a red 2. Place each stack of tokens on a city with the same colored circle.
- Place the most completed tickets tile to the side of the board.
- Each player chooses a color and takes 45 trains, 3 passengers and a scoring marker of that color.
- Each player places their scoring marker on the 0/100 space on the outside of the board.
- Separate the cards into groups based on the back of the cards. Shuffle each deck of cards.
- Deal four train cards to each player. Place five train cards face up next to the board.
- Place the short and long ticket cards in two different piles on the table. Each player draws a total of four ticket cards between the two stacks. Players look at all of their ticket cards and choose which they would like to keep. A player has to keep at least two of the cards but can keep three or all four cards. All unwanted cards are put back into their respective piles and both piles are shuffled again.
- The player who has the best Marklin collection or is the youngest gets to go first.
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they can choose to do one of the following four actions:
- Draw Cards
- Claim A Route
- Draw Destination Tickets
- Move Passengers
If a player chooses to draw cards they will get to draw up to two cards. If a player likes one of the face up train cards they can take it and the card that was taken is replaced with the top card from the train deck. If a player takes a face up locomotive card (not a +4 locomotive card), they do not get to draw another card. If the player takes any other type of card, they get to take a second card. Instead of taking a face up card a player can choose to take the top card from the draw pile.
* If a player takes a face up +4 locomotive card they are still able to take another card.
* If there is ever three or more locomotive or passenger cards face up on the table, all five face up cards are discarded and five new cards are placed face up on the table.
Claim A Route
When a player wants to claim a route they will have to play the corresponding number of cards of the color of the route they want to claim. For example if a player wants to claim a route showing three red trains they will have to play three red train cards.
For routes featuring gray trains, the player has to play the corresponding number of cards of one color.
* Players can use locomotive cards as wilds for any other colored train card. A +4 locomotive card can only be used on a route that consists of four or more trains though.
When a player claims a route they discard the cards they used. They will then place one of their trains on each spot of the route that they claimed. The player will then record the points they earned (by moving their score marker around the outside track) based on the number of trains they played:
- 1 train: 1 point
- 2 trains: 2 points
- 3 trains: 4 points
- 4 trains: 7 points
- 5 trains: 10 points
- 6 trains: 15 points
- 7 trains: 18 points
If a route between two cities has two or three sets of trains, a player can only claim one of the paths. If there are only two or three players only one of the multiple paths can be claimed in the game.
Draw Destination Tickets
If a player wants more destination tickets they can use their turn to draw four new tickets. They can choose the four tickets in any combination from the two stacks of tickets. The player looks at all four tickets and chooses which tickets they want to keep. The player has to keep at least one of the tickets but can choose to keep as many of the tickets as they want. All of the tickets they don’t want to keep are put on the bottom of their corresponding stack.
During the game every player wants to claim a set of routes that connect the two cities named on the destination cards they chose to keep. If a player successfully connects the two cities they will score the amount of points printed on the card at the end of the game. If a player cannot connect the two cities they will lose the points printed on the card at the end of the game. When you claim a route that connects to a country, that route is a dead end and doesn’t connect to the other routes from that country.
Move A Passenger
The main addition to Ticket to Ride Marklin is the idea of passengers. When a player claims a route they can choose to place one of their passengers on one of the two cities of the route they claimed.
Throughout the game players will acquire passenger cards which can be used to travel on other player’s routes while moving passengers.
A player can choose to use their action to move one of their passengers around the gameboard. When moving a passenger it moves along your train route and picks up the top merchandise token in each city it visits. The passenger doesn’t take the top token from the city it starts in. While moving a passenger you can only use each route once. For each passenger card that a player plays they can use one route controlled by another player.
Once the passenger has completed their journey they are removed from the board and cannot be used again in the game. The player picks up all of the tokens taken by the passenger and scores the corresponding number of points.
End of Game
The end game begins when one of the players has zero, one or two trains left that they haven’t played yet. Each player including the player who started the end game gets one more turn.
Once the game ends the players will calculate their final scores. To verify that the score was kept properly during the game players can verify each route claimed as well as count up the merchandise tokens claimed during the game. Each player will then reveal all of their destination tickets. They score the points printed on all of the cards they completed and lose the points for each one they weren’t able to complete.
* The player that is able to complete the most ticket cards gets ten bonus points. If two or more players completed the most tickets, all of the tied players get the ten points.
After all scoring has been completed, the player with the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the tied player who completed the most tickets wins the game. If there is still a tie the player who has the most points from merchandise tokens wins.
My Thoughts on Ticket to Ride Marklin
Before getting into my thoughts on the game, I would like to quickly discuss the background of Ticket to Ride Marklin. Ticket to Ride Marklin is the third game published in the Ticket to Ride series after the original Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride Europe. Ticket to Ride Marklin gets its’ name from the game’s association with the Marklin line of model trains. The game’s map mostly focuses on Germany with some connections to the neighboring countries.
Being a Ticket to Ride game it should not come as a surprise that the game shares a lot in common with the rest of the series. The game still focuses on collecting train cards which are used to claim routes on the gameboard. Players try to claim routes to connect the cities on their ticket cards. The basics of Ticket to Ride Marklin are exactly the same as every other game from the series.
As a lot of people have already played at least one game from the series in the past, I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about Ticket to Ride itself. Simply put I have played around 500 different board games and Ticket to Ride is my favorite board game of all time. The reason I like Ticket to Ride so much is that it is the perfect blend of accessibility and strategy. You can teach the game to new players in 10-15 minutes but there is enough to the game that every game will play differently.
Ticket to Ride might not be the most strategic series of games but it still has enough strategy to keep it entertaining. There is a decent amount of luck in the game regarding drawing the right cards and hoping the other players don’t mess with you. If you don’t have a strategy though you have next to no chance of winning the game. What I like about the strategy in Ticket to Ride is that it gives players plenty of options but is not so overwhelming that it leads to analysis paralysis.
That is enough about Ticket to Ride in general. Lets get into specifics on how Ticket to Ride Marklin differs from the original Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride Europe.
Between the three games I would say either Europe or Marklin is the most strategic. I say this because both games take everything from the original game and add on a couple additional mechanics. These extra mechanics don’t significantly change the main objective of the game but they do give the players more options which leads to more scoring opportunities. While Europe and Marklin are more strategic I wouldn’t say either are significantly more strategic than the original game.
Most of the additional strategy in Ticket to Ride Marklin comes from the addition of passengers. Of the three games in the series that I have played, the passenger addition has the biggest impact on the basic gameplay. Overall I like the idea of the passengers. I wouldn’t always use them but they add a pretty interesting dynamic to the game. Basically I see the passengers replacing the longest route mechanic from the original game (you now get bonus points for completing the most tickets) while adding in a speed/timing element.
Basically the goal of the passengers is to place them on your longest routes so they can visit several cities on their journey. The more cities they visit the more merchandise tokens they will earn for the player. This encourages players to build longer routes so the passengers can visit more cities. With the addition of passenger cards a player can make use of other players’ routes which adds more flexibility to the passenger mechanic as you can connect two of your routes together or just extend the journey a little longer.
The key to the passenger mechanic is timing. To be able to fully take advantage of the mechanic you need to figure out the best time to use your passengers. Once you use a passenger it is gone forever so you want to maximize the points you earn from each passenger. Use them too early and you will lose out on additional points as your route won’t be as long as it could be. Also while you are worrying about moving your passengers, other players could claim routes you really want/need. Wait too long though and another player could use one of their own passengers to claim all of the high value merchandise tokens on a route you wanted to use. This adds an interesting mechanic to the game as each player is trying to figure out the best time to use their passengers.
While I like the passenger mechanic, I think it has too big of an impact on the game. If a player really focuses on the passengers they can score a lot of points from them. A player can’t totally ignore claiming routes but I think the mechanic takes a little too much away from the route building mechanic of Ticket to Ride. You can score the most points from claiming routes and finishing tickets and still lose by quite a few points if you don’t spend much time with the passengers. I think this could have been fixed by lowering the amount of points earned from each merchandise token by a point or two.
As far as the layout of the map I would say that Ticket to Ride Marklin is closer to Europe than the original game. Like Europe’s map Marklin has quite a few areas where there is going to be a lot of competition to claim the routes. This is why I think the Marklin map is quite a bit more cutthroat than the American map. In the American map if a player takes a route you want it is pretty easy to find another route that will get you where you want. In Marklin you have to go quite a bit out of your way if a player claims a route you really need. This is especially true if you play with less than four players which cuts off all of the double routes. I wouldn’t say that the map being more competitive is a negative for Marklin but it does play differently than the original game.
Other than the addition of passengers, the only other significant addition to Ticket to Ride Marklin is the idea of +4 locomotives. Basically the +4 locomotives work like normal locomotives but can only be used on routes four trains or longer. This limits the power of the locomotives as quite a few of the routes on the Marklin map are less than four trains long. At the same time though players can take any face up +4 locomotive card and still draw another card. While you can’t always use them, the +4 locomotives are still really valuable to the point that I would almost always grab one if they were face up on the table. I honestly think the game might have been better off keeping the restriction on drawing face up locomotives and just had the +4 locomotives be less valuable locomotive cards as they would still be quite valuable as a wild card.
As far as the quality of the components, Ticket to Ride Marklin is in line with the rest of the games in the Ticket to Ride franchise. While I would have preferred wood pieces instead of the plastic pieces, there really isn’t much to complain about as far as components are concerned. The plastic pieces are really nice and I especially like the passenger pieces. I kind of wish the merchandise tokens were a little easier to pickup though since it is sometimes hard to pick them up when they are surrounded by trains. The game’s artwork is as nice as ever and as a nice touch each train card in the game features a different Marklin train. Like always I have to commend Days of Wonder for another great job with the game’s components.
While this is kind of nitpicky, just like with the European map Ticket to Ride Marklin suffers a little from it being a little hard to find some of the cities. Being an American I am obviously more familiar with U.S. cities than I am with German cities. Not being familiar with the map does extend the game’s length a little as players have to search for the cities on their tickets. This doesn’t hurt the game that much as it is more of a nuisance than an actual problem with the game. I do give the game a lot of credit though since the tickets do a pretty good job pointing out where the cities are on the map which really helps people that aren’t that familiar with cities in Germany.
So I really enjoyed Ticket to Ride Marklin but I think I still prefer the original Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride Europe. My favorite Ticket to Ride is the original game. I prefer the original game because the board feels more open and thus there isn’t as much competition to claim different routes. The original game is more about doing the best you can while Europe and Marklin rely more on messing with other players’ routes. The other reason I prefer the original game is just the map itself. Being from the United States it is just easier playing on a map with cities I am more familiar with. The reason I prefer Europe over Marklin is that while I like the passenger mechanic, I prefer focusing on building connections between cities and I prefer the train station mechanic introduced in Europe.
The thing with the Ticket to Ride series though is that I think it wouldn’t be that hard to add the mechanics from one game into another game. I prefer the map from the original Ticket to Ride but I like the additional mechanics introduced in Europe and Marklin. The rules might have to be slightly tweaked to work with the American map but I think they could work. While I wouldn’t always use the passenger mechanic I would really like to try it with the American map. While I haven’t tried it yet there are actually house rules on Board Game Geek on how to implement the passengers into the original game which I will have to try sometime.
While I really like Ticket to Ride Marklin, I think the biggest complaint is the game’s cost. Ticket To Ride Marklin is quite a bit more rare than most versions of Ticket to Ride as the game hasn’t been in print for quite a few years and it doesn’t look like it will be reprinted for a while. This has lead Ticket to Ride Marklin’s price to climb to around $100. I really liked Ticket to Ride Marklin but I don’t know if I can justify the $100 price tag. You could pick up both the original game and Europe for less and I think both are slightly better games. The game is well worth the amount I paid for it ($10) but I probably would have been a little disappointed at $100.
Should You Buy Ticket to Ride Marklin?
Seeing as the original Ticket to Ride is my favorite board game of all time, it didn’t surprise me that I really enjoyed Ticket to Ride Marklin. While I think I prefer the original game and Europe more, I still had a lot of fun with Marklin. For the most part the basic gameplay is the same as all of the other versions of Ticket to Ride which is great since the formula is close to a perfect blend of accessibility and strategy. The main addition to the game is the idea of passengers which bring an interesting twist to the game. I like the different elements that passengers bring to the game but I think they impact the game a little too much at times. I wouldn’t always play with passengers but I think they are a good addition to the Ticket to Ride franchise.
Ticket to Ride Marklin is a fantastic game but I don’t think it is going to be for everyone. If you have played any Ticket to Ride game before and didn’t care for it, Marklin is not going to change your opinion. Of the three Ticket to Ride’s that I have played I would probably say Marklin was the worst. It is a great game but I prefer the original Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride Europe. When you factor in that the game is somewhat rare and thus pretty expensive, I don’t know if Ticket to Ride Marklin is worth its’ current price. You would probably be better off picking up the original Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride Europe. If you can get Ticket to Ride Marklin for a good price though I would highly recommend picking it up.