If you have read enough of my reviews here on Geeky Hobbies you will probably already know that the Ticket to Ride franchise is arguably my favorite board game of all time. That is saying a lot as I have played around 1,000 different games. Because of the original game’s success, the Ticket to Ride franchise has spawned a lot of different games including several that I have taken a look at here (Ticket to Ride Europe, Ticket to Ride First Journey, Ticket to Ride Marklin). While I have enjoyed each of these spinoffs, for the most part they have stuck pretty close to the original formula offering just a few small tweaks to make each feel a little different. This is one of the reasons that I was intrigued by Ticket to Ride The Card Game as it obviously had to change things quite a bit as there was no board which is a pretty big element of the original game. At the same time most card game versions of popular games mostly just take the original game and adapt it to be played with cards. Ticket to Ride The Card Game actually succeeds at taking the original gameplay and crafting an unique but similar gameplay experience that while fun doesn’t quite live up to the original game.
How to Play Ticket to Ride The Card Game
- Each player is given a Locomotive (wild) card.
- The rest of the Train cards are shuffled. Each player is dealt seven cards.
- The top five remaining Train cards are turned face-up on the table. The rest of the Train cards form the draw pile.
- The six Big City Bonus cards are set off to the side of the table.
- The Destination Tickets are shuffled and six are dealt to each player. The rest of the cards are set aside for the Destination Tickets draw pile.
- Each player looks at their Destination Tickets and chooses which they would like to keep. Each player must keep at least one of their cards, but they can choose to keep as many as they want. The Destination Tickets not chosen by players are shuffled back into the Destination Tickets draw pile.
- The youngest player will start the game with play proceeding in a clockwise direction.
Playing the Game
Each player’s turn consists of two steps.
- Move Train cards from your Railyard to your On-the-Track pile.
- Choose an action to perform for your turn.
After a player finishes their turn play passes to the next player clockwise. This continues until there are no more cards left in the Train deck.
Moving Train Cards
If a player has any cards in their Railyard, they must take one card from each color and add them to their On-the-Track pile face down. Once cards have been added to the On-the-Track pile none of the players can look at the cards again until the end of the game. If you are playing with inexperienced or younger players though you may allow them to look at their On-the-Track pile at any time.
Choosing An Action
During this step players will choose one of the following three actions.
- Draw new Train cards
- Play Train cards to your Railyard
- Draw Destination Tickets
Draw New Train Cards
If a player chooses this action they will get to draw up to two Train cards to add to their hand. Players can choose from the face up cards next to the draw deck, or the top card from the draw deck. A player can also choose to take one card from each location. If a player chooses one of the face up cards, the top card from the draw deck is immediately flipped over and replaces the card that was taken.
If a player takes a Locomotive (wild) card from the face up cards, it will count as both cards that a player gets to take on their turn. If a player gets a Locomotive card from the face down deck, it will only count as one card.
Players can have as many Train cards in their hand as they want at any given time.
Place Train Cards in Your Railyard
Players can play cards to their Railyard in one of two ways.
- Play two or more Train cards of the same color.
- Play exactly three Train cards of different colors.
When playing two or more Train cards of the same color you will place them in a single row on top of one another.
Locomotives (wild) cards can be played as any color but can only be played as a group of cards of the same color. A Locomotive cannot be used as a different color when choosing the option of playing three different Train colors. Once a Locomotive is moved to your On-the-Track area, it can be used as any color even if it is different than what it was initially played as.
There are two main rules when adding Train cards to your Railyard.
First if a color is already present in your Railyard, you cannot play that color again until the color is gone from your Railyard.
Second if a color is present in another player’s Railyard, you must play more cards of that color. If you play more cards of the color, the other player will discard all of those color cards from their Railyard immediately.
Draw Destination Tickets
When you choose this action you will draw the top four cards from the Destination Tickets pile. You will look at all of the cards and choose which you would like to keep. You can choose any number of the Destination Tickets to keep (including zero). Any cards you choose not to keep are put on the bottom of the Destination Tickets pile.
End of Round
When the last card is drawn from the Train deck the end of round process is triggered. All of the players including the player that drew the last card from the Train deck will get one more turn.
Players will now turn over the cards from their On-the-Track pile and use them to complete as many of their Destination Tickets as possible. To complete a Destination Ticket you need one card of each color shown on the Destination Ticket. For color blind players you can compare the symbols on the Train and Destination Ticket cards. Each Train card can only be used to complete one of the required colors. Locomotives can be used as any color.
If a player has cards in their On-the-Track pile that match each color on a Destination Ticket they will complete it.
If there are only two or three players, the game will move onto end game scoring.
If there are four players, the game will continue with another round being played. Players will tally up the points scored on all of their completed Destination Tickets and write their total down. All uncompleted Destination Tickets and Train cards left in players’ hands will remain there for the next round.
All other Train cards (including On-the-Track cards that a player couldn’t use) and completed Destination Tickets are shuffled with all of the unused cards. Each player is dealt four additional Train cards to start the next round. Play will then continue like normal starting with the player to the left of the player that took the last turn. This will continue until the Train deck runs out of cards for a second time.
End of Game
At the end of the game players will tally up the points on all of their completed Destination Tickets. They will then subtract points from any Destination Tickets that they were unable to complete.
The players will then determine who completed the most Destination Tickets that feature the Big Cities (Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Miami). The player that completed the most Destination Tickets that feature each city will get to take the corresponding bonus card and score the corresponding number of points. If two or more players tie for a city, all of the tied players will receive the bonus points.
The player with the most points wins the game. If there is a tie, the tied player that completed the most Destination Tickets will win the game. If there is still a tie, the tied player that collected the most bonus cards will win.
My Thoughts on Ticket to Ride The Card Game
Heading into Ticket to Ride The Card Game I really didn’t know what to expect. I love the original game, but I am always a little leery of card or dice games based on popular games. This is not to say that they are bad, but usually they just take the original game and adapt it to dice or cards. Thus the games just feel like a more simplified version of the original game. With how much I love Ticket to Ride this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I was really hoping that the card game would be a different experience. I was genuinely surprised that the card game actually succeeds in that task.
In a way Ticket to Ride The Card Game feels like the original game and yet different at the same time. The game has a similar feel but the gameplay actually plays quite a bit different. The objective of completing tickets, how you draw cards, and mostly how you score/lose points is the same. How you accomplish each of those tasks is quite different though. The original Ticket to Ride is mostly a set collecting game with some route planning as you try to gather colored cards that allow you to acquire routes that complete tickets. While the card game still has some set collecting elements, it is not nearly as big an element of the game.
Instead the objective of Ticket to Ride The Card Game is to get Train cards matching those on your Destination Tickets through your Railyard into your On-the-Track pile. This involves a process somewhat similar to a number of other card games that I have played before. You can either choose to play multiple cards of the same color or play cards of different colors. You need to be mindful of what colors the other players have played though as you can only play a color if you play more cards of it. You can use this to your advantage though since if you can play more cards of a color, you can force the other player to discard their cards of the color.
This is one of the main reasons why Ticket to Ride The Card Game differs from the original game. It has similar elements to the original game as you are still trying to acquire colors that match your tickets, but you have to go through a process of getting the cards into a pile that can be used for the tickets. This mechanic is not particularly complicated, but it actually adds an interesting strategic element to the game. This comes from whether you choose to play multiple of the same color, or several different colors. Playing cards of the same color lets you keep control of that color for a number of rounds as it is harder for another player to take control of that color for the Railyard. You only get to move one card from the color to the On-the-Track pile each turn though. On the other hand if you play three different colors it is much easier for another player to force you to discard them. Playing three different color potentially blocks more colors for the other players though, as well as letting you add more cards to your On-the-Track pile quicker. This is an interesting strategic decision which allows the game to retain the feeling that you have control over your own fate.
This mechanic does add quite a bit more player interaction to the game as well. The original Ticket to Ride has some player interaction. This mostly comes from players competing for certain face up cards, and players taking certain routes which end up blocking other player’s plans. Generally my group is not the most confrontational so we generally don’t mess with other players on purpose. In the case of Ticket to Ride The Card Game though, the game can be quite a bit more cutthroat. While you can’t block other players’ routes, you can play cards forcing them to discard cards that they could really need. Players can really mess with one another in this way since a player could deny you a color forcing you to fail completing a ticket. I wouldn’t say that the game is really cutthroat, but it is much easier for players to mess with one another than in the original game. Whether you think this is a positive or a negative depends on how you feel about cutthroat mechanics in board games.
Other than how you play cards, the other major difference between Ticket to Ride The Card Game and the original game is that the card game actually features a pretty prominent memory mechanic. While you can play the variant that eliminates the memory element, the main game forces players to remember which Train card colors they are able to get to the On-the-Track pile as you can’t look at them again once they reach this area. As these cards determine whether you can complete a ticket, it is important to try and remember what cards you have in this area. This is important as each incomplete ticket ends up losing you points so you want to avoid it whenever possible. You can win without remembering what makes it to the pile, but you likely will either have to play much more cautiously or hope that luck is on your side.
I honestly don’t know how I feel about the memory element of the game. Generally I am not a huge fan of memory elements in games as I have never really cared for the mechanic. The game allows you to ignore the mechanic if you want, but I think that kind of messes with the whole premise of the game. The memory element of the game is a pretty big part of the game and by eliminating it I think you are changing the game experience quite a bit. On top of this the memory element prevents a lot of analysis paralysis as players can’t just keeping looking at their stack of cards to determine what they want to do on their turn. There are also plenty of ways to somewhat circumvent the memory element such as laying down ticket cards that you know that you have already completed.
At the same time the memory element does have an impact on who ultimately wins the game. If you don’t keep good track of what cards you have in your pile, you are going to have a hard time winning the game. If you fail to complete one or more of your tickets it becomes much harder to win the game. If you can’t keep track of what cards you already have, it is also harder to tell what cards you need to acquire on future turns. Because of this at times it feels like too much of your thoughts and time is spent trying to remember what cards you have already acquired. Basically if you struggle with memory games, you either need to ditch the memory element or you likely will have a hard time winning.
While Ticket to Ride The Card Game actually differs a lot more from the original game than I was expecting, it still shares a lot of the same key elements. Like the original game, Ticket to Ride The Card Game does a great job finding the right balance between simplicity and strategy. In some ways the game is easier and in other ways it is more difficult to play than the original game. Overall I would say that the accessibility is comparable to the original game. I would think you could teach the game to most new players within around ten minutes and it may take a couple turns for players to fully grasp all of the mechanics. If you don’t have any trouble with the original game, you shouldn’t have any problems with the card game either. Despite the simplicity the game still has quite a bit of strategy as well. There is some luck based on your card draws, but your strategy and decisions will likely have a big impact on how well you ultimately do.
One area where I think Ticket to Ride The Card Game improves upon the original game is that it actually plays quite a bit quicker. It will somewhat depend on how much thought players put into each decision, but I would guess that most games will only take around 30 minutes. This is quite a bit shorter than the original game which can take around twice as long. On top of this setup is much quicker and the game requires considerably less room. For this reason I actually think the card game will work much better as a travel and filler game than the original.
As for the game’s components they are basically what you would expect from a Ticket to Ride game. The game only includes cards so the number of components are quite a bit less than other games from the franchise. The card quality is quite good like the rest of the game. The card artwork is nice and the cards are designed in a way where it is easy to find the information that you require. The only real complaint I have with the components is that the orange and red cards are somewhat hard to tell apart. This isn’t a huge issue as the game includes colorblind symbols which you can use if you are not sure whether a card is red or orange. Otherwise the game comes in a pretty small box where there isn’t a lot of wasted space.
I was honestly surprised that Ticket to Ride The Card Game somehow found a way to remain loyal to the original game and yet feel like a pretty different experience. The game is pretty much what you want from a card game version of a popular board game. It shares enough similar elements to the original where it doesn’t feel like the theme was just pasted onto another game in order to make a quick buck. At the same time though it is different enough where it doesn’t feel like you are just playing the original game transferred onto cards. Despite this Ticket to Ride The Card Game doesn’t quite live up to the original game. To its credit that would have been a really hard task as the original game is arguably my favorite board game of all time. The game is still fun in its own right, but in most cases I would prefer playing the original game over the card game. The game does have its own merit though mostly because it is unique enough that it gives you a different game experience.
Should You Buy Ticket to Ride The Card Game?
Despite loving the original Ticket to Ride, I was a little leery about the card game as I felt like it was just going to take the original game and transfer it to cards. I was surprised that Ticket to Ride The Card Game actually differs quite a bit from the original game. It does share some elements from the original game, but it also takes elements from other card games in order to make it feel like a different experience. The game has some interesting ideas as there is strategy in choosing which cards to play and which tickets to pursue. The game like the original does a good job finding the right balance between strategy and simplicity. As for the memory element I had mixed feelings as there were things that I liked and others that I didn’t. I applaud Ticket to Ride The Card Game as it succeeds at becoming a unique little card game. Unfortunately despite being a good card game on its own, it just doesn’t live up to the original game.
My recommendations for Ticket to Ride The Card Game is a little more complicated than you might initially think. As the game actually differs quite a bit from the original game, your feelings for Ticket to Ride may not perfectly translate to Ticket to Ride The Card Game. Some people may like it less and some may like it more. For this reason I would mostly ignore your feelings towards the original game and instead focus on the game’s mechanics. If you don’t generally like card games or the game’s mechanics don’t sound like your type of game, I would probably pass on the game. Those that want a truly unique Ticket to Ride experience or think the game’s concept sounds interesting though, should really enjoy the game and consider picking it up.
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