BGG Rank #83 – 1/20/2017
Being on the road this past weekend, I had to get a little creative to keep chipping away at my list of the top 100 games. With all the time I spent in airports and on planes (thanks for the non-weather flight delays each way, United Airlines), I figured that this would be a perfect time to review a board game in its app form.
While I’m always partial to the actual tabletop version of a game (as this blog’s name would suggest), there are some benefits to board game apps as well:
- Bring a classic game with you: Always fun to share a quick game of Carcassonne with my wife during a long metro ride. That wouldn’t work so well with the tabletop version.
- Enjoy the campaign mode: Some board game apps have a well-designed solo campaign mode with interesting challenges and scenarios. The Galaxy Trucker app has easily the best campaign mode that I’ve seen– replete with characters, dialogue, and challenging scenarios.
- Test a game before buying: Interested in a game but not sure if you want to spend a full $40-60 on it? Download the app for $4-6 before you decide whether to buy the tabletop version.
Among the board game apps I own is Ticket to Ride. I also own the boxed version, but TTR falls into category 1 above. It’s a timeless classic that never gets old (if it’s not too early to say that about a game published in 2004), and one that is familiar even with many casual gamers — so there are ample opportunities to break it out for a pass-and-play game or two. The TTR Europe expansion is another $6.99, but can be played within the same app. Having always just played the original, I figured I’d give the Europe map a try. Was it worth the 7 bucks?
First, let’s discuss what’s different in TTR Europe. For the purposes of this review I’m going to assume that you’re already familiar with the original Ticket to Ride.
Perhaps most obviously, it’s a different map with different destinations. This has a way of leveling the playing field with someone who is very familiar with the original board, knowing the optimal routes and typical destination tickets. There are far fewer routes of 5-6, and one long route of 8. Also the map is bigger (judging by the increased amount of squinting to read text on the app)!
There a couple of new connection types: tunnels and ferries. Tunnels require a base number of cards as shown on the map, but there’s a chance that you might have to pay extra cards in order to build. I had one game where it was the last turn and I needed to build a tunnel to connect my coast-to-coast route, but I had only just enough cards to pay the base price. I lost of course, but it was tense and exciting. Ferries, meanwhile, require a certain number of locomotives (the wild cards) to build a route over the water. This addition is less exciting, but does alter the strategy a bit regarding when to spend your locomotives.
Additionally, you can build stations, which allow you to use an opponent’s route between two adjacent cities. I can see why they had to do this, since it would otherwise be easy to get cut off in the Europe map, but overall I think it removes the incentive to block an opponent, which was a fun part of the strategy in the original game.
One small tweak that I do really like is that when drawing destination tickets at the start of the game, you get dealt three short-medium routes, and one long route (and choose at least two). This fixes the issue from the original game where players can be at a big initial advantage depending on how many long route tickets they get dealt.
TL;DR: The new routes and tunnels are good, ferries and stations are …meh.
In terms of app-specific content, there are a few specific achievements that encourage you to try out different strategies, but it’s pretty minimal. Also as mentioned, the bigger Europe board can be a bit hard on the eyes if playing on a phone rather than a tablet (though there is a zoom feature).
In summary, I can’t recommend purchasing the TTR Europe expansion app. It’s not a significant improvement from the original, in my opinion, and it’s not different enough that it’s worth owning both. I don’t think you can get the Europe expansion app without paying for the original first, but if you’re thinking about buying the tabletop version, I think that either one would be an equally good choice (but again, not both).
Hope you’ve enjoyed this review. Check back next week for a big one– I’m going to be playing the 2016 Kickstarter mega-hit Scythe this weekend!