App Review: Ticket to Ride Europe

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

img_2504
Many game modes, one goofy conductor.

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.

img_2505
The Europe map, with tunnels (e.g. London-Dieppe) and ferries (e.g. Paris-Zurich)

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!

If you’d like to purchase Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride: Europe (the tabletop version, not the app) and use my Amazon links, a portion of the proceeds will help support this site. Thanks!

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