By Jeff Dougan
One of the games often mentioned by people who think they aren’t familiar with hobby games, but really are, is Ticket to Ride. Perhaps more accurately, it’s a name that might be recognized even by people who aren’t die-hard gamers. It has many things in common with Carcassonne: it plays in roughly 60 minutes, has unofficial variants that can be used to scale the difficulty for younger kids, requires little to no reading ability, and is really a family of games that play identically. Unfortunately, the list price is also about twice as expensive, so it ranks a little farther down my list of recommendations (and is why I haven’t written about it before now).
- In the library’s collection (sort of, see below)
- Plays 2-5 players
- Publisher’s suggested ages 8+; unofficial variants exist for 4- and 6-year-old players
- Current suggested retail $49.99
A quick caveat: The copy owned by the library is actually “Ticket to Ride: Europe,” thought by many gamers to be the better game from the standpoint of pure gameplay. (For adults, this is probably true.) However, Ticket to Ride: Europe has some downfalls for playing with younger players that the original game, played on a map of the United States, does not have. First, there are a few rules specific to the European map that did not exist with the original game was published, which may be a distraction for some kids. Second, there are a few additional pieces — again, a possible distraction. Most importantly from my end when I’ve played with the Grasshopper, the European map prints the names of the various cities in their native languages (Atina for Athens, Wien for Vienna, and Mockva for Moscow for a few examples), which can be really confusing for somebody who doesn’t even really know where all the major cities in the U.S. are.
A quick summary of a turn in full grown-up mode:
You have three choices: play a set of matching cards from your hand to claim a route between two adjacent cities, draw 1 or 2 cards from a set of 5 face-up cards or blindly from the deck, or take from 1-3 destination cards that will have cities you want to link before the end of the game. When the end is reached, you’ll score additional points for destination routes you successfully complete, but lose points for ones you don’t. When somebody has used all but 0, 1 or 2 of their train pieces, everybody gets one more turn and then the game is over.
Ticket to Ride is a great game to play with kids because it packs a lot of educational content into a fairly modest package. The Grasshopper, at least, is fascinated with maps, and the gameboard for Ticket to Ride is a map. Right away, he not only gets to play on something he likes, but he’s learning something about where cities are located. Game play involves color matching, using cards from your hand to create sets of several identical cards in order to place your pieces on a route on the board that matches the color of the cards. Longer sets are worth more points, so there’s also math practice in moving a score token around the score track that borders the map. Then there’s the train theme — a hit with many kids.
Two quick pieces of game-related news:
- This coming weekend (Nov. 12 and 13) is National Gaming Day @Your Library. The Urbana Free Library will be participating both days, with its regularly-scheduled 2nd Saturday Board Game event on Saturday, and an event on Sunday afternoon where they’ll bring the library’s console systems into the Lewis Auditorium in the basement. I intend to be at Saturday’s event with the Grasshopper, at least until dinnertime or so. Please, feel free to stop by!
- Voting is now going on for Out-of-the-Box Publishing’s giveaway of $500 of their materials. Locally, the Urbana Free Library and the Carle Auditory Oral School have both been entered. You can vote daily per machine until the end of the year.
Jeff Dougan is a scientist-turned-teacher-turned-full-time dad to the Grasshopper, 5, and the Munchkin, 15 months. A lifelong gamer, he’s always willing to teach a new game to anybody, and equally willing to learn a new game almost anytime.