Originally published in 2004, Ticket to Ride has won numerous awards and has sold over a half-million copies as well as spawned several expansions and other games in the line. The reason for this success is apparent with the first play: Ticket to Ride is easy to learn and fun to play with lots of game tension. Game tension is a good thing; it elevates the experience. Players get closer to completing the connections they need, but can still be cut off or at least very inconvenienced by an opponent. Trying to second-guess your opponent is a big portion of the fun.
Ticket to Ride is played on a board that has a map of the United States and Canada with cities and routes between cities. Players place their train pieces on these spaces to claim the route. In order to claim the route, they play cards that have the needed color. Some routes require a specific color, others are gray, and any single color can be used. There are also locomotive cards which can be used as a wild card. Players receive victory points for each route they build. Routes that require more cards reward more points.
On their turn, players either draw two train cards, claim a connection between two cities or draw more tickets. Players begin the game with tickets they must fill. Tickets are cards with two cities that must be connected and a number of victory points that are rewarded or penalized, depending on whether the cities are connected at the end of the game. Ticket values increase based on the distance between the two cities. The game ends when any player uses all but one or two of their trains, so it's important to keep pace and be aware of who might be able to end the game soon. Once all the tickets are revealed and the points awarded or subtracted, the player who has the most victory points wins.
After winning the Game of the Year award in Germany, the Ticket to Ride franchise now includes a European version, a Marklin Edition (a line of model trains that are popular in Europe) and Ticket to Ride: Switzerland is coming later this year. All use the same core rules. The basic game is the best introduction for new players. The Europe game adds stations. The Marklin edition adds passengers.
There is something about trains that has long fascinated board game players, and train games are among the most popular type of board games. There are board game events in which only train games are played, and publishers that only produce train games. I think there is something in the laying of routes, making essential connections and the possibilities of adding passengers and freight to be hauled that naturally lends itself to board games. There are many outstanding train games such as Union Pacific, Age of Steam and the 18XX games, but none are more accessible than Ticket to Ride.
Ticket to Ride was designed by Alan R. Moon and is published by Days of Wonder. The game is for two to five players ages 8 and up. Ticket to Ride: Europe and Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition are also available.