A faithful port of one of the modern classics. Can the app live up to the legacy?
5 - 10 Minutes
# of Players
Days of Wonder
Ticket to Ride is one of the most popular modern, post-Catan board games. It has been expanded beyond belief, you can buy it in pretty much any store that sells Monopoly, and is generally considered one of the classic gateway games today. The base app contains the original Ticket to Ride USA map and card set while expansions are available as in-app purchases to provide new cards and/or maps. The game is based on card drafting and set collection with the goal being to complete as many routes as possible to outscore your opponents.
A turn in Ticket to Ride consists of three options: build a route, draw card(s), or draw additional ticket cards. You play sets of matching colored cards in order to place your trains on the map, called a route. You get points for each route you place based on its length. You also get points at the end of the game for each ticket you complete. A ticket will list two cities, you must have a contiguous route between the cities to have successfully completed the route. Any uncompleted ticket cards in your hand at the end of the game will result in a loss of points. Ticket cards, even completed ones, are kept secret from other players during the game so the end of game scoring is always a nail biter
You will battle against opponents for limited card and route availability. You can deliberately try to block their routes so they can’t complete tickets, or you can stay out of the fray and concentrate on completing your tickets. It is a simple game to pick up and play, but there are a variety of strategies worth exploring.
Browsing the Online Games
A near full board at the end of the game
A completed ticket
Barrier to Entry
The tutorial is a bit different than we are used to seeing in that they don’t force you down a specific path with predetermined choices and card draws. That’s just fine by us, it lets you make some independent choices and see what happens. The game is a fairly quick learn and the tutorial plays out over a complete two player (one AI) game, so players will likely have a good handle on the rules by the end, although scoring might remain a bit fuzzy until the player has another couple of games under their belt. The initial run through of the tutorial lasts about 15 minutes, which is slightly longer than a normal single player game will probably take once you are comfortable with the rules.
Look and Feel
The app looks great, matching the game art well. Playing on a phone it is easy to miss when claiming a route (done by drag and drop). The game adds a little crosshair which makes it easier, and if you hover long enough you’ll even get an extra zoom, but I will still fat finger it a few times every game and have to retry. This is much less of an issue on a larger tablet. There aren’t many bells and whistles added outside of the menus, it sticks to being a faithful port of the board game, and it does this job well. The game looks great on a tablet, enough so that it works as a viable stand-in for the actual game if you’re in a time or space pinch.
There are quite a few options here. You can pass-and-play on your device and there is an option to find other devices locally to play. For true online play you can send game requests to friends or enter a lobby where you can create a game and wait for players to join, or join a game someone else has created. You can setup the game to be a long term, asynchronous game by increasing the timeout per player (up to 15 days), or you can set it up to be a real-time game by using a small timeout (down to 7 minutes). You can also choose how many players you want to have and what map you will play.
All in all, it is a very robust online system. On a random Friday afternoon there were over 50 players in the lobby looking for games with about 15 games available to join. This game has a healthy user base compared to some of the other apps we’ve played. Random note; the connection to the game server for some reason frequently gets blocked by corporate and school networks. So if you can't connect to play online, try shutting off your WiFi. This is obviously a pretty major issue if you want to play on a tablet without a cell connection.
The online system isn't perfect, however. Despite impressive play modes and options, the app has some issues with online play. On Android, for example, notifications don't work. Broken notifications for an asynchronous game is a big issue, if you don't know when it's your turn, what's the point of an async game? It's disappointing to see the app struggle with something so basic, and unfortunately this definitely affects the final score.
You should know that this app shines as a multiplayer experience, locally or online, and that solo play isn't the strength of this app. You can play any map you have against AI with any player number allowed (from 2 to 5, depending on the map) which does provide a variety of maps and rules for solo play, if you have made some in-app purchases.
The real downside of solo play is the AI. There are three different characters to choose to play against (a weird choice in itself considering the base game allows five players). They appear to differ only in name and avatar. They will try a variety of strategies against you, the problem is none of them are good strategies. An example of of one i see the AI attempt regularly, they will ignore their tickets and play for large routes (worth the most points). This is a perfectly valid strategy if you only keep low point tickets so that you lose minimal points at the end of the game from the incomplete tickets. The AI often tries this strategy while keeping two high point tickets which results in a strong point total at the end of play, but a massive loss of points from the tickets. There are other examples, but the bottom line is that you won't get optimized AI opponents which makes it difficult for seasoned players to find a real, consistent challenge in solo play. Can you lose? Absolutely, but not frequently.
Placing a route
Choosing my tickets
Expansions, expansions, expansions. Ticket to Ride is a heavily expanded game with no less than seven standalone box games available outside of the original. There are also a couple of smaller card-based expansions. Days of Wonder has made these expansions are available in the app. They are reasonably priced at $0.99-$1.99 on the Android version and they each provide unique rules in addition to a completely different map. Maybe expansion is the wrong word here because for the most part they don’t add to the original game, but rather provide a completely different game within the same basic rules. The seven large expansions available to purchase in the app are: Europe, Switzerland, Asia, India, Nordic Countries, Pennsylvania, and Germany. The 1910 expansion adds new tickets and game modes to the base game.
The Wrap Up
Ticket to Ride is a modern board game classic due to its simplicity, accessibility, and proven history as a gateway game. The app is a faithful port of the original game which can stand on its own for a long time thanks to impressive multiplayer options. The graphics are strong, the controls generally smooth, and the playing options are as robust as you could hope for in a port.
When you add in the availability of the expansions, there are an impressive amount of play options. This isn’t the strategically deepest game, but the effort to recreate the game and deliver a healthy online player base has paid off.
The biggest downside is the lack of challenging AI for solo mode. That is not a minor omission for many, but it is the only big issue we have with this app and can be overlooked if you are intending to play multiplayer. Harder to overlook, however, are broken notifications currently seen on the Android side.