Being more of a mainstream board game player such as Monopoly this was my first time playing a board game such a Ticket to Ride, which is based on completing missions by travelling from one European country to another by laying tracks down and trying not to let your competitors train tracks get in the way. So this analysis is coming from a first timer and goes through certain elements of the game that stood out to me.
My original first thought when first seeing the game board was that it looked like a bit of a mess and very confusing but after a quick explanation from a team member and then reading the rules to clarify things it started to seem a little less daunting. But then about a third through the game when we had well and truly started to lay our tracks the game started to come to life, you could see where you were heading (and keep and eye on you opponent) and the further along we got the better the game looked and the easier it became to make moves. The plastic moulded, coloured trains made it easy to visualise and also identify what tracks were yours and who you needed to keep an eye on because they where starting to creep in to were you are wanting to go etc.
The idea of having the score around the board itself and being able to visually see where everyone else is can make things a little more competitive. But what I have come to find out is that it can be a little deceiving because the scores can change so quickly especially towards the end and so even though you were well ahead of the other players, they may claim the European Express card (for have the longest continuous running track) and get an extra 10 points or pick up a mission card that they have already completed without having to make any moves etc. The score board can be great at playing with your head a little.
This game incorporates a marketplace where you collect tickets (playing cards) along the way which determine where you can move your train tracks, and this is probably my favourite part of the game. When it gets closer to your turn you start thinking firstly do I put more tracks down or do I need more of a certain colour ticket? Do I pick from the 5 tickets I can see or do I try my luck and choose two random ones? Sometimes these decision work out and sometimes not but that’s what makes it fun.
Although this game is definitely not poker, you sometimes feel the need to have a poker face so that you don’t give away what colour ticket you need to collect or where the next track you want to lay down is because if your opponent finds this out they can block you and make your mission near impossible. Which brings me to my next point, everyone starts off in their own corners and are all spread out and not too concerned about anyone else but as the tracks get closer and there is less room, you have to take note of what others are doing or they are likely to take the track you need. That’s when it starts to get competitive!
The European theme is great because the train tracks actually exist and they are all nicely spread out and some even need tunnels and ferries to get to which adds an exciting element to the game. It just wouldn’t be right playing an Australian edition because it’s very rare to travel the country by train and super unrealistic. As you are completing a mission you find yourself starting to think about how much you want to travel to Berlin from Paris and that you need to make sure that no one places tracks where you need to because you start to visualise it.
The game is full of a lot of little rules which can make being a first timer a little scary but you come to love them once you have got the hang of it. If it wasn’t for a team member explaining the basics of the game I feel as though we could have been reading the rule book for a long time but once we started it was a great resource to quickly find things as it was laid out super easily. Although, there were a few explanations that we had to read a few times because they seemed super confusing but when we came to figure out what it meant is was almost annoyingly simple. I would probably recommend an official rules/run through video created by the game maker which can be a second resource for first timers.
All in all it was a good first board game to play from this category!