Superior to the original in almost every way.
Last April, I reviewed Ticket to Ride and, like many people, predicted it would win the Spiel des Jahres (which it did). This review will concentrate on the changes in Ticket to Ride Europe.
I stand by my review of the original, but further playings have downgraded my opinion. The problem is that the layout of the board has a noticeable east-west "grain" to it — the 6-train links are mostly aligned this way as are the high-value tickets. Why is this a problem? Well, you gain points in three ways: claiming links, completing tickets, and having the longest chain. Most of the time, these methods are at odds with each other — is it better to concentrate on completing your tickets or claiming long links? Such decisions are the hallmark of a good game. However, if you're lucky enough to draw long, east-west tickets, there's no decision at all — you can complete your tickets and claim long links at the same time. In the majority of the games I played, the winner had at least one east coast-west coast ticket. (Drawing such a long ticket did not guarantee you would win, but it was nearly impossible if you didn't.)
However, the core of the game was solid and needed only a few tweaks to alleviate this problem. Fortunately, Alan Moon has done just that with Ticket to Ride Europe. The result is a game far less dependent on luck and much better suited for gamers.
I dislike reviews that list every detail of a game's rules but in this case, it's the changes that are important, particularly for those who already own the original Ticket to Ride. With this in mind:
- Tickets are now divided into two classes: long and short. Each player will receive one long ticket as part of their starting hand and the rest are removed from the game.
- Each player has three stations and these may be placed on a city during the game. Doing so allows you to use one of the links from that city when completing a ticket. Unused stations are worth 4 points, so it's best to use this option only when absolutely necessary.
- Claiming certain links requires the use of locomotives (the wild cards). Drawing locomotives becomes much more important in Europe.
- Several links are "tunnels". When a person attempts to claim such a link, three cards from the draw deck are revealed. For each card matching the colour of the link (including locomotives), the active player must play an additional card. Failure to do so means that the link is not built and the player takes her cards back into hand.
- The cards are now full-sized with a white border. They're much easier to handle and more resistant to wear.
- The map is different (obviously).
That last point might seem minor but I think it's the most significant improvement of all. First off, there are only three 6-link routes and all are placed, more or less, on the periphery of the board. As such, they're much less useful as the backbone of your network, something I thought was a major problem in the original. There are no 5-link routes at all. These changes, along with the layout of the map, result in a game that's much more focused on satisfying tickets and this feels like an improvement to me. I played many games of the original in which no one drew extra tickets — they represented such a wild swing of fortune that only a desperate player would attempt it. In Europe, drawing tickets is a far more sensible action. There's greater leeway in how you can connect cities and this means you have more options given a particular group of tickets. It's a tricky exercise but one I find enjoyable. Certainly it's more fun than looking at your hand and realizing that none of them work together (a not-uncommon experience in Ticket to Ride).
So, does this version render the original obsolete? No. As I mentioned earlier, it's superior in almost every way. It is more complicated and the improvements have a slightly fiddly aspect to them — even though the games are largely the same, there are about twice as many rules in Ticket to Ride Europe. This isn't to say that Europe is complicated — I think non-gamers will be able to handle it without problem. The big difference is the feel of the two games. The original is laid-back and relaxed whereas Europe is much more tense. You would think that the stations would result in less blocking (the prime cause of tension) but this is not the case. Ticket to Ride Europe feels considerably more competitive to me. For many people, this will be a positive aspect, but there are those who will prefer a more relaxed game. I'll suggest the original when playing casually, but with more competitive players, Ticket to Ride Europe will be the one that hits the table.
- Greg Aleknevicus