I appreciate that a board game about railways might seem dry, but there's a reason Ticket to Ride has been a fan-favorite for more than a decade - it's comfortably one of the most relaxing tabletop experiences you can get. Thoughtful, easy-going, and thoroughly chilled out, it's a must-have and one of the best board games out there right now.
You've got to channel your inner travel magnate in Ticket to Ride as players are pitted against each other in a race to create train lines across the continent. Certain routes net you more points, but there are a limited number of tracks to build on. That means you'll have to move quickly if you want to secure a good pay-out at the end of the game - otherwise all the best lines will be snapped up.
Route cards add an extra dimension to this. These offer a rather tasty bonus if your line stretches from one named city to another… but failure sees those points taken off your total. That makes managing them a risky balancing act, particularly because an opponent might claim a stretch of track you need first. You'll then have to take a lengthy detour.
This gives players many (literal) paths to victory. Should you focus on quicker but less valuable routes to rack up points quickly? Or is it better to focus on longer, more lucrative lines that could potentially go wrong?
There's no right answer, providing Ticket to Ride with plenty of tactical depth under its calm surface. More specifically, there's an undercurrent of strategy holding it all together despite that laid-back demeanor.
However, that battle of wills isn't stressful like the Pandemic board game or as competitive as something like Disney Villainous - instead, it's much more laid back. Although it can be frustrating when someone swoops in and claims a route you need first, it's not going to ruin friendships. Plus, there's almost always an alternative with which to salvage your efforts.
It's not easy to be spiteful in this game either. You need to use train cards with specific colors to lay down track (routes are color-coded), and because these cards are drawn a few at a time for everyone to choose from, progress is naturally throttled. Unless you get very lucky, you'll need to bide your time and collect enough cards to complete a route.
This allows you to keep track (no pun intended) of what other players are doing even when it's not your turn. Are they collecting loads of blue cards? That probably means they're going after a blue route. You can then start to figure out which one they're shooting for - and whether you need to get there first.
Overall - should you buy Ticket to Ride?
If there was ever a great board game for families, it's Ticket to Ride. Accessible, low-key, and very replayable, this is the perfect option for newcomers and tabletop veterans alike.
To be precise, this is easy-going fun at its best; you don't need to think too hard or react too fast. That makes Ticket to Ride the perfect post-Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner board game for when everyone's full of food and a bit sleepy.
Which version of Ticket to Ride should you get?
There are more than a few different versions of Ticket to Ride: alongside the classic edition that takes place in North America, there are numerous variants that revolve around everything from specific cities to sea travel.
So, which one should you buy? If you're new to the idea, I'd recommend opting for the 'classic' USA game or its European equivalent. These show off everything Ticket to Ride has to offer and provide the best entry-point. Meanwhile, younger players should aim for the more streamlined Ticket to Ride: First Journey.
If you can find it on offer, it's also worth considering the special Ticket to Ride Europe 15th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. Despite being more expensive (and arguably too steep for anyone that already isn't a fan), you get what you pay for: each player receives unique miniatures to use in-game, and these are all stored within gorgeous collectors' tins featuring an original design. Additionally, the board and cards have been given a more colorful, intricate makeover that's very handsome. It's the ultimate version of Ticket to Ride in every sense and is a good way to honor such a beloved board game.