The original Ticket To Ride is one of the trailblazers of modern board gaming, bringing the excitement and strategy of 19th Century railroad expansion to tabletops across the world. Originally released in North American and then European flavours, publishers Days of Wonder have since expanded the line to include special German and Nordic Countries editions as well as a stand-alone card game and map expansions for Asia, India, Africa and the Nederlands.
The latest of these Map Collections is the eagerly awaited United Kingdom expansion which comes with a couple of gorgeous new map boards and some interesting new game elements. As an extra bonus, the expansion also comes with a Pennsylvania board which adds another new element: stock shares!
Where previous versions of the game have focused on the golden age of railway with far-flung destinations linked by epic cross-continental routes, the UK expansion brings things back to the birth of the Steam Age, allowing players to only create short routes of one or two trains and only in England, echoing George Stephenson’s early work with steam locomotives, in fact the game even allows you to recreate his pioneering Manchester to Liverpool line for all us rail history geeks. In order for players to progress they will need to play Technology cards, such as the Concessions which allow the ability to build routes into Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France, or mechanical advances like the Mechanical Stoker or the Steam Turbines which allow players to utilise ferries and build longer routes, among other interesting advantages.
This restriction of route length in the early game adds a new level of play and forces players to change up their tactics on the fly as new technologies are opened up and new opportunities become available. Which technologies will end up in your hand is fairly unpredictable so it certainly behooves the canny player to dive in straight away with those short routes and see where the game takes you.
Scoring on the Pennsylvania map is somewhat different to the previous games in that, as well as earning a number of points based on the length of your route, you also pick up Stock Share cards which are then exchanged for points at the end of the game. The players obtain Stock Share cards when they complete a route; the map includes company symbols next to most of them to tell you which of the company piles you have the choice to draw from.The scoring works by awarding points to the person with the most stock cards for each company, then the second most, third, etc.
Now players have to plan their routes based on which companies run it, not just their destination tickets. Some companies only have a few stocks to sell and some routes have no companies attached to them at all, so a bit more forward planning is required to become a Pennsylvanian rail magnate.
Now this is a thing of beauty. The UK side depicts the British Isles (and a little bit of France) in a gorgeous watercolour style giving the whole place a mystical, otherworldly feel. Even Nessie gets a cheeky look-in!
The Pennsylvania side is completely different stylistically but just as striking, with bold fonts and colours over a map of the state surrounded by a 1920s stock exchange-style score track.
Ticket To Ride is already an excellent game to whip out after Christmas dinner and, with it’s beautiful artwork and familiar locations, the United Kingdom expansion will add a touch of quintessentially Christmassy Victoriana to any post-turkey family board game session. The new technology and stock rules add two very different tactical challenges as well as even more replayability to an already eminently replayable game that will see you breaking out the little plastic trains long after the Mint Matchmakers have all gone.
Going for a very reasonable RRP of £25.99, Ticket To Ride Map Collection: Volume 5: United Kingdom & Pennsylvania is available now from Waterstones on the high street, as well as hobby gaming stores found using this handy-dandy store locator.
All images copyright Days of Wonder Inc.