Ticket to Ride is a modern classic in the world of board games. Like many popular games, they are able to be played online as well. Ticket to Ride is no exception and the main Ticket to Ride server is run by Days of Wonder, the company that produces the hard copy. The neat thing about the online version of Ticket to Ride is that it can be played cross-platform. This review looks at the game online as played on Steam. It can also be played on a web-based JAVA server and an iPad. I will break down how the game looks on Steam, how it plays, and if it is worth playing this digital, online version.
When you open Ticket to Ride on Steam, the turn-of-the-century railroad music plays and Gerry the conductor greets you… every time. I find him annoying after hearing him hundreds of times and thus I have him on mute now. There are two choices when you enter the game. The first option is “play now”, in which a game is started vs the computer and, since the AI is not very good, it is hardly worth playing.
Instead, click on “more” and then choose the “online game” option. You then reach the lobby where you can find a game to play or start one yourself. There are a number of maps available to play: US, US-Big Cities, US Mega, US 1910, Europe, Swiss, and Legendary Asia. The game comes with the US map, which costs $4.99. The other maps cost $1.99 each. I got all the maps during a special for $9.
All of the introductory screens from the welcome page to the lobby are very well designed and easy to get around. The music and such gets annoying after hundreds of plays, but, really, what music and announcer would not be irritating after hearing it hundreds of times? Finding a game is easy enough. While I have minor problems with the design, overall it is very well done.
I am assuming that you know how to play Ticket to Ride here, if not, read our Ticket to Ride board game review. When the game starts, the tickets drawn are placed in front of you. When you click on them, the screen lights up showing the two cities that need to be connected. Players click on the tickets to toggle selecting them or not. When a legal possible decision is made, the ok button lights up and can be clicked when the decision has been made. Once all players make their choices, the game begins.
Players have three options every turn. All of the upkeep is done by the computer, making an online game of Ticket to Ride much much faster than its board game counterpart. If a player chooses to draw new tickets, a confirmation screen makes sure that a misclick did not occur. Otherwise, if a mistake is made, it cannot be taken back. Players can easily see how many routes each player has drawn and how many trains they have in their hand. The number of train cards is not as clear, as it tells you the exact number each opponent has if they have 7 or less. If they have 8 or more, it simply says “8+.”
My biggest gripe gameplay-wise is that there is no way to know exactly what cards a player used to claim a route. This problem occurs most often with the grey routes. I really like knowing what color a player used to take a route, as they probably aren’t going to use that color to take a long route of the same color. It is a minor problem, but it is one.
After the endgame is triggered, the final screen is very well designed, showing the scores going up or down as it determines if routes are completed. If a player does not want to wait, they can click the fast-forward button and get the final result right away. If the game is rated, the players rating goes either up or down using an Elo rating system.
My Thoughts and the Online Culture
Ticket to Ride is a great game to play online. Playing a 2-player game can be under 10 minutes if players are taking their turn at a normal pace. It is well designed and a lot of fun. In fact it is so much fun that my wife and I really only play the physical copy of the game when introducing the game to new people. Well, that and TTR: Team Asia, which has a dynamic that the creators of the online version did not try to recreate, thankfully. If you like TTR, get the online game.
I want to address two things with the online culture. First, quickly, there is an excess of people wanting the game to be played fast. You will often see games labeled “FAST” or “VERY FAST.” Even if sometimes you stop to think for a moment, some players get angry. These people need to just take a chill-pill, I suggest avoiding them entirely.
The bigger issue I want to deal with is that you will see many games labeled “Fair” You may wonder what a fair game of Ticket to Ride is. Saying a game is fair implies that there is a way to play the game unfairly. To many people, an unfair game is a game where a player plays trains in a purely defensive nature, in order to block his or her opponent. This is not the way Ticket to Ride was designed to be played. A “fair” game is one where blocking is allowed. If you disallow blocking, then you are allowing someone to take advantage of you by leaving open routes that they should have to grab early-on. Instead, they can pick up cards and be more aggressive. The nature of the game is this balance between grabbing more cards and placing trains. Making a game of “no block” disrupts that balance. If you want to play “no block,” that is fine, but please don’t call that way of playing “fair.” Call it what it is, a modified variant to the game.