The trains around East Anglia are rubbish.
Not because of the punctuality - they’ve actually gotten a little more reliable over the past few years - but because they’re about as functional as you can get.
Ticket to Ride, on the other hand, is like a first class cross-country express train of a boardgame conversion, managing to wrap up almost every luxury you can think of in an elegant decor.
Laying down the tracks
Based on the popular boardgame by Alan R. Moon, Ticket to Ride is about as faithful to its source as possible, with the initial purchase covering the standard board / ruleset, and expansions like Europe and Switzerland available for pennies / cents in-game immediately.
The idea is to build a railway across the map (by default, North America), completing fares (missions), and blocking off opponents trying to do the same thing.
You only get to make one decision per turn, so for most of the time you’re weighing up the advantages of either picking up another card, choosing a potentially more lucrative route, or laying down track.
Each has its own advantages and disadvantages - there’s never a ‘safe’ option, especially when four or more players are involved in the game.
If you’re new, then the excellent in-depth video tutorial and dynamic interactive walkthrough of a complete match do a fantastic job of teaching the basics, and you should be confidently playing within minutes.
Despite the subject matter not being as exciting-sounding as, say, Space Marine Shooter XIV, Ticket to Ride is far from the gentle and peaceful journey the title suggests.
Thanks to the fact that the boardgame keeps most of the points scoring cards for the final reveal, there’s very rarely a time when it's obvious who has won the game, making each match a nail-biter right to the end.
But Ticket to Ride isn't just a conversion of a good boardgame - it's a great iPad game in its own right.
Everything from the interface right through to the menus is superbly presented and fits perfectly with the theme.
The quick game, for instance, is a conductor’s ticket held out to you outside the 19th century station, while if you pop into the restaurant (multiplayer lobby) you’re greeted by a French waiter wanting to find you a table.
One adult ticket, please
Ticket to Ride’s online mode is where the bulk of the game takes place, as you’d expect from a competitive boardgame.
Games play out in one sitting, but usually only take around 15-20 minutes. Each player is ELO ranked, matches are configurable in terms of game type and players, and it all works seamlessly.
At the time of playing, the lobbies are brimming with friendly players looking for games (both the main pack and expansions), and thanks to the way the scoring works it’s rare that a match is conducted in bad spirit.
Ticket to Ride is a rare beast - a game that goes far and beyond what would normally pass as a ‘fair’ version of a well-loved game.
It’s a real shame that Days of Wonder hasn’t included any form of local multiplayer mode, however, especially considering how much effort has been made in all the other areas.
If you’re not concerned about face-to-face play, you should definitely get on board the Ticket to Ride train.