Get to know all the standalone implementations of the famous board game.
Ticket to Ride endures as one of the most popular board games around the world, having been able to sell more than three million copies worldwide, boasting an easy to learn set of rules that can be written at the back of a train ticket and wonderfully tactile gameplay of lining up a set of plastic trains along a route on the map, claiming it for points.
Of course, with it being such a huge money maker, it would be no surprise that the publisher of Ticket to Ride, Days of Wonder, would try to replicate this success by making multiple versions of the original game.
As of the time of this writing, there are currently eleven different versions, including the original game, all of which are standalone boxes that don’t need the original for you to play with, and all of them with varying rule sets and settings for each, while still maintaining the charming allure of trains.
Below are the different versions of Ticket to Ride and when they were released:
- Ticket to Ride (2004)
- Ticket to Ride: Europe (2005)
- Ticket to Ride: Märklin (2006)
- Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries (2007)
- Ticket to Ride: The Card Game (2008)
- Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails (2016)
- Ticket to Ride: First Journey (2016)
- Ticket to Ride: Germany (2017)
- Ticket to Ride: New York (2018)
- Ticket to Ride: London (2019)
- Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam (2020)
With all that being said, though, what exactly is Ticket to Ride?
Ticket to Ride takes you on a journey across the USA, with you playing as a group of 2-5 friends trying to travel by rail across the country, visiting as many cities as possible within 7 days, competing on which among you can do the most traveling.
To win a game of Ticket to Ride, you have to be able to score the most points at the end of the game, with you gaining points only from routes, with each turn of Ticket to Ride being fairly simple, with you being able to choose one out of three possible actions: either you draw new Train Car cards, draw new Destination Tickets, or claim a route.
If you choose to draw Train Car cards as your action for the turn, you can choose any face-up Train Car card or take one randomly from the top of the draw pile, but the important thing to remember is that if you take any Train Car from the face-up cards that isn’t a locomotive, you can then draw another Train Car card from either the face-up cards or from the top of the draw pile.
If you want to get some sweet points instead by choosing to claim a route, you simply need to discard Train Car cards of the same colour equal to the number of spaces that your chosen route has, meaning if you’re trying to claim a route that is 6 spaces long, you need to be able to discard 6 Train Car cards of the same colour, with longer routes netting you more points.
Once you have discarded enough cards to fulfill the route’s requirement, you then move on to the most satisfying part of the game, which is taking your little plastic trains of your colour and placing it on top of each space of the route you just claimed, indicating that that route is now yours in addition to making the board prettier.
There’s one other rule to note on this, which is that if the route you are trying to claim is of a specific colour with a specific symbol rather than just being a gray route, you need to be able to discard that many Train Car cards of that same type, which means that even if you have six white Train Cars, you can’t claim a 6 space long black route.
However, if you have locomotives in your hand, they function as basically any colour, meaning you can claim a 6 space long black route even if you have only two black Train Car cards as long as you can fill in the missing required number of cards with enough locomotives, which in this case, means that you need four locomotives if you only have two blacks to claim a 6 space long black route.
The last action that you can choose is drawing new Destination Tickets, wherein you simply draw three cards from the top of the Destination Tickets deck, and then you may keep one, two, or even all three of them!
Destination Tickets are simply cards that let you gain huge chunks of points if you are able to connect the two cities named on the card with your own routes, but failing to connect the two cities on your Destination Tickets actually ends up with you losing the points on the Ticket rather than gaining them!
With the rulebook only being a measly four pages and is laid out in a manner that is easy to read, Ticket to Ride is very easy to teach if you’re new to the scene and is a very easy recommendation for all kinds of board gaming groups.
Ticket to Ride: Europe
Now with that initial explanation of the original game out of the way, things will definitely be shorter and easier for us moving forward, as most of the other versions of Ticket to Ride use the same set of rules with little additions in various places, which is what we have with Ticket to Ride: Europe.
In addition to playing on a completely different map than the original Ticket to Ride, now based around Europe, this version also adds three new hiccups to the original’s rules: Ferries, Tunnels, and Train Stations.
Ferry routes are simply new kinds of routes that need a specific number of locomotives played based on how many locomotive symbols are on that route, which means that if you have a 6 space long Ferry route with two locomotive symbols on it, you need to be able to discard 4 identically coloured cards and 2 locomotive cards, and you can never claim a Ferry route if you don’t discard any locomotive cards.
Tunnels, which are easily identifiable because they have a special border around them, are the most interesting addition to this game as it throws a possible wrench into your plans because after you discard cards try to claim a Tunnel route, you will first reveal the top three cards of the Train Car deck, and for each revealed card that matches the colour of cards that you discarded, you will then need to discard additional cards of that colour before being able to claim that route!
Now, if you can’t play any more cards of that same colour or simply don’t want to, the cards that you discarded will then go back to your hand instead, but your turn immediately ends, so while there are risks to claiming the Tunnel routes, they usually can be mitigated by careful planning.
However, the Train Stations are actually the one thing about Ticket to Ride: Europe that adds the most layers of strategy to the game.
On your turn, as an action, you can choose to discard one, two, or three identically coloured cards to place your first, second, or third Train Station, respectively, to place one of your Train Stations in any city without a Train Station on it yet.
But what Train Stations actually do is quite important for your Destination Tickets, because at the end of the game, these Train Stations consider any route connected to them as routes that also belong to the player with a Train Station on it, making it easier for you to miss out on getting negative points!
You’re never required to build a Train Station, though, and you’ll be getting 4 points at the end of the game for each Train Station that you don’t build.
All these additions to the base game actually make the Ticket to Ride experience easier, giving players more wiggle room in terms of achieving their Destination Tickets.
Ticket to Ride: Märklin
Unlike the previous two games, Ticket to Ride: Märklin isn’t actually based on one single country, because Märklin is actually a company that sells actual model trains and railways, which is one of the nicest things about the game because every single Train Car card in the game has a unique illustration based on one of their model trains.
Aside from the aesthetic differences, we also have three main differences to the gameplay: the Destination Tickets, Passengers, and +4 locomotives.
In Märklin, instead of drawing from a single deck of Destination Tickets, we now have two different decks to draw from, which are the short and long Destination Tickets, with the short Tickets being worth less points than the long Tickets but are actually easier to achieve, meaning you’d be risking losing less points.
That may seem like a trivial thing to change about the game, but the thing here is the extra 10 points awarded at the end of the game is now given to the player who was able to achieve the most Destination Tickets instead of whoever has completed the longest continuous trail of trains, making the decisions less obvious.
The other small change in Märklin are the +4 locomotives, which are actually still wild cards like the previous games’ locomotives, but can only be used in routes that are 4 or more spaces, but because of their limitations, you can also draw them from the face-up cards without being limited to one draw during that turn.
The big difference in Märklin are the Passengers: you receive three of them before the game starts and their main function is picking up all the Merchandise that you set up at the beginning of the game around the various cities.
You can place these Passengers immediately after claiming a route, placing them in either end of your claimed route, and then in your future turns, you can choose to move one passenger through all connected routes that you own as an action, and if you wish to move them through another player’s route, you can simply discard a Passenger card for each route that you pass through that is not yours.
And what you get from doing all that is grabbing the topmost Merchandise token of each city that you passed through, including the one where you ended up on, and these tokens will score you loads of points, but will also cause the Passenger you used to be removed from the game.
Knowing when to activate these Passengers will be the key difference to winning a game of Märklin.
Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries
Nordic Countries is actually one of the versions of Ticket to Ride that contains the least amount of new things to discuss, because it has both the Ferries and Tunnels from Europe and the 10 point bonus of fulfilling the most Destination Tickets from Märklin, but now it’s only a 2-3 player game as opposed to the usual 2-5 count.
However, that change in player count is all it needed to make this game my favourite amongst all the versions, because this map is tighter and harder to maneuver around, presenting more opportunities for blocking other player’s plans.
Nordic Countries also changed the rules for locomotives, with them now only usable in Ferry routes, Tunnels, and that special 9-space route that goes from Murmansk to Lieksa, but because of this new limitations on the locomotive’s power, you can now draw them from the face-up cards without restricting you to one draw.
Speaking of that beast that is the Murmansk-Lieksa route, it has special rules to claiming it as well, with you now being able to substitute 4 cards of any colour for 1 card of the colour that you’re trying to use for that route, which means that if you’re trying to claim it with 5 black cards and 2 locomotives, and you’re missing only 2 black cards, you can then instead discard a whopping additional of 8 cards of any colour to finally claim it for yourself, and you’ll be getting some sweet 27 points from this power move.
Ticket to Ride: The Card Game
This game solely relies on cards to keep the train chugging along, but exchanges the charm of placing down plastic trains on a map for some portability and implementing memory into gameplay with mixed results.
You’re still basically trying to collect Train Car cards to fulfill Destination Tickets by doing one out of three possible actions, but the methods to scoring differ quite a lot.
Obtaining Train Car cards are pretty similar to the other games, with locomotives acting as wild cards, and you can still draw Destination Tickets from the deck, but the Tickets now display colours instead of cities, and the Train Car cards are actually played on to your side of the playing area as either sets of two or more identically coloured cards or three differently coloured cards, provided that there are no other cards of those colours owned by anyone.
But these cards can be discarded by the other players by playing a set of coloured cards with a greater total than your set, meaning that if you have a set of two black Train Car cards, your opponent can then play a set of three or more black Train Car cards to discard your entire set of black cards!
The fun part is that if your cards stay on your side of the play area, they will then be transferred to a facedown pile, and when the game ends, you can then spend these cards in your facedown pile to fulfill the required colours in your Destination Tickets, gaining you points!
However, the one tricky part here is that you can never look through the facedown pile of cards you have, adding a memorization element to the game that may turn off some players.
Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails
Rails & Sails is the biggest version of Ticket to Ride, containing two maps, Harbours, Ships, Tour Tickets, and Pair routes, but these differences turn down the game’s accessibility.
First, let’s talk about the Ships, which relate to both the Ship routes, cards, and pieces, and you can only claim Ship routes by using Ship cards, placing Ship pieces onto them, and this addition actually adds up to the game’s length quite significantly because the Ships and Trains are two separate piles of plastic pieces, and you choose how many of each pile you start with at the beginning of the game.
That may seem okay at first, but imagine adding that many variables into a game that also has Harbours, which gives you points if you have completed tickets connected to it but loses you points if you haven’t built them at all, Tours, which are a specific kind of Destination Tickets wherein you have to exactly follow the path shown on the Ticket to gain the full amount of points, and Pair routes, which double the required number of cards needed to claim it, and we now have an entry that is bogged down by trying too many things at once.
Ticket to Ride: First Journey
The same year that Rails & Sails was released, we also got First Journey, which is a stark contrast to it, being primarily aimed towards younger kids, changing the game’s objective from getting the most points to racing towards six completed tickets first!
The overall gameplay of this is pretty similar to the original Ticket to Ride, but this time around, because there is no scoring mechanism, you simply try to claim routes as fast as possible to avoid being blocked by other players and fulfill the tickets you have been dealt, which actually makes this the best way to introduce board gaming to the younger members of your family, but also is enjoyable enough for the older members as well.
Ticket to Ride: Germany
After ten years of not getting the next best version of Ticket to Ride, Germany actually hits the right spot in terms of new mechanics, with it going back to the basics of the original, slapping in a snazzy new map and adding Passengers that are less wonky than that of Märklin’s.
The sole addition of a reworked Passenger system is enough to make Germany my second most favourite of all the Ticket to Ride versions, with the game being set up with Passengers across the various cities and you being able to take one of them if you claim a route that is connected to a city that they are in.
At the end of the game, you gain 20 or 10 points if you have the most number or second most number of Passengers per colour, and since there are 6 colours of Passengers, you can potentially gain up to 100 points if the stars align, which is an absolutely exciting prospect.
Ticket to Ride: New York
Taking a cue from First Journey’s length, New York scales down the action to keep the game length even shorter while still keeping the game’s penchant for gaining points, this time around taking you to New York and replacing the trains with taxis.
It’s basically the same game as the original, albeit shorter and only for up to 4-players, but adding a little wrinkle that is the Tourist Attractions, which are various cities in the game that give you an extra point for every route you claimed that is connected to them, keeping this version an even easier recommend for people new to board gaming.
Ticket to Ride: London
If you thought New York was cool, London is even cooler, because it keeps the former’s length of play while also replacing the taxis with double-decker buses!
Admittedly, the double-decker buses being cooler than taxis is a bit subjective, but the new mechanic introduced to London, Districts, is also crunchier than New York’s Tourist Attractions, with Districts being specifically numbered suburbs around London, and if you are able to connect all of the similarly numbered cities with your routes, you then gain points equal to the number of that District!
Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam
If you’re into wooden carts more than double-decker buses, then Amsterdam has got you covered, taking the same compressed gameplay of New York and London and transporting you back to 17th Century Amsterdam.
This time around, we have Merchandise routes to take care of in addition to the usual ruleset, which are different from Märklin’s version of Merchandise tokens.
Simply put, whenever you claim a route that has cart symbols on it, you then draw 1 Merchandise Bonus card, and you gain points depending on the number of Merchandise Bonuses that each player gets at the end of the game!
There are actually two other versions of the game that are very rare: Ticket to Ride: Demo, which is actually unavailable for purchase anywhere and is simply a condensed version of the original that is given to retailers for demo purposes; and Les Aventuriers du Rail Express, which is an exclusive French version of the game that is similar to New York, London, and Amsterdam in terms of game length and complexity but is not available for purchase worldwide.
Outside of those two, I would have to say that most of the versions of Ticket to Ride are an easy recommendation, with possibly Rails & Sails and The Card Game being the hardest to recommend and Nordic Countries and Germany being my favourites.
Nordic Countries is simply the tightest game of all the Ticket to Ride versions, and since it has a map with some very specific routes (meaning you’re most likely to get blocked from accessing certain cities if you don’t get to them first), it is definitely my favourite of all versions due to how cutthroat it is and how competitive my family is.
Unfortunately, Nordic Countries only allows for a maximum of 3 players, so for larger play groups, I would recommend picking up Germany due to how little the changes are compared to the original version of Ticket to Ride but with the added layer of passengers on top of it, giving you more things to compete with on the board.
Of course, you can always pick up either New York, London, or Amsterdam if you simply want to try and see if the Ticket to Ride experience would click for your group because they are smaller and cheaper than the rest of the other games, and if you want more of it but just want the barebones Ticket to Ride experience, you could always go for the original version.
No matter which version you pick, though, all of the Ticket to Rides are bound to charm you with their great set collection mechanics and wonderfully illustrated cards, and you will find that most of them would be a great fit for your board game collection.
Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.
Image credit, license, No changes made.