You might think that the original Ticket To Ride would be the obvious version to buy, but what you might not have realised is that there is another option which offers the same amount of content.
The Europe box has a different map and a couple of changes to the rules which make it a deeper but slightly more complicated game.
Either box would be a great addition to your collection, but do you want the easy playing style of North America or the more involved strategies of Europe?
The original box of Ticket To Ride with the North America map is the cleanest version of the game, with rules that are easy to learn, ideal for those who are light or intermittent gamers, or for people who want to introduce others to this classic gateway design.
Ticket To Ride: Europe introduces new elements to the framework of the original game – stations, ferries and tunnels – which add extra complexity. This later box is for those who find the original too straightforward, or who are looking for a slightly more involved challenge.
If you ever hear gamers using the term “gateway game” then they are usually talking about one of three games that have been hugely important in introducing people to the hobby.
One of them is Ticket To Ride, a game that was originally published in 2004 and which has gone on to become an entire family of different designs – the other two classic gateway games are The Settlers Of Catan and Carcassonne.
All three of these games share the same characteristics – their rules are simple to learn, they present interesting decisions, and they are all fun to play.
Ticket To Ride is about building train routes on a map, but it will feel familiar to anybody who has ever played card games, because it is really a game about collecting cards of the same colour.
On your turn in Ticket To Ride you take one of three actions:
- drawing train cards
- drawing destination cards
- claiming a route
Get enough cards of the same colour together and you can claim a train route and try to link up the two stations on one of your destination tickets.
Completed destination tickets will get you points at the end of the game, while incomplete tickets will cost you, and when these are added to the points grabbed from placing trains on routes the winner is declared.
It sounds simple because it is, and that really is the beauty of Ticket To Ride – you take one of three actions on your turn, but it is the choices that those actions present that are such fun.
Ticket To Ride: Europe adds an extra option for a player to choose from on their turn…but we’ll get to that later.
The irrepressible Rodney Smith gives a great overview of how to play Ticket To Ride US in this video.
If you don’t know Ticket To Ride then you really should play it, and the original US version of the game is probably the best place to start.
The other Ticket To Ride boxes and maps all bring something different to the game, normally in the shape of a small change in the rules, but this is the cleanest and least fussy version.
Don’t think that this is boring, though, because there is plenty of fun and entertainment to be had in this box, and it will also give you a great idea of whether you might like other games in the series.
The US box has rules that are really easy to learn, so you can be up and playing in less than five minutes and having fun.
I’ve mentioned the three main actions already, and that really is all there is to this version of Ticket To Ride apart from a couple of small things that are common to the Europe box as well.
Firstly, locomotives act as wild cards, so if you are short of a card to claim a route you can simply use a loco instead.
Secondly, there is a Longest Continuous Path Bonus card, which gives an extra ten points at the end of the game to the player who has the longest route on the board.
There are also some double routes on the board in this and other versions of the game, and only one of these can be claimed when playing with a small number of players.
This keeps the board tight at most player counts, and ensures that their trains will get in the way of each other, as that is part of the fun of the game.
But really, that is all you need to know about the US box – it’s easy to play and a whole lot of colourful fun.
Ticket To Ride: Europe takes the winning formula of the North America map and moves it across the Atlantic, adding in a few extra wrinkles along the way.
Two of these changes are to do with claiming routes, and they involve different types of terrain on the map, while the third opens up possibilities for claiming destinations.
The changes are:
Ferries are routes that travel over water, and these can be claimed with train cards in the normal way but with specific requirements.
Each ferry route is grey and has at least one locomotive indicated on the route, which indicates the number of locomotive cards that need to be used as part of the process to claim that ferry.
Because the route is grey a set of cards of any single colour may be used for the remaining spaces.
In other words, a ferry with two locomotives and four grey spaces could be claimed with two locomotive cards and four red cards, or cards or any other single colour.
The other new wrinkle is the introduction of tunnels, which can be identified on the map by their thick black outlines.
These involve an element of chance, as you never know quite how long the tunnel will need to be to claim your route.
Each time you try to claim a tunnel you also need to reveal the top three cards of the Train Deck and each drawn card that matches the colour you used means that you would need to pay extra.
So, let’s say that you play three green cards for your tunnel, then turn up three cards from the Train Deck and two of them are green – that’s bad luck as you would need to have another two green cards in hand to be able to complete the route.
If this sounds as if it could be frustrating then you are right, and there can be moments trying to build a tunnel when you are sure that the deck is stacked against you.
On the other hand, if you like that kind of risky element then you might find that other players leave the tunnels all to you!
The final addition in Ticket To Ride: Europe is not to do with the routes themselves, but can help a player out of a tricky situation.
Each player begins the game with three stations, and these can be built anywhere on the map and allow that player to use somebody else’s route from that station in order to complete a destination card.
In other words, if you find that your competitor takes the route you need you could build a station which will let you use that route anyway.
Your first station costs one card, your second costs two matching cards and your third (and last) one costs a set of three cards.
However, for each station that you do not use you get four points at the end of the game.
So is it worth building those stations during the game, or would the points at the end of the game be a better option? Tricky!
There is another very small change as well, which is the introduction of long routes on some destination cards, but this only takes place at the start of the game and does not change the gameplay at all.
Here’s a video from Starlit Citadel which takes a look at Ticket To Ride: Europe and also mentions how it compares with the US box.
It’s worth bearing in mind that while these two boxes both have a player count of anywhere from two to five they really do play best with three or four.
With two players the board can feel too open, while with five everything gets really crowded and it can be hard to put your plans into action.
Although both versions have weaknesses at either end of their player count, the fact that they work so well with three and four means that they are ideal family games, either for a group of adults together or perhaps for parents and children.
They are also very colourful and attractive on the table, and have the classic vibrant production of their publisher, Days Of Wonder.
As an added bonus, if you have either one of these boxes then you can start to explore the other maps that are out there for Ticket To Ride.
These are not complete games – which is why you would need either one of these base sets – but are set in different locations and with slightly different rules each time.
Maybe Look Elsewhere For Two or Five Players
For five players you could try the Netherlands map which also introduces tolls for route building, making things spicy.
For two players the Switzerland map is nice and tight and is packaged with India as an extra bonus.
For both of the above you would need either the US or Europe boxes as well, so you would have a Ticket To Ride experience that works well at all player counts as well as different maps for variety.
If you only ever play with two or three then there is another possibility that you should think about instead of US or Europe – the Nordic Countries box, which also has tunnels and ferries, is a complete standalone set with a tighter map than the earlier designs.
There are also some new Ticket To Ride releases that do something very similar in a smaller package, such as London and New York, but these are very much pared down experiences compared with the original two games.
You should also bear in mind that a good game of Ticket To Ride will involve some blocking and interaction on the board, and while many people enjoy that for others it can be a little too stressful, in which case there are many excellent games out there that might be a better fit.
In truth you can’t go too far wrong with either of these boxes in your collection, and it’s fair to say that every gamer from complete newbie to grizzled veteran should have a version of Ticket To Ride on their shelf.
There have been many different versions and maps made for this game over the years, but while the US and Europe boxes may be old in gaming terms they still provide an ideal entry point into the hobby and look and feel great on the table.
Think of the US box as the most basic version and Europe as the next level up and you’ll, ahem, be on the right track.
You should go for Ticket To Ride US if:
- You want a game that is easy to teach and fun to play
- You or the people you play with are new to board gaming
- You don’t want to have to remember rules and exceptions
- You want a game you can grab and be playing within five minutes
- You are looking for an ideal family game
You should go for Ticket To Ride: Europe if:
- You have tried the US version and found it a little bland
- You have played some board games before, or play regularly
- You want something that is light but which has some deeper decisions
- You like having different paths to explore from game to game
- The idea of ferries, tunnels and stations sounds exciting