Dale Yu: Ticket to Ride – Netherlands

Ticket to Ride: Netherlands

  • Designer: Alan R. Moon
  • Publisher: Days of Wonder
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-45 mins
  • Times Played: 3, with review copy provided by Days of Wonder

ttrneth

Last week, I wrote about Carcassone: South Seas – and I called it one of the enduring franchises of our hobby.  Ticket to Ride is another one of those franchises, and the newest addition to the family is an expansion board – a Netherlands map.  Ticket to Ride: Netherlands (TtR:N) is only an expansion, you will need the base game or TtR:Europe to play as you need to plastic trains and train cards from one of those games to play.

The board is a fairly decent representation of the Netherlands – like many other maps, a few cities have been moved slightly in order to allow the uniform sized TTR track spaces to fit on the board, but from my limited knowledge of Dutch geography, it seems to be in order.

TtR:N uses the regular rules from the base game of Ticket to Ride, and adds in a few interesting twists to keep you on your toes.  It uses the entire deck of train cards from the base game.  Players only use 40 (of the 45) plastic trains in their color.

The focus of the TtR:N expansion is on tickets.  There are 44 destination tickets in the game, and they are worth as much as 34 points.  At the start of the game, players are dealt 5 tickets and they must keep at least 3.  The discarded tickets are placed into a discard pile.  This discard pile is shuffled into a new draw pile if the draw pile is depleted.  Later in the game, if you choose to draw tickets, you draw 4 and must keep 1.

The other main change in TtR:N is that there are “toll tokens” in the game.  Each player starts with 30 toll tokens.  Every route on the board has a toll cost associated with it.  When you build a route, or if you build the first of a double route, you pay the associated cost to the bank.  If you are the second to build a double route, you pay the toll to the player who built the first track on that route.  If you are unable to pay the toll, you can take a loan card from the bank.  This card can never be repaid, and it is worth negative 5 victory points at the end of the game.  If that unpaid toll was due to another player, that player takes the toll tokens from the supply.

T2R_NEDERLAND_game_components

The game otherwise plays by the usual rules to TtR.  In-game scoring is the same, with routes of 1/2/3/4/5/6 worth 1/2/4/7/10/15 points.  At game end, tickets are scored in the usual manner – with positive points being given for completed tickets and negative points being scored for incomplete tickets.

After that point, there is some difference in scoring though.  In TtR:N, there is no reward for longest route or most tickets completed.    First, all players who have had to take a loan card lose 5VP for each loan card taken.   Then, there is a bonus given for toll tokens left at the end of the game.  In a 5 player game, this is worth 55 VP to the person with the most.  2nd/3rd/4th/5th place in toll tokens gives 35/20/10/0 points.  However, any player who was forced to take a loan card is ineligible to get any bonus points in this stage.

The player with the most points wins!

My thoughts on the game

First off, I love Ticket to Ride, and I have really enjoyed the expansion boards that have been released in the past few years.  Each of them has offered something different that gives the expansion a different flavor while retaining a lot of the familiar qualities of the base game.

Tickets are super-important in this game.  So important that the rules even tell you that you pretty much need to score a bunch of tickets (and score over 100 points) in order to be competitive.  The big tickets are quite valuable – worth over 30 points, so you clearly can’t keep up with this by just building to the board.  I’ve played plenty of TtR games with the designer, and I know first hand that Alan loves to draw and complete tickets.  I remember playing a game of TtR:Germany with him, and I was amazed at the number of times he went back to draw tickets.  I was even more surprised when he nearly doubled my score at the end of the game!

T2R_NEDERLAND_boy

I really like the interaction of the toll tokens.  Oftentimes in vanilla TtR, I will try to hoard cards and only build track sections if I think that I’m going to be cut off from a particularly critical track section.  TtR:N promotes early play to the board for a number of reasons.  First, because the tickets are so valuable (and there are no stations to let you use other people’s routes), you really want to make sure that you claim the important chokepoint routes on the board.  Second, if you are the first person to build on a double route, this becomes a free build when someone builds the second portion of that route – because they have to pay their toll to you.

The toll token bonus at the end of the game is huge, and it helps balance out the high scoring tickets.  55 for first place or 35 for second place is a significant portion of the final score, and it makes toll token management an important thing to consider in the endgame of TtR:N.

I honestly don’t find any of the TtR expansions superior to the base game, but I don’t necessarily find them any worse either.  I just love the fact that they breathe new life into the game and allow me to get it to the table and present new challenges in the familiar system.

I’ve played it 3 times so far, and I am looking forward to trying the 2p variant that is included in the rules.  I have not yet had a chance to play it – but the rules appear to create a very tight game.  At the bottom of some of the tickets is a train route.  On each turn after the 5th, there is a neutral turn (which uses a third color).  On that neutral turn, a route card is flipped up, and if there is a train route on the bottom, it is filled in with trains of the neutral color.  If it is the second of the double route, toll tokens are given from the supply to the builder of the first route.  Again, I haven’t played it yet, but it appears that this will really spice up the 2p game by having the neutral player make unpredictable builds that can really muck with your plans.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Mary Prasad (one play/2p): I’ve only played the game one time so far but I expect I may not like it as much with more players. We did not play with the neutral player variant. I don’t like fighting over resources in general (not my type of thing); the two player had enough for me. I did like the addition of bridge tokens. It added an interesting twist to the game. The bonus for bridge toll tokens is pretty big (35 points in a two player game) but I managed to win without it due to some good tickets. I like having the ability during the game to draw four tickets and keep one (I tend to get tickets that are all over the board so having more to choose from alleviated the luck factor a bit). The only thing I don’t like is the font used for the city names on the board – it was a bit too difficult to read. Other than that, the game is very well produced, as we’ve come to expect from Days of Wonder.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

I love it! Dale Yu

I like it.  Mary Prasad

Neutral.

Not for me…

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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4 Responses to Dale Yu: Ticket to Ride – Netherlands

  1. Dennis Hoyle says:

    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the strategy tip from the the designer himself!

  2. Eric says:

    As Mary mentioned, the font is extremely difficult to read (impossible if you looking at it upside down) and was enough of a play hindrance that led me to trading my copy.

  3. Mike K says:

    Only played once– the two-player version without the neutral-player variant, but I have two observations to report. First, we missed the “reduce to 40 trains” rule. I feel that DoW could have done a better job of making that change more obvious. I didn’t realize our error until reading this review.

    Second, my opponent and I arrived at a slight stalemate at the end of the game (possibly because we missed the 40-train rule). We arrived at a point where we each had a handful of trains remaining, but I zero tokens left and my opponent had one. As a result, my opponent was loathe to place any more trains, as such placement would require spending the last token and losing the 35-point bonus. I was also hesitant to place trains as I would pick up a -5 point card for placing any of my remaining 3 trains, while gaining at most 4 points.

    The resolution was that I dipped into the ticket well a couple more times hoping to get lucky. I did, and one of the tickets induced me to place my remaining trains and end the game. My opponent was more hesitant to draw tickets at the same time, because, if any of the tickets required completing additional routes, the ticket gain would have to outweight the sacrifice of the 35-point bonus. So this made the ending slightly disappointing for her as she simply burned several turns waiting for me to place my last trains.

    We enjoyed the map overall, and I am eager to return to it. However, I am also curious if this “stalemate” problem might come up in other scenarios– even with more than 2 players.

    When playing with 2, I do plan to play the neutral-player variant from now on; hopefully, that will make such conditions less likely to occur.

  4. ianthecool says:

    Hmm, neat. I like the idea of a ticket heavy game for something different every now and then.

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