Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania – Game Review

Review by Erik Arneson

  • Designer: Alan R. Moon
  • Publisher: Days of Wonder
  • Players: 2-5 (special rules for 2 players)
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3

TT-MC5_3D_box_T1Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania gets smaller billing on the box cover (albeit with a fantastic rendering of Pittsburgh’s Union Station) than Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom – but, for me, the Pennsylvania map is the unquestioned highlight of this latest Ticket to Ride expansion.

What’s in the Box

The two-sided game board features the U.K. on one side and Pennsylvania, along with nearby locations such as Baltimore, New York City, and Ontario, on the other.

The Pennsylvania-specific components include 50 destination tickets and 60 stock shares. The shares are divided unequally among nine railroad companies.

Players need the plastic trains and train cards from a copy of the original Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride: Europe.

Setup

Each player receives 45 trains of a single color and four train cards. The remaining cards are shuffled and the top five are turned face up.

The stock shares are placed near the board in nine piles, one pile per company.

Each player is dealt five destination tickets and must keep at least three.

Gameplay

The basic gameplay of Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania will be instantly familiar to those who have played any of the Ticket to Ride board games.

The stock shares, an element never before used in Ticket to Ride, add a great deal of strategy. Most routes on the Pennsylvania map are marked with one or more railroad company logos. When you play trains on a route, you choose a stock certificate from one of the pictured companies.

The largest company, naturally enough, is the Pennsylvania Railroad with 15 shares. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad has 10 shares, the Erie Lackawanna Railway has eight, the Reading Railroad has seven, and so on down to the smallest – the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway – which has just two shares. At the end of the game, players score points based on how many shares they own in each company.

Some of the longest routes, such as the six-train connections of Scranton to Williamsport, Williamsport to DuBois, and Binghamton to Albany, offer no stock shares – just the normal points for claiming those routes. The seven-train, 18-point route from Baltimore to Cumberland does give players a choice of stock in two companies, although it’s on the far southern edge of the map.

TT-MC5_US-PA_Setup

Players must balance the need to complete destination tickets with the need to collect shares in specific companies. Is it better to build directly from Scranton to DuBois (pronounced doo-BOYZ, by the way) via Williamsport and receive no stocks, or should you meander through Towanda, Elmira, Coudersport, and Warren to lock down control of the Erie Lackawanna?

As in all great games, the answer is clear: It depends. On what tickets you have, on what train cards you draw, and on what the other players are doing.

Game designer Alan R. Moon discussed stock share strategy in his Designer Diary for BoardGameGeek:

“Since the first share is the ultimate tiebreaker for each railroad, it can be very important to build routes early. It can also influence your choice of routes to build. Sometimes, building more short routes can be valuable to give you more shares. Sometimes, building a specific route just to get the last share or one of the last remaining shares available can increase the points you will receive for that railroad.”

But be careful. As Moon cautions, “It is easy to get too distracted by the shares… and sometimes it’s best just to follow a more normal Ticket to Ride strategy.”

The Pennsylvania map also features some very key locations. More than 40 percent (21 of 50) of the destination tickets involve one or more of these six cities: Baltimore, Buffalo, Harrisburg, New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. (Harrisburg has an astounding eight connections to it. Has any other city ever had so many?)

When the game ends, a 15-point globetrotter bonus is awarded to the player(s) with the most completed tickets. (There is no longest route bonus.)

TT-MC5_US-PA_share_cards

Points are awarded for stocks based on ownership. For example, the player with the most shares of the Erie Lackawanna is awarded 16 points, second most 10 points, third most five points, and fourth most one point. Ties are broken based on which player acquired a share of stock in the company the earliest. There are eight Erie Lackawanna stocks, for example, numbered from one to eight. The first player to acquire stock in the Erie Lackawanna will receive share number one.

The winner is the player with the most points from a combination of routes on the board, completed destination tickets (the value of any incomplete destination ticket is, as always in Ticket to Ride games, subtracted), stocks, and the globetrotter bonus.

My Thoughts on Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania

Full disclosure: The game designer is a personal friend.

I love this game, but that wasn’t hard to predict. Not only am I a fan of Ticket to Ride and a long-time resident of Pennsylvania, I’ve been pestering Alan to design a map of my home state for many years.

That said, the stock element of the game is executed to perfection. It’s simple enough to fit comfortably into the Ticket to Ride series (it’s basically “play a route, get a stock”), yet it introduces a surprisingly deep new layer of strategy that can cause in-game tactics to change several times over the course of a single play.

I enjoy the Pennsylvania map so much that I haven’t played the U.K. map yet. And I’m not sure when I will.

If you like Ticket to Ride, this is an excellent addition to your collection. If not, the stock element could be enough to interest you – it’s definitely worth a try. As for me, I’ll be playing Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania very happily for many decades to come.

Now that we have a Pennsylvania map, my next task is to convince Alan that Wisconsin is the perfect state for a Ticket to Ride expansion… #GoPackGo

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dale Y: This game is kinda like the love child of Ticket to Ride and Union Pacific it encompassess all of the good things about each without all of the incessant bitching about how to divvy up and collect UP stock.  For me, this is one of the deeper TtR variants because of how much it actually differs from the original.  Not only are you worried about completing routes and finishing tickets, but the ever changing standings in the company shareholdings continually affects your decision making process.

I think the game is balanced well as Alan has warned, it is easy to get too caught up in the shares and then miss out on the regular scoring of the game however, the reward for being the primary winner in a railroad is high enough to always be tempting.

Full disclosure: I consider Alan a personal friend of mine. I am not sure if this is reciprocal. ;)  

Chris W (1 Play): I’ve only played the Pennsylvania side once,  but I loved it.  As Erik said, the stock element of the game is executed to perfection, and it adds greatly to the depth of the game.  I anticipate gamers will love this TtR iteration.  As I said in our U.K. review, the U.K. map is also top notch, and the combination of the two maps has made Map Pack #5 my favorite of the expansions.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Erik Arneson, Dale Y, Chris W
  • I like it.
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me.
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About Erik Arneson

Gov. Ed Rendell once called me brilliant. He didn't mean it. Fiction in Thuglit, Needle, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, and more. Temple Owl. Packers owner. Find me at erikarneson.com and @erikarneson on Twitter.
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