Review by Chris Wray
- Designer: Alan Moon
- Publisher: Days of Wonder
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 30-60 minutes
- Times played: >5
Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride is among my all-time favorite games, so I was looking forward to the release of Map Pack #5. This new release features two maps — one for the United Kingdom, the other for Pennsylvania — each introducing different elements of gameplay. I tried the game at Essen, and I was immediately impressed, saying it had the chance to become my favorite map.
Now that I’ve gotten in a few plays, I wanted to provide a more comprehensive review. This article focuses on Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom. Opinionated Gamer Erik Arneson will be publishing a review of Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania later today. For a history of the design and development of Map Pack #5, I recommend check out Mr. Moon’s Designer Diary at BGG.
What’s in the box…
Map Pack #5 comes with a double-sided gameboard, one side of which features the United Kingdom map. This side is among the most beautiful maps released to date. Illustrator Julien Delval and graphic designer Cyrille Daujean both deserve some some props.
The U.K.-specific components include three decks of cards. The first is a new deck of Train cards, which includes six extra locomotive (i.e. wild) cards. The second is a deck of 57 destination tickets. The third is a deck of 47 technology cards, which, as discussed below, add a tech tree to gameplay.
This is an expansion, so you will need either Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride: Europe to play. Specifically, you’ll need 35 trains of each color plus the scoring markers. Note that 45 trains are used in the original Ticket to Ride, so fewer trains are needed here.
Each player receives 35 trains of his or her color, 4 train cards, plus a locomotive card.
The technology cards are placed in stacks along the side of the gameboard: these are available for purchase. Of the 47 technology cards, 41 will be used in every game. The remaining 6 cards are “advanced technologies” used in an optional variant.
Each player is dealt 5 destination tickets, of which he must keep at least 3.
The game is played just like Ticket to Ride with the following changes:
- This map can be played with 2 to 4 players, but the double routes are not used in the 2-player game.
- Locomotive cards (i.e. wilds) are especially important in this game. Any 4 cards can be played as a locomotive. When 3 or more locomotives appear in the available face-up cards, they are not discarded.
- The map features ferries, which are special routes linking two adjacent cities across a body of water. Locomotive cards must be played for each locomotive symbol on a ferry route, in addition to the usual cards of the route’s color.
- There is no Longest Route or Globetrotter bonus in this game.
The biggest change includes the addition of the Technology Cards. Players start the game without any technology, and without it, they can only claim 1 and 2 space routes in England.
At the beginning of their turn, before taking their regular action, a player may discard locomotive cards to buy one technology card. The cost is indicated by a symbol on the cards.
There are eleven technology cards in the standard game:
- Wales Concession – Cost 1: You can claim routes into Wales.
- Ireland / France Concession – Cost 1: You can claim routes into Ireland and France.
- Scotland Concession – Cost 1: You can claim routes into Scotland.
- Mechanical Stoker – Cost 1: You can claims 3 space routes.
- Superheated Steam Boiler – Cost 2: You can claim 4, 5, and 6 space routes. (You still need the mechanical stoker to claim 3 space routes.)
- Propellers – Cost 2: You can claim ferry routes.
- Booster – Cost 2: You can trade any 3 cards in for a locomotive, instead of the normal 4.
- Boiler Lagging – Cost 2: You score 1 extra point for each route you claim.
- Steam Turbines – Cost 2: You score 2 extra points for each ferry route that you claim.
- Double Heading – Cost 4: You score 2 extra points for completed tickets at the end of the game.
- Right of Way – Cost 4: You can claim an already-claimed route. You must immediately claim the route when you take this card, and after you have claimed it you return the card to the table. In other words, you need to pay each time you use this card. You just put your trains next to those of the other player.
Some players — myself included — prefer to add up the points for the routes at the end of the game. Because of the Boiler Lagging and Steam Turbines, this doesn’t work in this expansion, and you’ll need to score as you go along (at least after one of those techs is purchased).
There is a special route in the game that is, to my knowledge, the longest route in the Ticket to Ride series. The route from Southampton to New York is 10 spaces long, with 3 of the spaces having the locomotive symbol. It is worth 40 points. Though it does not require any special technologies to claim, doing so is remarkably difficult, especially given how tight locomotive cards are in this game.
My thoughts on Map Pack #5…
I’ve always heard Ticket to Ride: Märklin described as the “gamer’s version” of Ticket to Ride. Well move over, Märklin, because there’s a new map pack in town that is better for gamers.
I was skeptical of adding technologies to Ticket to Ride. I thought this would add quite a bit of complexity, but that is not the case. The technologies themselves are easily-understood, and everybody I’ve played with (games and non-gamers alike) have grasped the idea with ease. The fundamentals are simple: you can build on one or two-train routes and in England, and if you want to do more, you’ll need to buy a few techs.
The technologies add considerable depth to the game, and that is why I think gamers will like this expansion. You need to match your Destination Tickets to your technologies. If, for example, you start the game with destinations in Ireland, you’ll certainly need the Ireland concession, and probably the propellers too.
The technologies you buy — as well as the technologies you lack — provides a noteworthy amount of information to other players. Are you worried about that 3-train route in Scotland being claimed? Fear not if your opponents lack the Scotland concession and mechanical stoker.
The map is tight, with players frequently blocking each other. It isn’t the most cutthroat of the Ticket to Ride maps, but it isn’t the friendliest either. Many of the Destination Tickets are for relatively short routes, so expect to be reaching into the draw pile quite often.
I like the addition of the New York to Southampton route. I was a bit concerned at first that it was overpowered, but I’ve concluded that this is not the case. Buying that route is a massive expenditure — 10 total cards, 3 of which must be the oh-so-valuable locomotives. Even pursuing it is a big risk: your opponents might secretly be going for it, and since it doesn’t require any techs, there is no way for them to have signalled their ambition. I’ve seen players win with this mega-route — it is a lot of points if you can get it — but more often I’ve seen players try and fail. And, in my experience, getting it doesn’t guarantee victory, since you often must neglect other parts of the board. (As a fun side note about that route, Moon created it as a tribute to his grandfather, who was a steward on the Queen Mary which sailed back and forth along that route.)
Despite these new mechanisms, gameplay lasts about as long as the average Ticket to Ride game. Though the technologies add to the gameplay, there are only 35 trains instead of 45, so in the end it is a wash. But the gameplay that occurs is more tense, with more focus on planning.
I said at Essen that this had the chance to become my favorite map. It has certainly become my favorite 4-player map, and likely my favorite 2-player map. It is a tossup with Switzerland (Map Pack #2) at the 3-player count. I like the added depth created by the technologies, as well as the tightly-drawn map.
In conclusion, I expect Map Pack #5 to be a big hit. The gameplay is more exciting than ever before. The map is beautiful. And with two excellent Ticket to Ride variants, there’s a lot of value in the box. It is certainly my favorite Map Pack to date. I enthusiastically recommend it.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: It’s hard to say which of the two maps in this expansion that I like more – but I think I’m leaning towards this one. I love the slow but steady buildup through the tech-tree, as well as the added strategy that you can employ – both by using your own technologies as well as realizing what technologies your opponents have (and don’t have).
In my games, I’ve never seen anyone complete the 45-point route to New York. It seems like that would probably win the game, but I think there is great risk that the game could end before you complete it – and since you’ve spent all your energy saving cards for it, you wouldn’t have enough points otherwise.
This game has definitely changed my normal strategy of never drawing Locos from the open cards and hoping to draw them as Mystery Meat. You simply just need to have them at times, and they are such a valuable commodity, that I often find myself drawing them as my only card for the turn…
Disclaimer: I consider Alan to be a personal friend of mine. I hope this is reciprocal ;)
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris W., Dale Y
- I like it. John P
- Not for me.