Alan R. Moon’s Ticket to Ride is one of the favorite games among writers of this site. It was #1 on our list of 50 Modern Classics, and it was #1 on our list of games to play first when entering the hobby. Ticket to Ride is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, and though we’ve written our history of the game, the best account of Ticket to Ride’s past is on an insert in the recently-released 15th Anniversary edition. Ticket to Ride won the Spiel des Jahres in 2004, and then the Europe map won the International Gamers Award in 2005.
There are about 27 different maps by our count, but what are the 10 best maps?
Ars Technica recently released an excellent list of every Ticket to Ride map ranked, but they only ranked the 17 maps most available in the US. If you want a completionist list of Ticket to Ride products, I enthusiastically recommend this list over at BGG. (For the record, we were working on our list before Ars Technica!)
There are going to be at least four maps released this year. Ticket to Ride London was released at Gen Con, and we’ll have a review in a few days. The Polish map (Wsiąść do Pociągu: Polska) was released a few weeks ago, becoming Map Collection #6.5. Finally, Map Collection 7 will be released at Essen Spiel ’19 and will feature Italy and Japan.
Today’s article is part of our “10 Great” series that features 10 great games in a given subcategory. I pick a mechanic, theme, publisher, etc. In this case, I picked a series of map expansions. We here at the Opinionated Gamers then all vote behind the scenes to create a list of 10 great games that meet the criteria. We’re aiming for an article a month, and I’d love your suggestions about future lists.
For purposes of this project, I simply asked everybody to vote for their 10 favorite Ticket to Ride maps. I put the list together in advance, and I don’t believe anybody found a game I was missing. Each member of the OG was offered the chance to vote for up to 10 maps. They could give one a 15, one game a 14, one game an 13, all the way down to giving one a 6. We all put our votes into a spreadsheet. We then added up the points for each map and picked the top 10.
We had 12 OG-ers vote, and 19 different maps received votes. Nearly every map received votes that is widely available: the 8 of the 27 that didn’t get votes were that way because they’re not widely available or they’re the children’s versions. Two of them are in exceptionally rare demo copies of the game; two aren’t out yet (Italy, Japan); two are the First Journey children’s edition; and one is very recently released (Poland). The last map not to get votes is exclusive to the French market (Les Aventuriers du Rail Express) and several of us only recently learned of it. What’s the takeaway from that? Pretty much all Ticket to Ride maps are pretty great, and our writers liked all of them that are widely available.
To get on the list took a minimum of five writers rating the map decently well. That wasn’t a rule, but rather how the breakdown naturally worked out. There’s actually great consensus towards the top of our list.
Below you’ll see designations for gold, silver, and bronze. Those represent the number of voters that put a given map in the #1, #2, and #3 spot, respectively.
Without further ado, here are 10 Great Ticket to Ride Maps!
Honorable Mention (Games That Barely Missed the List):
- New York
- Asia – Legendary Asia
- Germany (or Deutschland)
#10 – Nederland (Map Collection #4)
Ticket to Ride with currency! This 2-5 player maps is mostly double routes. The first to build along a path pays a bridge toll to the bank, and other players will pay the first player to build on that route. There’s a bonus at the end of the game for having the most money.
#9 – World Map (Rails & Sails)
The Rails & Sails maps add a second type of route: not only will players be building railways, they’ll also be building routes for ships! There are cards for each type of route, so players need to balance collecting the two when completing their tickets.
#8 – Pennsylvania (Map Collection #5)
Ticket to Ride with stocks! Many routes have one or more railroad companies depicted, and players building along those routes claim a stock in one of them. Each company awards bonus points for having the most shares at the end.
#7 – Europe
1 Silver, 1 Bronze
This standalone game was the sequel to the original, and it introduced many of the concepts used in later maps. As BGG explains: “Tunnels may require you to pay extra cards to build on them, Ferries require locomotive cards in order to claim them, and Stations allow you to sacrifice a few points in order to use an opponent’s route to connect yours.”
Ticket to Ride Europe won the International Gamers Award in 2005.
#6 – United Kingdom (Map Collection #5)
1 Gold, 1 Bronze
Ticket to Ride with technologies! As the game begins, players can’t build on certain parts of the map, nor can they build certain length routes, without first acquiring technologies by discarding locomotives. This 2-4 player map is one of the more advanced ones, but it is also beloved by gamers.
#5 – Nordic Countries
2 Silver, 2 Bronze
Nordic Countries is specifically designed for 2-3 players, and it is a tighter map, with more of a focus on blocking opponents. This standalone game has long been one of the highest rated Ticket to Ride products on BoardGameGeek. With a Christmas theme, it is the perfect Ticket to Ride map to play around the holidays.
#4 – United States
1 Gold, 1 Bronze, 1 Silver
The original. The legend. The game that launched the whole series.
There was a stunningly beautiful 10th anniversary edition. And this year, there’s a cool 15th anniversary edition with translucent trains.
#3 – India (Map Collection #2)
1 Gold, 3 Bronze
This 2-4 player map is another delightfully tight map, but the bonus is extremely fun to pursue: players earn additional points if they connect their cities on one or more tickets with two distinct routes.
#2 – Team Asia (Map Collection #1)
4 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze
Team Ticket to Ride! Players play on teams, working jointly to share cards and complete tickets together. The map plays up to 6 players, and it is extraordinarily fun to work with partners as you make your way across the Asian continent.
Voting was extremely close between this and our #1 winner, with Team Asia taking home the most “medals” for being a favorite among our writers.
#1 – Switzerland (Map Collection #2)
1 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
Switzerland was originally released in digital form, then as its own map, before being put in Map Collection #2 with India.
The Swiss map is extremely tight, and it is designed for 2-3 players. There are additional destination cards for connections between countries (a feature that would be used in later maps) and the tunnels (which were first introduced in Europe) make routes of uncertain length.
Switzerland was the only map that received votes from every one of our writers!
Thoughts from Opinionated Gamers:
Chris Wray: Congratulations to Alan Moon for designing such a great series of games and maps, and on continued success as the series rounds its 15th anniversary. My personal favorite is the U.K. map — I love the addition of the technologies — followed by Switzerland, India, and Team Asia. I’m very much looking forward to trying the Japan and Italy maps at Essen.
Matt C.: I don’t get this to the table as much as I would like so that really cuts into my ability to try out new maps. New York is getting lots of good play simply because of its length, although I admit one can be messed up by ticket cards early and not be able to come back because of the short game length. I love team games, so that gets my vote. The tightness of Switzerland is great for 2 players. Hoping to try out the UK technology map soon (I love tech trees) as I expect it will also be one of my favorites.
Erik Arneson: Alan does such a great job of giving every map unique elements. My favorite, for a variety of reasons, is the Pennsylvania map. (Here’s my review, which is also linked to above.) My personal top 5 also includes Team Asia (the team element is absolutely fantastic), Nordic Countries (man, it’s fun to block people), Switzerland, and Great Lakes (from Rails & Sails).
Craig Massey: Sadly, I don’t play this as much as I used to, but as I try to reduce the size of my collection, I refuse to depart with any of the maps from Ticket to Ride. I love the Nordic map as well as the Great Lakes map from Rails & Sails. Both get me scratching my head and grumbling about my options. I’m pledging to get this to the table in the very near future!
Jeff Lingwall: Ticket to Ride is a poster child for game expansions done right. The maps generally keep the basic gameplay while extending it in subtle yet significant ways. (The contrast for me would be the endless expansions and iterations of Catan, which turned me off toward the game over the long run, adding excessive complication for little return.) Some of these have been bigger hits than others with us, but our small collection of Ticket to Ride maps is in our collection to stay. In particular, Team Asia and India have been incredible fun to play. My family has history with both Italy and Japan, so I’m quite excited for the latest edition.
Brandon Kempf: I have not played all of the maps for TtR yet, in spite of Chris’ best efforts. For the most part, I really enjoy TtR and it’s most certainly is a fantastic entry into hobby gaming as a whole and I am happy to play it most any time that we get the chance. I’ve never been one to branch out and buy up or make an effort to try all the new maps though, there are just so many that it seemed a larger effort for small variance. But through playing the maps I have played over the past couple months I am starting to see how these seemingly small variances can lead to almost completely different games. Sure, some seem to take that variance to the extreme and kind of kill a bit of the fun, I’m looking at you UK Map, but most of the time there are small little things that will make the entire game feel fresh and new. For the record, I like the idea of the UK map with the upgrade cards for your trains, but I don’t like the idea of a 40 point route on a map that allows for four cards to be used as a wild at any point, just means lots of card collecting until that big route is purchased and then everyone tries to make up being 40 points behind. But there are more hits than misses and I’m thankful that they keep bringing these maps out and breathing a bit of fresh air into the TtR franchise, and I bet that Alan is as well. For what it’s worth, I think I have Pennsylvania and Nederlands neck and neck as my favorites at the moment, with the Swiss map right behind.
Dan Blum: I didn’t get around to voting. While I have many of the maps there are some I have played only once or twice, which is one reason I didn’t vote. The only ones I have played a lot are USA, Europe, Märklin, Nordic Countries, Team Asia, Switzerland, and New York. My favorite map is still the original, but my favorite expansion map is Team Asia because it changes the game more profoundly than any other map I’ve played: the team play I think is more significant than Pennsylvania’s stocks or the UK’s technology. (Allowing six players to play the game is also nice.) After that my preference is for maps such as Switzerland and Nordic Countries that work particularly well at lower player counts. However, I’d like to play some of the newer maps enough to really get into their differences.
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I need to play more Ticket to Ride maps. I’ve only played Europe and USA and enjoy both.
Funny, I’ve always found Switzerland to be one of the weaker maps. The tickets involving the neighbouring countries felt way too easy compared to the ones requiring specific cities and this reduced the tension that makes TtR such a great game.
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Are we making a distinction between USA with the card expansion vs. the original deck? Because the deck changes the board a ton; with the original deck I’d rate the USA board low on the list, but with the expanded deck it rises near the top.
Europe is still my favorite, because it is great no matter how many players you have. For the record, I haven’t played all the other expansions. Some of them are on my radar now, though, so thanks for the write-up!
There doesn’t seem to be much love for the France expansion. Neither map even makes the honorable mentions. I haven’t played it but just noticed.
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After receiving Italy and Japan for Christmas I think both of those maps could make this list – both do what the best maps do – tweak a little for a big change in tactics – this is why I don’t rate rails and sales as this is the only map that to me felt like a more of the same expansion and just added duration ( I know there are boats and trains but the taking cards decision space is all that changed and it was not enough for me)
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