Steam Trains At Light Speed! - Ticket To Ride Digital Review

Hey everyone, it's a bonus review! Having acquired a code for the Steam PC version of Ticket To Ride, I thought it would be useful to provide a quick overview of how the software works and whether it's a good purchase whether you know anything about Ticket To Ride or not. Now this is one of the most famous games to hit the gaming world so the vast majority of you readers will know about it already. Therefore I'm not going to go into how the game plays or what it's about and instead jump straight to the features. After all, one of the many requirements of a decent PC port of a board game is the tutorials and rulebooks so I will be giving my thoughts on that. This is the first time I've done an app or PC review so this should be interesting. Here goes!

Designer: Alan R. Moon
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Age: 8+
Players: 1-5
Version: PC Steam
Price: £6.99
Alpha Player Teaching

The interface is colourful and pleasing as you would expect and with only a few menus it doesn't take long to navigate, in fact half of it won't even be relevant to you if you've no interest in visiting the Days of Wonder website or forums. Setting up a game whether for solo, pass and play or multiplayer online is a breeze and it really doesn' take long to get going, certainly far less time than opening up the actual board game and shuffling all those cards. This however is a bit of a godsend because you're going to get quickly sick of that looping jolly music track. There aren't a ton of options to tinker with, it's actually very basic and barebones for the most part, but then it's a simple game and thus shouldn't be needlessly complicated.

There is an interactive tutorial, which takes you through a standard two player game of Ticket to Ride USA and for anyone who's played the game, it's literally teaching your Grandma to suck eggs, everything will be instantly familiar to you. For newbies, it's a very useful way to learn the game although if I have one issue with it, it's that it has a habit of telling you what to do, almost in a pushy way before explaining why you're doing it. I find this is doing it the wrong way round, in that I want the game to tell me why I should take these particular train cards or why the open cards are about to mysteriously discard themselves because of 3 locomotives appearing. It does at least explain it, but you might have those few seconds of "wait, what?" while you're going through it. You don't even have to do what it says, funny enough, you can simply play the game how you like, but if you're doing that then why are you bothering to go through the tutorial mode? 

The rulebook is recreated in the game via an index which allows you to access any rule, minor or major with a single click. Keywords in the text will also allow you to access those specific rules. It's very easy to read, clear and concise and features basic pictorial aids. Ticket To Ride is a simple game to pick up and play, but I have to give credit, that this is an excellent rulebook for navigating, on par with the likes of the X-Com board game app if anyone has experienced that.  

We Have To Go Right To Ludicrous Speed! Inside the game, the maps are large and clear and have the same colourful scheme as the board version. Train cards are easily distinguishable although colour blind individuals will struggle a bit as there's no easy way to tell them apart otherwise. One of the biggest issues that hit new players is the choosing of tickets because it takes them ages to find out where the places are on the map. This is taken care of by the relevant cities showing up in green when you hover your mouse over a ticket, making it easy to tell exactly where the ticket is requiring you to go. You should have no trouble planning routes or deciding on your tickets every time you draw. Points and cards and trains remaining are all tracked for every player including the AI so you won't miss a beat. The AI itself is relatively competent, but there doesn't appear to be a way of adjusting the difficulty in the options screen. It should provide a decent game for most players, but it's weird that there's no "Easy-Medium-Hard" differentiation present. I guess they expect more people to play this online, but even so. If you're really a Ticket To Ride veteran and can't be bothered to wait for the brief animations that show what each player is doing on their turn, you can adjust the settings to "fast mode" where the AI turns thunder along at lightning speed. Good luck trying to understand what just happened, but you can see the outcome by inspecting the board afterwards. I don't recommend this at all if you're still unfamiliar with the game. Even on normal animation speed, you can wrap up a game in less than 15-30 minutes depending on the number of players and your familiarity with the rules. And you don't have to clear up all the trains and cards or more to the point, have to count up all the train tracks again to check the points score, that alone is such a time saver.
Travel The World In the base setup you only get the original USA map to play on, but in-app purchases will currently provide the 1910 expansion, Europe (with 1912 expansion), India, Switzerland and Asia and Days of Wonder will commonly throw in special bulk offers. Grabbing every single map to date will still set you back less than 1/2 of the cost of a standard Ticket To Ride board game so it's certainly great value for money. Each map has its own distinct musical track to suit the geographical area (which again you can turn off if you get sick of it, though I find Switzerland strangely addictive) and its own set of indexed rules to explain the changes. They're very easy to learn and add a great amount of variety to what is a classic staple in many peoples collections, myself included. We don't yet have Africa, Netherlands, Nordic or understandably Pensylvania and UK (give them a chance, we only just got a cardboard version), but you know they are coming so expect to give some of that beer money handy every now and again for grab each new one as they announce it on the app, I certainly recommend getting them, they introduce some great twists and cater for different amounts of players.
For the players among us who love to get achievements for everything they do, there is a good amount of special challenges that you can attempt for each map, however some of them are fun, some are a good challenge and others are just plain ridiculous. A fun challenge is to complete a map  with a route that covers several cities. OK that's fine. A normal tough challenge is to obtain a certain number of points. OK that's fine too. But then there are challenges which require you to play a certain number of games and I kid you not, one of them on each map is 20,000 plays. . . . . WHAT?!?! Seriously?!?!?! Please tell me that's a joke put in by the publishers because I want to meet the person who has enough time and enough love for Ticket To Ride that they would play an app version 20,000 times on each map! Even the lesser versions are bad enough. 10 games is easy, 50 games is more of a time-sink but at least do-able, but when you get into the hundreds it begs the question as to whether there is anything in your life that is failing to distract you!

The Steam version of Ticket To Ride is a decent port of the classic board game. Saving you a ton of time in setup and tracking this allows you to enjoy everything that the game has to offer for a fraction of the cost. Of course you lose the tactile nature of plastic pieces and nice quality cards, but that's the trade off for using a PC or Ipad. It's certainly a nice way to test out the expansion maps for cheap before you fork out for the cardboard version.

I would like to have seen a few more tweaking options for the interface and AI settings, but it's a stable, functioning port that allows me to get more plays of Ticket to Ride then I ever did before. Good value for money if you don't mind losing out on plastic trains!