Ticket to Ride: Full Steam Ahead to Family Fun

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Looking for a fresh option for your next family game night? Maybe you just want a fun, light-hearted game to play with friends?

In both cases, Ticket to Ride, the board game series from from Days of Wonder, is just the ticket to get your next game night on track.

I’ll be your Conductor, walking you through everything you need to know to play this cross-country train route building game.

All aboard!

Recommended Itinerary

  • 2-5 Players
  • Ages 8 and up
  • 30-60 minutes

Inventory of Cargo

Days of Wonder Ticket to Ride

In your box for Ticket to Ride, you will find:

  • 1 Board: A map of North America with cities, and available train route paths between them.
  • 240 Train Cars: Each player will have a stockpile of 45 train cars, with 5 color choices (Black, Blue, Green, Red, or Yellow). There are even some extras provided for each color in case you lose any! These train cars will be placed on the map to show which routes you’ve claimed.
  • 110 Train Car Cards: Split into 8 colors, with 12 cards of each color, you will use these to claim routes matching their color on the map. There are also 14 Locomotives, which act as wild cards -these can be played as any color.
  • 30 Destination Ticket Cards: These serve as secret goals for each player, with cities you can connect for extra points. Be careful, though, if you get caught with any of these unfinished at the end of the game you lose points from those instead!
  • 1 Longest Continuous Path Card: This will be awarded at the end of the game to the player with the longest uninterrupted train route. It’s worth 10 extra points.
  • 1 Summary Card: This has a scoring guide printed on it. Very useful for the poor player sitting on the side of the table opposite the one printed on the board.
  • 5 Wooden Markers: One for each player color, used to track score.
  • 1 Rulebook

Tickets to Victory

Days of Wonder Ticket to Ride

To win a game of Ticket to Ride and prove that you are the most intrepid traveler at the table, you must score the most points.

There are a few ways to score points:

  • Claiming Routes: You can use train car cards of the appropriate color to claim routes between cities on the map. Use the chart provided on the board and on the Summary Card to score routes when they are claimed – longer routes earn you more per train car!
  • Completing Destination Tickets: Whenever you connect the two cities listed on one of your Destination Ticket cards with a line of continuous train cars, you will earn the point value printed on that card when the game ends. Be careful with the more difficult Destination Tickets, though. The high scores are tempting, but you will lose those points instead if you get caught with the route incomplete at the game’s end!
  • Longest Path: The player with the longest continuous path of train routes earns an extra 10 points and a fancy bonus card to rub in everyone’s faces. Those points might just be the push over the edge to a win.

I’ll go into more detail about how exactly all these mechanics work later in the guide.

For now, we can move on to setting up the game. We’re almost ready to play!

Getting Ready to Play Ticket to Ride

Playing Ticket to Ride Europe
Image Credit: alisdair @ Flickr

You’re going to want a bigger playing area for this one.

Clear off the family dining table, the Ticket to Ride board is large on its own and the various card piles end up taking up a lot of room.

Ready for the set-up?

It’s best to lay the board out first to get a sense of your space.

Let everyone fight over their favorite color train cars and wooden scoring tokens, and distribute them accordingly.

Each player gets 45 train cars of their chosen color.

Place your scoring token in the designated starting area in the bottom left corner of the map.

As you gain points, you will keep score by moving your scoring token around the outside edge of the board along this scoring track.

Shuffle up the train car cards, dealing out hands of 4 cards to each player in the game.

Place the remaining train car cards in a face-down deck near the board.

Flip the first 5 cards of the deck face-up, lining them up beside the deck so all 5 are visible.

You’ll be able to draw more train car cards from among these during the game.

Now, shuffle the deck of 30 Destination Ticket cards.

Deal out 3 cards to each player, face down.

Each player has to keep at least 2 of these initial Destination Tickets, but if one of the routes looks too hard to complete you can put that card at the bottom of the Destination Ticket deck.

If you’re lucky enough to have 3 destination tickets you think you can complete, you can keep all 3!

Keep your tickets facedown and secret from other players, even as you score them. They’ll be revealed and scored when the game ends!

The remaining Destination Tickets are placed next to the game board as a face-down deck.

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins - Ticket to Ride
Image Credit: anneheathen @ Flickr

The most experienced traveler in the group gets the privilege of going first. Turn order moves clockwise around the table from there.

Gameplay is simple and fast-paced.

Each turn, you can perform only 1 of 3 possible actions:

  1. Draw Train Car Cards: Pick up 2 cards from either the train car deck or from among the 5 face-up train car cards. Pick up one card at a time, as each one you pick up could affect your available train car cards. For each card you draw from the face-up cards, replace it immediately with the top card of the train car deck. If you only see one train car you need among the face-up selection, pick it up and you just might flip over another card you’re looking for to replace it!
  • Locomotives: These rainbow-patterned wild cards can count as any color you choose when played, but are more difficult to acquire. If you want to pick up a face-up locomotive, you need to use both your card draws for that action. If you’ve already drawn another card that turn and a locomotive replaces it, too bad. You’re in the clear if you draw one from the deck facedown, though. Just practice your poker face and try to hide your glee.
  • Drawing 3 Locomotives: If at any time there are 3 locomotives among the face-up train cars, discard the current 5 face-up cards and draw new ones from the train car deck. This re-set of the face-up cards can happen in the middle of your turn, giving you a shot at 5 fresh options for train cars for your second draw!
  • Hand Limit: There isn’t one – hoard away!
  • Running Out of Cards in the Deck: When you can’t draw new train car cards, time to do some shuffling. You’re going to want to shuffle the discard pile thoroughly – the way you turn in train car cards means the pile is mostly cards grouped by color. If somehow everyone is hoarding so much that there are no cards in the discard pile either, you simply can’t draw cards until somebody gets it together and plays something.

Popular Ticket to Ride Versions and Expansions

  1. Claim a Route: You can claim routes between cities using train car cards of the appropriate color. To do so, play a number of cards matching the number of board spaces between the two cities you are establishing a route for. The cards must all be the same color, and must match the color of the spaces you are claiming on the game board.
  • Colorless Routes: You will notice routes on the map without a color – these can be completed by any color train car cards. The train cars you use for colorless routes must still all be the same color, though (5 blues can claim a route 5 colorless spaces long, for example).
  • Blocking Routes: You may notice that there are a limited number of spaces on the game board that connect cities. This means you might find yourself blocked by other players from your intended routes if they claim them first. Be careful not to let others know where you’re planning to go if you can help it!
  • Double Routes: You can double up with another player between some cities on the board. You’ll notice that some cities have two sets of spaces between them, sometimes of different colors. In a 2 or 3 player game, ignore these double routes. For cities connected by two different route color options, choose either one when claiming a route there.
  • Scoring a Route: Every time you complete a route between two cities, you score points! Give yourself a pat on the back, you super-savvy rail tycoon. Check the reference on the game board or the summary card for how many points your route is worth. Move your scoring token up the track that many spaces.
  1. Draw Destination Tickets: Unless you like to live dangerously, you probably won’t be doing this often. When you choose this action on your turn, draw 3 cards from the Destination Ticket deck. You must keep one of the Destination Tickets you draw, but can place up to 2 of the others at the bottom of the deck. This is a good but risky way to boost your score!

End of the Line

Image Credit: Hubert Figuière @ Flickr

If any player has 2 or less train cars remaining in their stockpile at the end of their turn, the game will end that round.

Every player gets one more turn. This includes the player that triggered the end of the game, if you’re curious!

Once everyone has their final turn to get in any last words, it’s time to tally up the scores and determine who is victorious!

Reveal all your destination tickets. If you managed to connect the two cities on the ticket with a continuous train, congratulations! Score the points indicated on the card. If you didn’t, instead subtract those points from your score.

As you might imagine, completing these destination tickets is what makes or breaks you in a game!

There is one final possible tipping point to snatch victory, though. If you are able to string together the most train cars in a continuous line across the board, you score an additional 10 points at the end of the game.

Whoever has the most points after all that is added up, wins!

One Way Ticket to Light-Hearted Entertainment

Ticket to Ride is just what you’re looking for in a family-friendly board game. It’s not hard to pick up, well paced, and features just the right dose of competition.

It plays well even with the minimum of two players, which is great news if you want to have something around for more casual nights in as well.

If you’re looking for a good game to blow off some steam with family or friends, you’ll find Ticket to Ride well worth the fare price! What are you waiting for? Hop on board!

Top Game Image Credit: yoppy @Flickr