Ticket to Ride was our second game ever and was an absolute staple of our board gaming experience for several years. Since that initial play, we’ve accumulated many expansions and I have no doubt our plays total over five hundred, if not a thousand (when you’re broke, playing the same game over and over is great). We’ve shied away from the game in the past few years due to burnout but when I get the itch, I turn to the app for a few plays. So how does it hold up as a digital iteration (Android/iOS)?
Purchasing the app will only net players with the base (US Map) Ticket to Ride but you are able to purchase many expansions, such as 1910, 1912, Asia, Europe, France, Germany, India, Nordic Countries, Pennsylvania and United Kingdom. The full expansions are $2.99 each in the app store whereas 1910 and 1912 are $.99 each.
If new to Ticket to Ride, there is a tutorial that only takes a few minutes and gives a proper rundown on not only the rules of the game but how to interact with the digital interface. The tutorial is interesting (compared to other apps) as it doesn’t make you follow a predetermined path so it’s almost like playing a two-player game instead of just a tutorial. I appreciated the ability to have options as I find myself clicking through when everything is predetermined. If you’re a veteran of Ticket to Ride, you won’t need to partake in the tutorial as the app is pretty intuitive and mirrors the physical game almost to a t.
For those new to Ticket to Ride, the basic idea is that you are collecting sets of colored train cards and using those sets to fill in routes that connect cities on the main board. Players can choose train cards, choose new routes or claim routes on the board each turn.
Player information, including score, amount of cards and trains remaining will be found on the left hand side of the screen with the players personal cards seen at the bottom of the screen. The right hand side of the screen will feature the available cards from the market, as well as the top deck allowing for players to draw more tickets and the bottom deck allowing players to take cards from the deck for their turn. Under that deck is a players active tickets that are organized to be red (incomplete) and green (complete). All in all, the interface is well spaced and easy to read and navigate.
The app supports solo play (against up to four bot players), local play (which allows up to five players with the app on the same WiFi to join a game together), pass-and-play (which allows up to five players with a mixture of real and bot players) and online play, which allows players to play against friends and strangers in ranked and unranked games. Online play also lets players choose to play an asynchronous or real-time with both options featuring time-out options.
Regarding solo play, the app features four bots but as far as I can tell, they’re only different in name and profile photo only. I think I’ve seen them utilize slightly different strategies but none of them feel like they’re optimal plays and I’ve never really had any issue besting an AI player. It feels like they use strategies that are beneficial but don’t fully commit to them. For example, I’ve had the AI take one or two large point value tickets (like LA to NY) but instead of completing the ticket, they just fulfill all the large routes on the board and then lose the ticket points at the end of the game. While this is a perfectly valid strategy, it’s not one when you actively lose points.
Like most of the apps I’ve been reviewing, I’ve had issues with notifications appearing alerting me that it’s my turn. This was only on Android and in looking at what other reviews are saying, it appears to be an issue that isn’t just specific to me. If you open the app however, it will alert you that it’s your turn.
I love playing this game on my phone but the experience is better on a larger screen for one reason only: drag and drop. I rarely have an issue on my phone but sometimes my fingers are too pudgy to click the correct cross-hair. I’ve never had a misplay but it has taken me extra seconds to ensure I placed the correct route. On a larger screen, this is never an issue. It’s not a game breaker at all but just something I wanted to make aware as it matters to some people.
The main issue with the drag and drop is that Ticket to Ride also does not feature an undo button. Once you make a move, you’re locked into that move and if it’s a round ending move it will automatically move to the next player (such as laying a route). Just keep that in mind when playing.
The app has a challenges section and a hall of fame that records your scores and grants you achievements when certain milestones are met. While these don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of the game it’s nice that they have some way to challenge yourself if you’re only a solo player.
The app includes appropriate ambiance and music for the theme but most importantly, it features the ability to speed up the animations which only helps make a quick game quicker. You can also slow them down if that’s your jam too.
Overall, games are incredibly quick and will only become quicker once players are comfortable with the interface. I’ve completed two-player games in around six minutes and four-player in around ten. Online or playing with other players will obviously take a little while longer due to human nature.
The app is a very decent port of the physical board game to the digital realm with the only glaring issue being that the AI will make questionable decisions. I tend to defer to playing online only at the moment as it provides a more realistic challenge (but games do take longer) but if you need to kill time or distract yourself, a match against the AI bots isn’t the end of the world. Even with the sub-par play of the AI, I would still recommend Ticket to Ride to players that want to take the game on the go and more importantly, experience the expansions of the game without shelling out an arm and a leg.
If you ever want to play a game, my handle is TwoofftheTop!