Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday 14 September 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Ticket to Ride Germany

GameTicket to Ride Germany

Publisher: Days of Wonder

DesignerAlan R. Moon

Ticket to Ride Germany first caught our eye at the UK Games Expo 2017. Seeing the Ticket to Ride map covered in passenger meeple was new to us, although I have heard that the passengers were a feature in Ticket to Ride Marklin -  a version of the game that is now longer in print. The German language game appears to have been around for a couple of years, so it’s interesting to see it hit wider distribution although I wonder if it has the legs to really take off as a new base game on the shelves of game stores outside Germany. We’ve played a number of times with two players and also introduced the game to my mum, who has played Ticket to Ride Europe with us before, and here are my thoughts.

Ticket to Ride Germany is a standalone game which adds two new elements to the standard game and, of course, is based on a map of Germany. As in standard Ticket to Ride you are collecting sets of train cards to cash in to build train lines on the board. The train lines you want are typically dictated by the tickets you randomly draw and want to complete to earn end game points. The first tweak with Germany is that whenever you draw tickets you can choose between short routes (typically worth less than 10 points) and long routes (worth up to 22 points). However, the major addition to the game is the passenger meeple. These add another element of set collection which scores at the end of the game. Each time you place a route you collect a passenger of your choice from the city at either end of the line and at the end of the game each colour scores 20 points for the player with the most and 10 points for the player with the second most.

A two player game in progress
In our first game with three players, I really enjoyed how each of us naturally explored a different strategy – one player chose to focus on collecting passengers by claiming all of the short routes on the board and pretty much ignoring cities, one player focused on many tickets to claim the “Globetrotter bonus” whilst a third focused on longer routes. The choice of ticket length and the passenger mechanic are two new elements that make different strategies possible.

However, with two players, this map seems to shine less. The competition for majority in each of the passenger colours almost inevitably results in a draw, with each player winning 3 colours each. It is possible that you’ll get a 10 to 20 point swing from the passengers, but unless a player completely drops the ball and forgets to collect any meeple of a colour then the passengers aren’t going to form a significant part of final scoring, which has typically been 150+ points in our games. That said, the map itself seems to work quite well for two – in every game we’ve had some conflict for territory and the passengers can also tempt the other player to play a random route that gets in your way.

The game is as well presented as any Days of Wonder game and sticks to the established aesthetic of Ticket to Ride. I particularly enjoyed the new artwork for the train cards, especially the locomotive and the circus train for the red cards. I also appreciated that each meeple colour has a different shape, which probably helps the game to be colour blind friendly, but also just adds to the visual appeal. My one frustration with the production is the set-up. Broadly speaking the big cities get a larger quantity of meeple at the start of the game than the small cities, the number doesn’t vary between games, but for some reason rather than printing the number on the board, it is only indicated on a map in the rulebook, which makes cross-referencing pretty tiresome.
A selection of the cards with new artwork for all of the trains, long tickets in orange and short tickets in green.
In the context of the other standalone Ticket to Ride games we’ve played, I would rank Germany in the middle of the standard US map and the Europe map in terms of complexity. It definitely has more going on that either of the two, but the additional mechanics in Germany appear to be much easier to grasp for new players and non-gamers. However, I imagine that most people grab a base game that reflects the geography they’re familiar with, which makes Germany more like an expansion that takes up more than its fair share of shelf space. I find the Germany game very enjoyable, but we’re not sure yet if it fits into our collection since we have the UK map which is great for a gamer couple, Europe which works OK as a gateway game and Switzerland which also hits the two player mark when we want a lighter game.

In summary I really highly recommend Ticket to Ride Germany to anyone who doesn’t already own Ticket to Ride. I think it’s particularly great for mixed groups of gamers and non-gamers, by being very accessible but with varied strategies. If you already own plenty of Ticket to Ride though, I think it might be a candidate to replace your standalone game as a refresh rather than to add more. With even more Ticket to Ride maps recently announced, it’s getting hard to pick favourites and decide which should stay in a collection. For the Yellow Meeple, Ticket to Ride Germany gets a 7/10.

Ticket to Ride Germany was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is available for an RRP of £38.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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