Play Time: 30-60 Min / Players: 2-5 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: Days of Wonder / Designer: Alan R Moon
Ticket to Ride Europe Ratings and Summary
Kids rating from our daughters (8 &11).
Teen rating from our son (14).
Ticket to Ride Europe is a fun route building game that is simple to learn but offers some nice strategy. The changes in this edition improve on the original game without making it overly complex.
- Simple to learn
- Great components, the map looks great and the train pieces are nice
- The addition of tunnels and ferries makes the game more interesting than the original
- Great learning opportunities for kids in terms of forward planning and efficient route selection.
- City names reflect turn of the century naming and may confuse some people at first
- Luck involved in gaining train cards, sometimes the ones you need just aren’t there for a number of turns.
What You Will Find in Our Ticket to Ride Europe Review
We have owned Ticket to Ride Europe for over 10 years, but we have had it so long it hasn’t come out much over the last couple of years, until recently when my youngest daughter (8) discovered it and got a bit hooked. Given she has had so much fun with it I thought it was about time I wrote up our thoughts. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all the newer games in our household. You forget about some of the games that still offer a lot of fun but have been in the cupboard for a while. Ticket to Ride Europe is one of the many games in the popular train themed route building series Ticket to Ride published by Days of Wonder and designed by Alan R Moon. This one includes some improvements on the original without adding too much in the way of complexity. When it comes to our thoughts on Ticket to Ride Europe, we are a bit split, but then that’s not unusual in our household. We all enjoy it, but my youngest daughter just loves it.
How to Play Ticket to Ride Europe
In Ticket to Ride Europe, you will find yourself building train routes, stations and ferry crossings across turn of the century Europe. Your aim is to be the greatest train magnate in the continent. You will be rewarded with additional victory points for completing specific routes depicted on your destination cards. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins. But then everyone gets to play with little plastic trains so you kind of all win right?
Setting up Ticket to Ride Europe is simple and quick, it means that my daughter doesn’t have to wait too long before we get to play which is always a bonus when you have bored kids in the house that need entertainment asap.
To set up, place the player board on your table, shuffle the train cards and deal each player four cards. Then place the rest of the coloured train cards next to the board to form a draw pile. Flip five train cards up next to the pile to form a supply. Players will also receive four random destination cards (one long destination and three short destinations). The destination cards can be worth a lot of points and a key part of the game is efficient completion of these routes.
Each player will also get a set of coloured train pieces, train stations and a scoring token which they place at the start of the scoring track. The trains look really nice, and my youngest daughter enjoys playing around with them before we start the game. She also likes arranging them in her preferred colour order after the games finished.
Ticket to Ride is easy to teach, most of the gameplay is really visual and there is minimal text so it’s easy for kids to pick up. Essentially card drafting and route building are the key mechanics in the game. The only thing to be aware of is that the city names are all from the turn of the century so won’t be what you are used to and may trigger a few questions, but that’s not a big deal really. It can be a nice way to have a conversation with kids about how place names change over time.
The first thing you need to do is decide which destination cards you want to keep and which ones you want to discard. Why would you discard any? Well, if you can’t complete them you will have to deduct their point value from your score. Figuring out how many of your destinations are achievable during the game is a key part of the strategy. It’s also a great way for kids to learn to plan ahead. My daughter thinks carefully about destination cards before we start. I can see her visualising the distances as she considers the most efficient way to complete all her cards and if any need to be discarded. When she has figured out the most efficient plan, she smiles…’dad I think I’ll complete all of these and then some…’
On your turn you can do one of four things:
- Draw Train Car Cards: these coloured cards are how you claim train routes on the board. To claim a route, you must have the required number and colour of train cards as depicted on the board. During your turn you can draw two coloured train cards from the supply or draw pile. Locomotives are wild cards and if you take them from the face up supply you only get one card that turn, if they happen to be in one of the cards you pick up from the face down draw card you get to keep both cards.
- Claim a Train Route: Once you have the required set of train cards you can claim a train route by placing your coloured trains on that route. The longer the route the more points you earn. The tension is that once a route is claimed another player can’t claim the same route. You have to be strategic and claim your most critical routes early before anyone else does. I like to prioritise the routes that would require a major detour if I lost them
- Draw Destination Cards: If you feel like you can easily complete your current hand of destination cards, drawing more is a great way to earn more points. Just be careful if you get too ambitious and run out of trains before you can complete them, you will get hammered with point deductions at the end of the game
- Build a Train Station: These little beauties are a great way to get out of a bind. If you can’t quite claim that last route to complete a destination card you can place a Train Station in a city and it will allow you to use any connected route into or out of that city. Any train stations you don’t build during the game will grant you four points each. Each train station built will cost you train cards, one for the first, two for the second and three for the third.
When one player is down to their last two trains or less, everyone gets one final turn and then the game ends. Your games will boil down to selecting your destination cards wisely, managing your train cards to claim routes efficiently and knowing when the end of the game is near, so you don’t end up with unfinished routes. I sometimes get so focused on what I am trying to achieve I don’t realise my daughter has been steadily depleting her stock of trains and is down to her last few, by the time I click to the fact the game is almost finished I realise too late and have a destination card or two I can’t complete.
Scoring for your claimed routes happens during the game but there are a few other points to tally at the end. You add any points for completed destination cards, deduct points for any uncompleted destination cards and add 4 points for each unused station. The final source of points and major bragging rights is the coveted European Express bonus. If you have managed to create the longest continuous train route you get to claim this bonus while everyone else marvels at how you managed to create a route that snaked through large swathes of Europe.
Differences from the original Ticket to Ride
Aside from the map being Europe based instead of North American based there are a few other differences between Ticket to Ride Europe and the original Ticket to Ride:
- Tunnels: Tunnels add a small twist and some additional risk. A tunnel has a special outline around it and when you attempt to claim one you will have to draw three cards from the train card deck. If any happen to match the colour of the cards you are using, then you will need to pay that many additional cards of that colour to claim it. This adds some nice suspense to claiming a route and my kids like drawing this part out, you can hear groans or elation after each card drawn. I think this is a great addition to the game
- Ferries: These are routes that cross a body of water and require one or more locomotive wild cards to claim. They add a reason to claim a locomotive which is a good thing as sometimes they tend to be seen as unattractive in the card pool because you can only draw one during your turn
- Train Stations: We described these above, so I won’t describe them again, but I think they are another good addition to this edition of the game and give you some wriggle room to get out of a bind.
Overall, these changes in my view improve the game but without adding much more complexity at all.
Differences Between Ticket to Ride Europe and Ticket to Ride Europe 15th Anniversary Edition
Since we bought our copy over a decade ago there has been an upgraded version released. Ticket to Ride Europe 15th Anniversary Edition was published to celebrate the game turning 15 years old. The core gameplay is the same in the anniversary edition, but the components get a major upgrade, for example:
- The map is far larger
- The player pieces come in coloured tins
- The trains pieces are finely detailed, and each player has a unique train design
- The train stations are also upgraded
- The artwork is revamped and improved on all the cards.
Aside from the major component upgrades the game also comes with additional destination ticket cards, 108 destination cards in total compared to 46 in the base version.
Ticket to Ride Europe (15th Anniversary Edition)
The Ticket to Ride series started with the original game in 2004 and has been so successful that it has spawned almost 30 different iterations and expansions. Ticket to Ride Europe is the second iteration and has been around since 2005. After trying the original and enjoying it we decided to grab a copy of the Europe edition over 10 years ago. While we haven’t played it much in years, it was really nice to see it become a hit with my daughter as she discovered it for the first time a few months ago.
This game has a lot going for it, the rules are simple to grasp, the train theme has a broad appeal, and the spatial challenge of optimising your train routes to efficiently complete destination cards allows for some great strategy.
I think the thing that appeals to my youngest daughter the most is that sense of satisfaction of being able to achieve lots of small goals for an immediate sense of achievement. Each route completed contributes to a destination card, each destination card completed gives a nice points boost, when all goes well you can grab more destination cards and increase your scoring potential. Everything just fits nicely together and encourages forward planning.
That makes it a great game from a learning perspective. Not only is it a great exercise in efficient route selection but it also encourages some good math practice. My daughters have found it important to keep a close count of their available trains during the game vs what they need to figure out if they have enough to complete their goals. If they are likely to have enough left over to be more ambitious, they get quite excited and eagerly claim more destination cards.
All this planning and adjusting means there is a lot to think about when it’s not your turn and it also means you are interested in the routes other people claim. If you’re too slow claiming a critical route you will need to replan and adjust. ‘Dad, that route was going to be mine next turn if you didn’t get to it, I’m going to need to go around the long way now!’
But route building games aren’t for everyone. While my youngest daughter just loves Ticket to Ride Europe the rest of the family aren’t as enthused. We all enjoy it but don’t find it as interesting as the youngest member of our family. I don’t think the rest of us are as big on route building in games as she is. That doesn’t make it a bad game, but like most games it depends on whether you enjoy the core mechanic here.
There are also some occasions where you just can’t get the colour of train card you need from the supply for multiple rounds which can be frustrating. I have had games where four of the five train cards in the supply were the same coloured train card and people avoided them which made the supply kind of stagnate a bit as people drew from the top of the deck instead. It isn’t common but can happen, especially at lower player count games.
The other thing that is worth noting is that the names of all the cities are from the turn of the century so they may confuse people a little at first. Sometimes my kids will ask questions about a certain city, and I’ll have to explain it’s called something different now. Not a big deal but just something to be aware of.
In terms of player count, the higher the number of players the more congested the board can become and the more cutthroat the game is as a result. More players means more competition for routes, some may find the increased competition more interesting. I find younger players tend to prefer games with two or three players as they don’t like the extra competition for routes. In saying that this edition is more forgiving than the original as you can use train stations if a critical route has been claimed by an opponent.
The components here are generally really good. The plastic trains look really nice, the board looks gorgeous, and the cards are nicely illustrated. The destination cards provide a helpful prompt as to the location of both destination points right on the card to make them easier to find on the board, which is a nice touch. As I mentioned earlier the only thing that might be confusing is the names of the cities which are historic names not current.
As far as themes go, I think a train related theme is likely to appeal to kids and in fact a pretty broad audience. In the game you are claiming train routes and erecting train stations in the hope of becoming Europe’s greatest train magnate. It’s not deeply thematic but I think for a game of this simplicity, it does enough to make it enjoyable and put enough context around what you are doing.
Final Thoughts on Ticket To Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride Europe makes some nice improvements on the original game without adding a lot of complexity. It’s still very accessible and packs some nice strategy in a visually appealing package. My youngest daughter just adores this game.
For the rest of us we aren’t as enthused about route building games so while we enjoy it, it isn’t a game we would choose to play often unless she was playing. Regardless I think there’s a lot to like here and a lot of fun to be had for such an easy to learn game.
Is Ticket to Ride Europe easy to learn? Yes, very simple to learn.
What will Ticket to Ride Europe teach my kids? Forward planning is probably the key lesson here, especially as it relates to planning the most efficient routes to complete objectives.
What age is appropriate for Ticket to Ride Europe? The box says 8+ and I think that is fair.
Does Ticket to Ride Europe have good replay value? Yes, the different destination cards you receive change your objectives from game to game and that alters your plans.
Ticket to Ride Europe
Ticket to Ride Europe (15th Anniversary Edition)
Original Ticket to Ride
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can you include routes claimed with stations for the European Express bonus?
For the purposes of the longest route European Express bonus, you can only include routes with your coloured trains present. The rules state you cannot use routes claimed with train stations.
What happens to any starting destination tickets that are discarded?
Any destination tickets that players choose to discard are removed from the game and not put back in the deck.
When you choose to draw more destination tickets can you select long routes (blue)?
No, any long routes not used during set up are put back in the box and not used, as well as any discarded by players. When you draw more destination tickets, you draw from the pile of short destination tickets.
If I attempt to claim a tunnel using locomotives, will I need to spend extra train cards if coloured cards are drawn as well as locomotives?
The rules state that if you use only locomotives to claim a tunnel then only locomotives drawn will require you to spend more cards to claim the route. This is regardless of what colour the tunnel is.
Can I claim more than one route per turn?
No, the rules state you can only claim one route per turn.
Can I build a train station in any city, even if it doesn’t have any claimed routes connecting to it?
Yes, you can, but it will not really be useful to you until you can connect it to one of your routes.
When claiming ferry routes can you use more locomotives than required by the route, or does it have to be exactly the number required?
Ferry routes require a specific minimum number of locomotives for a player to claim them. You can use additional locomotives if you have them to claim the ferry route in place of coloured train cards.
Is there any limit to the number of train cards I can have in my hand?
No, you can keep as many train cards as you want, there is no hand limit.
- Plan ahead: Planning ahead in this game is critical. When you get your destination cards start mapping out in your head the optimal route to achieve them. If there are any that just don’t work, ditch them and get more during the game. I try to plan for a route that will also give me a long continuous stretch to give me a shot at the longest route bonus.
- Prioritise critical routes: Some routes will be more important than others to you. If there are routes that are single track and will require a lengthy detour if you don’t claim them, prioritise claiming those early. Double tracks are likely to be easier to get as if one is claimed by an opponent, you will have a backup option.
- Keep a close eye on your opponent’s train stocks: The end of the game can sneak up on you if you’re not careful. The game will end when any player gets down to 2 trains or less, regardless of how many trains you have. It’s easy to get caught up in your strategy and neglect this. Make sure you regularly scan your opponent’s train stocks, so you don’t get caught out by the end game before you have completed your destination cards.
- Claim more destination cards: Your opening destination cards are unlikely to be enough to win you the game. At some point you will need a few more to be competitive, just ensure you don’t pick them up when an opponent is close to ending the game (see point above).
- In the early game pick train cards from the deck: When you pick train cards from the deck you might get lucky and snag a locomotive as well as another card. In the early game you will find you can likely make use of just about any colour train card. This is a good time to pick from the deck. Once your desired train cards start to narrow you should then be picking from the face up cards if they are required for your plans.
- Try to claim at least one long route: There are some long routes on the board requiring 6 or 8 trains to complete. These will give you 15 points for 6-train routes and 21 points for the 8-train route. That rivals the destination cards for points.