Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ticket To Ride

Last year, Carcassonne and Catan proved that board games could survive the transition from tabletop to television. Xbox Live, with its integrated voice chat and massive community, turns out to be an ideal place to stage a virtual GenCon. Now it's just a matter of schooling videogame fans in the ways of the board-game renaissance that's been quietly bubbling in Europe for the past couple of decades. Ticket To Ride's cobwebbed rainbow of rail lines looks complex, but the game is a close cousin of the newbie-friendly Catan. Players collect color-coded cards until they've hoarded enough rail cars to connect cities. It's easy to learn, but not totally Care Bear; players have plenty of opportunities to channel their inner Daniel Plainview. Quick builders can drink their opponents' metaphorical milkshakes, forcing them to find alternate routes to their goals, or freezing them out entirely.

While the core experience is solid, Ticket To Ride misses more than a few opportunities. The game's tutorial teaches little more than rudimentary controls. Catan catered to Poindexters and social butterflies alike by providing detailed game statistics and animated emotes for expressing moods. Ticket To Ride makes few concessions to either camp, recreating the board-game experience with few additional frills. Sometimes simply making sure the trains run on time isn't enough.

Beyond the game: In the years since its release, the board game has been expanded with maps of Europe and Germany. Hopefully we'll see these alternate scenarios pop up as downloadable expansions.

Worth playing for: The Xbox Live community isn't always polite, but it does bring together players from three continents. In the case of Ticket To Ride, international connectivity provides the opportunity to trounce Germans in the kind of game they helped popularize.


Frustration sets in when: Want a hint of what colorblindness is like? Try discerning between Ticket To Ride's red and orange rail lines.

Final judgment: It's hard to derail a board game this good.

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