Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday 14 June 2019

On the Buses

The very latest entry in the Ticket to Ride franchise is Ticket to Ride: London. Like those other Ticket to Ride games, it is another card-drawing, route-claiming board game based around transport links and like those other Ticket to Ride games, it uses the same mechanics. Thus the players will draw Transportation cards and then use them to claim Routes and by claiming Routes, link the two locations marked on Destination Tickets, the aim being to gain as many points as possible by claiming Routes and completing Destination Tickets, whilst avoiding losing by failing to complete Destination Tickets. Yet rather than being another big box game like the original Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride: Europe, or Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, it takes its cue from Ticket to Ride: New York. It is thus a smaller game designed for fewer players with a shorter playing time, a game based around a city rather than a country or a continent. 

Published by Days of Wonder and designed for play by two to four players, aged eight and up, Ticket to Ride: London is easy to learn, can be played out of the box in five minutes, and played through in less than twenty minutes. Now where Ticket to Ride: New York had the players racing across Manhattan attempting to connect its various tourist hotspots going via taxis rather than trains, Ticket to Ride: London has the players racing across London attempting to connect its various tourist hotspots going via buses rather than trains or taxes. Thus the players are attempting to connect the British Museum to Waterloo, Hyde Park to Covent Garden, Baker Street to Trafalgar Square, and so on.

Inside the small box can be found a small board which depicts the centre of London, from Brick Lane in the northeast and Elephant & Castle in the south to Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace in the southwest to Baker Street and Regent’s Park in the northwest. All of the Locations are clearly marked and all are marked with a number between one and five. These are clustered together to form Districts, so Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, and Trafalgar Square are all marked with ‘2’, whilst Covent Garden and the British Museum are both marked with a ‘1’. If a player manages to claim routes which connect all of the Locations within a District, then he will score points equal to the District’s value, so just one point for Covent Garden and the British Museum. Of course, the higher a District’s value, the more difficult it is to complete. One notable feature of the board in Ticket to Ride: London is that it comes with a scoring track, something that was missing from the board in Ticket to Ride: New York, here nicely marked in bus tickets!

Besides the board map of London, Ticket to Ride: London comes with sixty-eight plastic Buses—seventeen in each colour as well as a scoring marker for each colour, forty-four Transportation cards—in six colours plus the multi-coloured wild cards, twenty Destination Tickets, and the rules leaflet. The latter is clearly written, easy to understand, and the pening pages show how to set up the game. It can be read through in mere minutes and played started all but immediately.

Play in Ticket to Ride: London is the same as standard Ticket to Ride. Each player starts the game with some Destination Tickets and some Transportation cards. On his turn, a player can take one of three actions. Either draw two Transportation cards; draw two Destination Tickets and either keep one or two, but must keep one; or claim a route between two connected Locations. To claim a route, a player must expend a number of cards equal to its length, either matching the colour of the route or a mix of matching colour cards and the multi-coloured cards, which essentially act as wild cards. Some routes are marked in grey and so can use any set of colours or multi-coloured cards. No route is longer than four spaces and a player will score points for each route claimed.

All of which points to standard Ticket to Ride game play. Now as with Ticket to Ride: New York, what marks Ticket to Ride: London as being different from that of standard game play is most obviously its size, but once it reaches the table, what marks it out as being different is its speed of play. With fewer bus pieces per player—seventeen as opposed to the forty-five in standard Ticket to Ride—a player has fewer resources and with fewer routes to claim, play is quick. The shortness of the routes means that a player will spend less time drawing Transportation cards, rather than having to draw again and again in order to have the right number of Transportation cards needed for long routes—routes five, six, and seven spaces in length are common in standard Ticket to Ride. With fewer Locations, fewer Destination Tickets, and fewer Buses with which to claim them, a player will probably be aiming to complete no more than three or four Destination Tickets—probably fewer given how tight and competitive the board map is, especially when the players want to start competing for the Districts.

As with Ticket to Ride: New York, the playing time for Ticket to Ride: London is listed as being between ten and fifteen minutes. For experienced gamers this is about right. Anyone new to the game or at the younger age of its suggested age range might increase that a little.

Physically, Ticket to Ride: New London is very nicely produced. Everything is very bright and breezy. The bus playing pieces are cute, the cards are very clear and easy to read, if perhaps a little small in the hand, and the rules leaflet short, but easy to understand. Yet, where the re-theming of Ticket to Ride: New York to the Big Apple and the nineteen sixties added a certain charm, the designers of Ticket to Ride: London have gone overboard for its theme, stating on the back, “Welcome to the ’70s world capital of fashion and music.” 

Yet apart from a decimal ten pence piece on the board map, all of the iconography in Ticket to Ride: London says ‘swinging sixties’, not seventies. This begins with the cover of the box, which depicts a bowler-hatted gentleman a la John Steed of The Avengers, a hippie who may or may not be John Lennon, a girl in a minidress, and a woman who may or not be Queen Elizabeth II, but whom everyone agreed was probably Princess Margaret, because Princess Margaret would… Then there are the Transportation Cards which depict iconic forms of London travel. So the multi-coloured wild card shows a classic Routemaster London bus, the blue card an electric milk float, the green card a Lotus Seven S II a la The Prisoner television series, the yellow card a yellow submarine, the black card a London black cab, and so on. With the green card a reference to The Prisoner television series of 1967 and the yellow card to The Beatles: Yellow Submarine of 1968, Ticket to Ride: London definitely, definitely says sixties rather than seventies!

Both Ticket to Ride: New York and Ticket to Ride: London offer all of the play of Ticket to Ride in a smaller, faster playing version, that easy to learn and easy to transport. But where Ticket to Ride: New York brought the sheen of the Big Apple to the Ticket to Ride family, Ticket to Ride: London brings a bus load of ‘The Big Smoke’s’ charm to Ticket to Ride and does so in a family friendly filler game.

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