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

Friday 17 April 2020

Bordering Ticket to Ride

Since 2007, the 2004 Spiel des Jahres award-winning board game Ticket to Ride from Days of Wonder, has been supported with new maps, beginning with Ticket to Ride: Switzerland. That new map would be collected in the Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland, the second entry in the Map Collection series begun in Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 1 – Team Asia & Legendary Asia. Both of these have proved to be worthy additions to the Ticket to Ride line, whereas Ticket to Ride Map Collection vol. 3: The Heart of Africa and Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 – Nederland have proved to add more challenging game play, but at a cost in terms of engaging game play. Further given that they included just the one map in the third and fourth volumes rather than the two in each of the first two, neither felt as if they provided as much value either. Fortunately, Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 5: United Kingdom + Pennsylvania came with two maps and explored elements more commonly found in traditional train games—stocks and shares in railroad companies and the advance of railway technology. The next map collection in the series, Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West provided two maps exploring a common theme—telegraphing each player’s intended placement of their trains—but the next entry in the line is very different again.

The next entry in the Ticket to Ride Map Collection is not Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7—whatever that might be,* but is in fact, Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland. And it only contains the one map, that is, of course, Poland. Originally released as Wsiąść Do Pociągu: Polska and only available to buy in Poland, it is now available with the rules in both Polish and English, and available to buy outside of Poland. Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland is designed for two to four players, is played on a square rather than a rectangular board—so two thirds the size of a standard Ticket to Ride board, and thematically shifts into the nineteen fifties and the reconstruction of the Polish railway network following World War II. Like other entries in the Ticket to Ride Map Collection series, it only requires a set of Train cards, train pieces, and scoring markers from a base Ticket to Ride set to play.

* Actually that title is Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy

Poland’s board is depicted in dark green surrounded by the earthy tones of her neighbours, who play a major role in how points are scored in Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland. The seven are Biatoruś (Belarus), Czechy (the Czech Republic), Litwa (Lithuania), Niemcy (Germany), Rosja (Russia), Stowacja (Slovakia), and Ukraina (Ukraine). They are also represented by corresponding sets of Country Cards for a total of twenty Country Cards. Each set is also given a set of descending values, so the Czechy set is valued ten, seven, four, and two, and the Rosja set is valued seven, four, and two. Most Country card sets contain three cards, only the Czechy set has four and the Litwa card just has the one. The thirty-five Destination Cards show connections between Poland’s various cities and each comes with a little map showing the positions of the two cities a player needs to connect to complete. In the case of Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland, this is almost a necessity as not everyone is familiar with Poland’s cities and where they are.

At the beginning of the game, each player receives just thirty-five Trains, and the standard four Destination Cards and four Train Cards. Play is almost exactly like standard Ticket to Ride. On his turn, a player can either draw Train Cards, draw new Destination Cards, or claim a route between two cities. Where Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland is different is how the countries and Country Cards work. From the moment they were introduced in Ticket to Ride: Switzerland, players could score points by completing Destination Cards which connected a city to a country or a country to a country, and they have appeared in several expansions since. In Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland, there are no such Destination Cards.

In Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland, a player does not score points when he connects a country to a country. Instead, when he does so, he takes the top card from the Country Set for each country he connects to. He cannot repeat this, but if he then connects this connection to another country, then he takes the top card from the Country Set for each country he connects to—even if he has already taken cards from the now connected Country Sets. Plus, the earlier a player makes a connection between two countries, the higher the value of the Country Cards left in the set. This sets up a race between the players to be the first to connect countries because they mean more points.

Although they are not the only means of scoring points in Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland, they are an important means. This is because the map has no routes six spaces long, just the one route five spaces long, and just a few routes four spaces long, the rest being short, either three, two, or one spaces long. Which means although they are relatively easy to claim and thus build a series of connections between cities to complete a Destination Card, they do not score a lot of points. Further, none of the Destination Cards score a player more than thirteen points and most score much, much less. Most of the shorter routes are also in the centre of the map, so there will be a scrap in game of Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland to build routes across the centre of the country—especially in a four-player game. Whatever the number of players, this map involves a lot of blocking and that means Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland is less suited for play by the casual gamer.

So the players will need to find another source of points if they want to do well in the game and win. One is to draw more Destination Tickets and there is some value in that given the possibility of a player having already connected or partially connected the route on a newly drawn Destination Card. The other is connecting countries and thus not only scoring by claiming the routes to those countries, but also by drawing Country Cards from the seven sets. Which is fine, except that everyone is after them, and so there is a race to claim these before anyone else! Unlike the other routes, the actual connection to countries cannot be blocked, so if there are three routes connecting to a country, then all three can be used.

Physically, Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland is as well produced as you would expect for a Ticket to Ride expansion. Everything is high quality and the rules are easy to understand and come in two versions—English and Polish. This does mean that Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland is not as easily accessible by speakers of other languages as Ticket to Ride typically is. Perhaps another issue with Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland is that the map is a bit too dark and oppressive, but that is an issue with the aesthetics and should not affect play.

Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland shows is that you do not have to alter very much in a Ticket to Ride game to change the feel of the game. This expansion is tighter and more competitive with players having to balance the need to complete Destination Cards with connecting countries in order to score points and win. This makes Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland an expansion for Ticket to Ride devotees rather than casual or family players of any of the core sets. For the Ticket to Ride devotee, Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland is a tighter, more cutthroat expansion which forces players to race for more than Destination Cards.

No comments:

Post a Comment