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

Saturday 5 November 2022

By Ferry and by Bullet

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. This was followed by Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6: France + Old West, which provided two maps exploring a common theme—telegraphing each player’s intended placement of their trains, then by Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland, which focused on borders and connecting them.

The next entry in the Ticket to Ride Map Collection is Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy. This introduces another pair of maps, two sets of different mechanics, two different ways to score points, and of course, two gorgeous maps. Both can be distinguished by their long sweeping routes and consequently they are played out on what is a very large board for Ticket to Ride. On the Japan map, the players will take advantage of the bullet train network, which everyone can use once built to connect their routes, whilst also building into, out of, and across subnetworks of routes that represent the city of Tokyo’s subway system and the island of Kyushu. On the Italy map, the players will not only connect cities up and down the peninsula, but also regions, whilst also making use of the new Ferry cards to travel by sea to Sicily and Sardinia, and up and down the coast. 
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.

The first of the new maps in Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy is Japan. Its board is beautifully illustrated and introduces a new type of route—the ‘Bullet Train’. These represent Japan’s high-speed train network which run the length of the country. They are grey routes, but unlike on other maps for Ticket to Ride, when they are claimed using standard Train cards, they do not use a player’s train pieces. Instead, they use the Bullet Train pieces, of which there are sixteen. When a player builds the ‘Bullet Train’ route, he places a single Bullet Train piece on the route, and once the route is built, not only can that player use the route, but so can everyone else! This introduces an element of forced co-operation into Ticket to Ride, each player knowing that he will have to build ‘Bullet Train’ routes to connect his destinations and complete Destination Tickets at the same time as knowing he will probably share them.

A player is subtly encouraged to build ‘Bullet Train’ routes throughout the game. First, the more ‘Bullet Train’ routes a player builds, the more points he will score at the end of the game as a bonus. Second, he will receive a hefty penalty to his score at the end of the game if he does not build any ‘Bullet Train’ routes at all. Third, each player begins play with only twenty train pieces, which limits the number of coloured, non-‘Bullet Train’ routes he can claim. In effect, the ‘Bullet Train’ routes create a core network of routes that run the length of Japan, off of which the players will build.

The other feature of the Japan map is a pair of zoomed in submaps, one for Kyushu Island and one for Tokyo subway. These have Destination Tickets for destinations within their submaps, but there are also Destination Tickets which connect a destination on the submaps to a destination elsewhere in Japan. To complete one of these Destination Tickets, a player will have to build or use the various routes and ‘Bullet Train’ routes from the destination in Japan to the city of Tokyo or Kyushu Island on the main map and then into the submap itself.

The network of routes on the Japan map feels highly organised and ordered, and that is reflected in another, not so obvious feature, of this expansion. This is extra Destination Ticket-drawing, the aim being to draw Destination Tickets that a player has already completed as part of play, or nearly completed, as part of play. The shared network feature of the ‘Bullet Train’ routes encourages this, but the result is fairly underplayed in comparison to the Switzerland map of Ticket to Ride: Switzerland.

The Japan map for Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy is engaging and fun. The Bullet Trains are a great feature that both encourage a different play style and enforce the Japanese feel of the map as well as pushing the players to work together—just a little bit.  

The Italy map takes in all of the Italian peninsula, as well as the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. It also connects to the neighbouring countries of Monaco, France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia. The various cities across Italy are divided up amongst its various regions and a player will score more points for connecting more regions. The busy feel of the Italian north with this its many, compact two-train routes gives way to long sweeping routes that lead south, which are often paralleled by the long ferry routes which run from the mainland to the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, and across the Adriatic to Slovenia and Croatia. Several of these Ferry Routes are as many as seven spaces long, which even given the fact that each player begins with forty-five train pieces, means that a player will quickly be using up his train pieces.

The Ferry Routes on the Italy map do not work like the traditional Ferry Routes of Ticket to Ride. Since Ticket to Ride: Europe, a Ferry Route has required a single Locomotive or wild card as well as the indicated Train cards of the same colour to complete. On the Italy map, Ferry Routes make use of Ferry Cards. Both the Ferry Routes and the Ferry Cards are marked with ‘Wave Symbols’. The Ferry Cards have two Wave Symbols on them and instead of drawing Train Cards as normal or Destination Tickets, a player can instead draw a single Ferry Card, up to a maximum of two. The Ferry Routes have one, two, three, or four Wave Symbols on them. To claim a Ferry Route, a player must play Ferry Cards with same number of Wave Symbols on them combined, plus a number of Train cards of the same colour equal to the other spaces on the route. A Locomotive card can substitute instead of a single Wave Symbol. For example, if the player wants to claim the four-space Ferry Route between Roma and Olbia, he needs to play two cards of one colour and one Ferry Card as this will have the same number of Wave Symbols as marked on the Ferry Route. The maximum number of Ferry Cards a player can have is two. Where taking Train cards of a particular colour can indicate the routes that a player might be wanting to claim, here taking a Ferry Card definitely signals the intent to claim a Ferry Route. 

Although they feature in the Italy map, the Destination Tickets which connect to Italy neighbouring countries do not play as big a role as they do for Ticket to Ride: Switzerland or Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 6½: Poland. Where they differ is that some connect from one of Italy’s regions to a country rather than from a city. The regions also figure in the scoring at the end of the game as players score more for connecting more regions together with their train networks.

The Italy map in Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy is playable, entertaining, and challenging in its own right, but it is not feel as exciting as the Japan map. It is stately and much closer to the original Ticket to Ride than the Japan map, which has an energy and excitement of building new routes and in the main competing, but also working together just a tiny little bit in the construction of the ‘Bullet Train’ routes.

Physically, Ticket to Ride Map Collection is Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy 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. If there is an issue, it is that the otherwise beautiful maps, are big, and consequently, unwieldy to unfold for play and fold up to put away.

What Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy shows is that you can mix and match the old with the new in Ticket to Ride. The Japan map is modern, sweeping, with a sense of speed and energy, offering a different style of play. The Italy map provides a variation upon the standard game, but still feels very traditional. Together, Ticket to Ride Map Collection is Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy offers something old and new, and is a solid addition to the Ticket to Ride family.

No comments:

Post a Comment