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

Friday 22 September 2023

Grey City Ride

The very latest entry in the Ticket to Ride franchise is Ticket to Ride: Berlin. 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, Ticket to Ride: London, Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam, and Ticket to Ride: San Francisco. Part of the ‘City’ series for Ticket to Ride, 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. The entries in the series are also notably different in terms of theme and period.

Published by Days of Wonder and designed for play by two to four players, aged eight and up, Ticket to Ride: Berlin is easy to learn, can be played out of the box in five minutes, and played through in less than twenty minutes. As with the other entries in the Ticket to Ride ‘City’ series, Ticket to Ride: Berlin sees the players race across the city attempting to connect its various tourist hotspots. All of entries in the ‘City’ series are both set in their respective cities and have a theme representative of their city. Thus, Ticket to Ride: New York had the players racing across Manhattan in the nineteen fifties via taxis; Ticket to Ride: London had the players racing across London in the nineteen sixties aboard the classic double-decker buses; Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam took the series back to the seventeenth century and had the players fulfilling Contracts by delivering goods across the Dutch port by horse and cart and claiming Merchandise Bonus if they take the right route; and Ticket to Ride: San Francisco continued the lack of trains in the series by having the players travel around ‘The City by the Bay’ aboard its icon form of transportation—the cable car! In Ticket to Ride: Berlin, the players can travel from the Teirgarten to Check-Point Charlie, from Charlottenburger Tor to Alexander-Platzfrom, from the Reichstag to the Zoo, either by the trams that crisscross the city or the underground which encircles it—or both!

Inside the small box can be found a small rectangular board which depicts the centre of Berlin, from Moabit, Charlottenburger Tor, and Kurfüstendamm in the west to Alexander-platz, Humbodt Forum, and Morotz-Platz in the east. The board has a scoring track at its eastern end, running from one to fifty, instead of being placed around the edge. There are Streetcar and Subway Car pieces in four colours
(as opposed to the trains of standard Ticket to Ride), the Transportation cards drawn and used to claim routes between destinations, and the Destination Tickets indicating which two Destinations need to be connected to be completed. Both the Streetcar and the Subway Car pieces are nicely sculpted, the Streetcar pieces having a more rounded feel, as opposed to the square, more train-like Subway Car pieces. Each player begins play with eleven Streetcar pieces and five Subway Car pieces. The Transportation cards come in the standard colours for Ticket to Ride, but are illustrated with a different form of transport for each colour. So black is illustrated with a river cruise boat, blue with a taxi, green with a streetcar, purple with a bus, red with a train, orange with a subway car, and the wild card with a bicycle. This really makes the cards stand out and easier to view for anyone who suffers from colour blindness and the range of transport options give the game a greener feel. Similarly, the Destination Tickets are bright, colourful, and easy to read. As expected, the rules leaflet is clearly written, easy to understand, and the opening pages show how to set up the game. It can be read through in mere minutes and play started all but immediately.

In comparison to the boards in the other entries in the ‘City’ series, the one in Ticket to Ride: Berlin is more functional than attractive. The various routes are laid out in strong colours over a light tan streetmap of the city. It is not an unattractive board, but there is an austerity to it. Most routes are one, two, or three spaces in length, though there are three routes four spaces long, all of them grey in colour meaning that any colour can be used to claim them. The major difference with the board is that is that it is ringed by an underground system. Each only has space for one Subway Car piece, but the number of dots alongside the single space indicate the number of Transportation cards which have to be played to claim that route. These are either one, two or three Transportation cards. The board has two Route Scoring Tables, one for claiming the Streetcar routes and one for the Subway routes. In general, a player will score more points for claiming a Subway route than a Streetcar route. However, a player only has five Subway Car pieces to place as opposed to eleven Streetcar pieces.

Play in
Ticket to Ride: Berlin 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. If the route is a Streetcar route, the player places a number of Streetcar pieces on it equal to its length. If it is subway route, he places just the single Subway Car piece on it, though he still has to expend the indicated number of Transportation cards.

In fact, Ticket to Ride: Berlin feels so much like standard Ticket to Ride that it is not immediately obvious what makes it different from either standard Ticket to Ride or the other entries in the ‘City’ series, each of which has a strong theme and an extra mechanic. For example, in Ticket to Ride: San Francisco, the players also collect Tourist Tokens. In Ticket to Ride: Berlin, the difference is the subway network which rings the city. A player only has five Subway car pieces to place, so they are a limited resource, but when played, they tend to score more points and they tend to connect routes that are harder to connect via the Streetcar pieces. Most Destinations in the centre of the board lie just a single route’s length from the beginning and end of a Subway route. Thus, for the longer Destination Tickets, a player will likely be wanting to claim the Subway routes to get around the board, whilst claiming routes into the city using the Streetcar pieces. It is an underplayed difference in comparison to titles in the ‘City’ series and to Ticket to Ride in general.

What Ticket to Ride: Berlin is reminiscent of is the Ticket to Ride Map Collection Vol. 7: Japan + Italy and its Japan map. This introduced the ‘Bullet Train’ route, which when claimed using the indicated number of Transportation cards, only used a single Bullet Train piece to indicate that it had been claimed. The Subway routes in
Ticket to Ride: Berlin work in a similar fashion, although unlike on the Japan map, they are not shared by all of the players and nobody is penalised for not building any Subway routes.

Physically, Ticket to Ride: Berlin is very nicely produced. Everything is produced to the high standard you would expect for a Ticket to Ride game.

Like Ticket to Ride: New York, Ticket to Ride: London, Ticket to Ride: Amsterdam, and Ticket to Ride: San Francisco, what Ticket to Ride: Berlin offers is all of the play of Ticket to Ride in a smaller, faster playing version, that is easy to learn and easy to transport. The balance in the game lies between claiming two different types of route, one that feels faster and goes further, as well as scoring more when claimed, but the player is limited to claiming five of this type in total, the other shorter, more flexible, with more pieces to put down and claim routes, but not scoring quite as much. This is more demanding than the other ‘City’ series titles and in combination with the fact that Ticket to Ride: Berlin is not as strongly thematic as the rest of the ‘City’ series, the result is that Ticket to Ride: Berlin feels austere in comparison. Of course, Ticket to Ride: Berlin still offers the same quick, competitive play of Ticket to Ride, but loses theme in favour of slightly more thoughtful play.

No comments:

Post a Comment