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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Ticket to Ride wins on Xbox Live

by Ken Newquist / February 4, 2009

The Xbox Live version of Ticket to Ride is a faithful port of the popular board game, recreating the train-themed game on Microsoft's game console. The game board features a map of the continental United States with its major cities connected by different colored train routes.

Players draw different colored tickets from a deck each turn, which can be used to complete the corresponding routes. Most routes require one to six tickets to complete, though a few are grey, and can be completed by any color tickets (though you still need the right number of said tickets).

Completing routes scores points, but that's just the short game. The long game involves completing completing enough routes to reach a destination. At the start of the game, players draw three destination cards -- e.g. Seattle to New York, Los Angelos to Miami -- and then pick two. The rest of the game sees players vying to complete these destinations. Each destination is worth a certain number of points; relatively short-haul ones might only score six or eight, but long ones -- like the Los Angeles/New York run -- can yield upwards of 20.

The game ends when one player runs out of tickets, which adds another strategy element to the game: not only do you need to complete routes and reach destinations, but you need to it in the most efficient way possible. Plus, you need to balance the need to score big with destinations against the hit you'll take if you end the game without completing them; the value of any uncompleted destinations is subtracted from your point total.

It's a good mechanic that makes for a fun, challenging game. Luck plays a part -- if you don't get the color tickets you need to complete routes, you can find yourself quickly running out of railroad -- but at the same time, you need to plan ahead, pick destinations that work with your network, and do the occasional strategic block of an opposing player.

The Xbox Live version of the game supports up to five online players or four local ones. It offers Artificial Intelligence players as well, rated "easy", "medium" and "hard", and medium and hard ones will certainly give you a run for your money. The interface is straight forward and faithful to the print version of the game; the text on the destination cards is a little small on my old low-res TV, but I'm sure it's fine on a larger HD one. The rest of the map looks fine, and the interface is intuitive; my five-year-old picked it up in no time.

Perhaps the best innovation in the game, and one that others on Xbox Live should pick up, is that the game controller vibrates whenever someone's turn begins. This is a handy reminder to focus your attention back on the game; we ran into problems with Catan and online players not realizing it was their turn; the vibration help with that

My complaints about the game ae few. The text can be hard to read on older TVs (like mine) though I'm sure it's perfectly legible in HD. Also, the orange and red routes can be difficult to tell apart depending on your TV, and this is something that may be an issue on both standard and HD TVs (as one of my friends with a much better TV reported similar difficulties). It's not game crippling, and you can almost always figure it out, but it does take a second or third look to be sure.

If you like board games, and never seem to have time (or the people) to play, then I strongly recommend picking it up. It's handy even if you have a regular game night; my friends and I have picked it up as a solid alternate game in case Game Day get snowed out. The game also offers the 1910 and European expansions, so if you like it, you've got room to grow.

Comments

Agreed on all fronts. I hope they deign to patch to lighten the color of the orange routes, but otherwise a very faithful adaptation.
It also succeeds on the most important table-to-video front: it's just as easy to play as its physical counterpart.

The XBLA Catan interface, for example, was clunky enough that it got in the way of my enjoyment a bit. If releases continue to retain the quality and ease-of-play of Carcassonne, TTR, and Lost Cities, however, I'll be buying every one that releases.

Nuke - we may also want to try out Wits & Wagers if there's a lull in other board game releases. I have a physical copy of that and my family's had a good time with it.
Some other upcoming games I've heard about are Wings of War, Blood Bowl, and Zombies!!! - looking forward to those. Unfortunately, the conversion of Talisman was recently canceled. :(
Anyone know of any other upcoming board game XBLA conversions that I missed?

I was surprised to find that the XBLA (I pronounce it "Ex-blah", but lovingly so) version of Ticket to Ride allows local multiplayer with up to four people. This changes the dynamic of the game slightly, as everyone can see their opponents' destination cards.

When I played, we had something of a gentlemen's agreement that we would not claim routes simply for the purpose of preventing another player from easily connecting to their destination cities, but I can see how knowing what your opponent is trying to accomplish might compel you to complete routes you might not consider otherwise.
All in all, I thought it was a pretty good adaptation, but when it came down to picking a board game conversion to purchase for my own Xbox360, Carcassonne and Catan won out over Ticket to Ride. The next time I load up on Microsoft points, though, I'll probably buy it.

Actually, I don't think it does show you destinations. At least, we didn't see each others destinations in the three games we played last night. It could be that we missed some sort of reveal button, but in our games it was a secret.

 

The ability to see your opponents' destination cards is only in local multiplayer mode (multiple players on a single Xbox, not System Link). It led to some discussion about how it would be nice if the 360 had a small display built in to the controller (a la the SEGA DreamCast) so you could see your cards but no one else could. The game is perfectly playable this way (in my opinion), but something like Catan wouldn't work, as keeping your cards to yourself is more important to the game dynamic; which, I suspect, is why there's no local multiplayer mode on Catan.

[smacks forehead] Ah, of course. I didn't think of the local multiplayer.

You're right of course; it was a non-issue for me because when I played local multiplayer with Jordan, I actually needed to see her destination cards to help her play, but that could be a problem in local multiplayer for people who want hidden destinations. Though if I have enough of my friends together to play locally, we'll probably just breakout the real thing. :)