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 Angeles 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 are 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.