Ticket to Ride app.

Ticket to Ride, reviewed here, is one of our favorite games to break out with friends who haven’t played many of the German-style boardgames we like because a new player can learn how to play in a few minutes and the game is long enough for a new player to start to catch on to strategy before it’s through. The publisher, Days of Wonder, has operated a very successful online site for several of their games for several years, and their Ticket to Ride app for iPad is fully integrated with the online site, so you get a robust community of experienced players right out of the chute.

The app is close to perfect if you’re playing online. The graphics are exactly those of the physical game and are very easy to navigate on the iPad’s screen. (There’s no version for smaller devices, and I can’t imagine manipulating the trains or reading the map on a tiny screen.) Route cards go in the lower left; you can cycle through them by clicking once, and completed routes get a solid-colored outline and a punch mark on the left side, with a count of total routes and incomplete routes next to it.

Your train cards display in the bottom center, and when you have enough to complete a track between two cities, you click on the relevant cards and drag them to the track, waiting until the right track is highlighted (both city circles start to glow as well) before releasing. That’s a little trickier than it sounds, and my wife and I have each once incorrectly placed trains; a setting allowing players to insert a confirmation option would be helpful, but right now the only confirm/cancel option appears when you select new route cards.

Opposing player icons sit at the top with number of trains remaining, number of train cards in hand, number of route cards in hand, and number of points all clearly visible. You can see an online opponent’s ELO rating (at least, I assume that’s an ELO system) and “karma” by clicking on the player’s icon.

The app itself runs very quickly with only a few unnecessary animations that didn’t unduly hinder play. Online play may lag due to slow connections or slow players, of course, and you can turn some of the animations and the entirely harmless music off.

Online play is the game’s strength. Players can log in via GameCenter or via the Days of Wonder site, and can create games or join existing ones in the “restaurant” accessible two clicks from the main screen. Open games are identified by different icons that indicate whether you are eligible to join the game and which board and cards are in use – the 1910 expansion, the Europe board, and the Swiss board are all available as in-app purchases. Players also tend to describe games as fast games or no-blocking games where applicable, although that’s on the honor system. So far, I’ve only played on the US board with the 1910 expansion and have found online opponents tend to go hard after the long, cross-country routes (sensible) and are obsessed with getting the longest route (potentially counterproductive). Then again, I think I’m at two wins in five or six games, so perhaps my opinions on strategy hold as much water as a plastic sieve.

The app has two flaws that put it below the standard-bearer in the space, Carcassonne. One is the aforementioned potential for a misplay that would be solved by a confirmation dialog. The other is that the Ticket to Ride AI players are horrible – they play linearly and won’t present any kind of challenge to even a novice player. It’s also less than ideal for pass and play because you can see other players’ routes too easily unless you’re sitting rather far apart. I did have one unexplained crash that hasn’t recurred.

However, if you like playing online opponents, it’s very strong and I’ve found the half-dozen or so games I’ve played to move very quickly. And if you’ve never played any of the boardgames I’m always yammering about here, on Twitter, or in chats, this is one of the best places to dip your toe in the water of smarter, better games that also play well for socializing.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Ticket to Ride. ($6.99) Days of Wonder, the publisher of Ticket to Ride and Small World, put a tremendous amount […]

  2. […] a few links: Penny Arcade interview with Days of Wonder’s CEO, talking about how the iPad Ticket to Ride app boosted sales of the physical game. Recommended by reader Patrick […]