If there’s one game genre I’m all for, it’s board games. I love the feel of the dice in my hands, the touch of crispy play money, the thrill of running after the hourglass, and the exhilaration knowing that I’ve trumped my fellow players.
With that said, I found myself curious of what it’s like to play a digital board game after spotting Ticket to Ride Online on the New and Noteworthy section of the Mac App Store. The icon, the screenshots, and the uber-friendly conductor convinced me to check the game out, plus the fact that its iPad version has garnered numerous game awards in the past.
Will the Mac version of Ticket to Ride Online stand just as tall as its iOS counterpart? Let’s find out.
Ticket to Ride Online is the online version of Alan R. Moon’s popular cross-country train adventure board game, Ticket to Ride. The game’s setting and the classic map used during initial gameplay are set in North America during the industrial era when trains, locomotives, and railroads were the main modes of transportation, and saloon music filled the air.
The goal of Ticket to Ride Online is to complete train destination tickets given at the beginning of the game. To do this, you need to complete railway routes using train cards until you are either able to connect two or more destinations together or you run out of trains. Each player (up to five players can join) is given 45 consumable trains to use, and for every completed route your trains decrease in number.
The description sounds easy enough, but to win the game takes strategic planning, patience, and a bit of luck. You can win in two ways: complete the most tickets and/or claim long routes for bigger points. You’d be more inclined to complete all of your tickets, because if you’re unable to do so, your score is deducted depending on the value of the unfinished ticket.
At launch, you’re greeted with fun background music, a hooting steam engine, and Gerry the Conductor. Gerry welcomes you with two options: Play the game or visit the train station for other options, such as the settings, game rules, and the online games arena where you can play with other players.
Sign up for a free Days of Wonder account via the app’s settings or log in to your Game center account to have your scores and ranking listed in the scoreboards.
You begin the game with the classic US map with the choice to either play under Tutorial mode or not. The Tutorial mode is a good starting point if you’ve never played the game before. Otherwise, simply switch off Tutorial mode before pressing the green Play button. There are other maps available with new rules, trains, and challenges, but you’ll have to pay for these as in-app purchases. We’ll go into that later.
As soon as you’ve chosen your first train destination tickets, you can make your first move. When playing against the bots or AIs, you’re always the first to begin. Your train destination points are highlighted in glowing green to help you build and claim your railway routes. By clicking on a ticket, the destinations instantly glow to tell you where to begin and end.
At the end of the game, the overall points are tallied. The points earned from completing tickets are added to the points earned from claiming railway routes. The player with the longest route wins a bonus of 10 points, a deciding factor on who wins the game.
Getting the Feel of the Game
While the goals of the game are clear, the app description claims that one can learn the game in just three minutes. It definitely wasn’t that easy or quick to learn.
Despite playing on Tutorial mode, it took me five consecutive games until I understood exactly the mechanics and memorized the rules. And to see the effectiveness of the tutorial, I let a couple of family members play the game, all of which have never heard or played Ticket to Ride before. It took them about two to three games to get the hang of it as well. Of course, for those who’ve played the board game, the learning curve may not be as steep (or none at all).
One thing is for sure though, I found Ticket to Ride Online to be fun and surprisingly addictive. Prior to writing this review, I played the game three to four times in a day not only to test out all of its features but to top the scoreboards and play with other players around the world. It may take some time to get the feel of it, but once you know how to play, you might just find yourself playing for hours on end.
Graphics, Music, and Performance
The best features of Ticket to Ride Online are the graphics, music, and the overall performance of the game.
When playing against the AIs, I never experienced lags, crashes, or freezing. The graphics are superb and fun to watch, giving me that same thrill after completing a railway route. I’d also enjoy listening the music and the sound effects, especially when picking up a ticket or a train card. I never turn the sounds off despite the fact that my opponents (the same family members) can hear if I’ve completed a railway route.
I mentioned earlier that you can buy extra maps as in-app purchases. This is also a problem-free feature of the app. I bought the Ticket to Ride Europe and 1910 maps to add variety to my gameplay, and all I had to do was to confirm my purchases with my Apple ID and password.
The prices for the extra Ticket to Ride online maps for the Mac is way, way cheaper than the maps sold on the iPad. Ticket to Ride Europe and Switzerland are $1.99 on the Mac, but $4.99 on the iPad.
Playing with Others
There is one aspect of Ticket to Ride Online that needs improvement, and that’s playing with other Ticket to Ride players.
To play with others, you’ll need to go to the More menu and click on Online Games where you’ll find Marcel the Waiter. Upon entering, a large organizer is displayed with two sections at the top (Games and Players) and three sections at the side: Lobby, Buddies, and Ignore. Lobby is where you will find players logged in to the game. You can select a username and invite to play or add as a buddy. Those who accept your invitation to be a buddy are then found in your Buddy list.
At this point, I bought the iPad version of the game ($6.99) to be able to play against my family members. In the process of inviting them to play, I encountered a bug in that the players invited do not appear at the game table even after accepting their invitations. I’d have to go back to the Lobby, click on their names in my Buddy list, and invite again. There are times when even numerous attempts wouldn’t work, so we had to leave the Lobby and enter again to log back in.
When we are able to connect and are now sitting at the game table, that’s when the lagging occurs. The game would hang a couple of times while playing, and it would sometimes take about 20-30 seconds before the move made by other players would reflect on my side.
The Internet connection could be a cause for this, so if you experience the same, try playing where the Internet source is closest to you. Hopefully the developer/s can improve this aspect of the game, as it can get in the way.
While nothing beats playing a board game with the family, Ticket to Ride Online is a great train adventure board game to play with family, friends, and with people from all over the world. The game exercises your mind, pushing you to think of all the possibilities that could lead you to victory over your opponents.
If paired up with the iOS versions, it makes a great digital board game to play during family nights. It’s definitely won a spot in my favorite games list in my Applications folder, and I’m sure others looking for a high quality game to play on the Mac would love it too.
Have you tried playing Ticket to Ride Online on your Mac? What are your thoughts about the game? Share your experiences in the comments below.