Your Guide to Ticket to Ride, Part 2: Europe and Europa 1912

In part 1 of this series, I discussed the original Ticket to Ride and its expansion, USA 1910. It’s a great game with a great expansion, and the expansion is true to the game, correcting some errors while keeping the game efficiently streamlined and simple. With any series though, publishers are always wanting more bells and whistles on the following installments, so not much later we had Ticket to Ride: Europe, and its expansion Europa 1912. I’ll discuss those here, and next time we’ll look at the 2-3 player maps, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries and Ticket to Ride: Switzerland.

Ticket to Ride: EuropeTicket to Ride: Europe

The next game to be released after the original Ticket to Ride was a map of Europe, and of course a new entry needs to be more than just a repeat of the original, so now we have tunnels, ferries, stations, and a new way to distribute the ticket deck. The map itself is quite interesting, with fewer long routes and more congested region s compared to the USA map, and an interesting eight-train route at the top of the map. As a person who knows only English and a bit of German, it’s a bit confusing that each city is listed as the name according to its own language – for example, Moscow is Moskva, Brussels is Bruxelles, and so on. I’m assuming this is so that they needn’t re-print the board for different regions, but it’s a bit confusing for me personally. Or maybe I just sound like a self-righteous incompetent American.

Apart from the route design, the map itself also has two new types of routes, ferries and tunnels. The ferries are simply routes that require a certain number of locomotive cards (indicated on the map) in addition to a set of cards all the same color. Although this addition is somewhat superfluous and doesn’t revolutionize the gameplay, it does add a bit more hand management to the game and makes taking a face-up locomotive a much more appealing option, something that tends to be ignored among expert TTR gamers. It’s not really a necessary change, but it’s one I don’t mind.

The second new route is the tunnel. On the routes with a black border (the tunnels), you first announce the tunnel you intend to “go for” and reveal the cards you are committing. Then you reveal a “flop” of three cards from the top of the train card deck, and any that are the color you are using (including locomotives) must be matched with as many of the same color (or locomotives) from your hand. Thematically, it makes sense that the route-builders maybe didn’t know how long they would need to make a tunnel, but gameplay-wise, this induces even more luck to a game that already walks a very fine line between luck and strategy. It can also lead to people card-counting the discards and face-up cards to calculate their risk, and it’s more frustrating when failing than it is relieving when succeeding. It essentially adds nothing but a bit more helpless frustration to the game. Unfortunately, tunnels really haven’t gone away, appearing in Nordic Countries and excessively in Switzerland.

The last two changes to the game are stations and the ticket distribution. Stations are my favorite “update” to the series in this game. Each player begins with three stations, and each unused one at the end of the game is worth four points. To use one, you place it on a city as your move for the turn, discarding a few cards to do so. At the end of the game, at each city with a station of yours, you may use one route that’s not your own to complete your tickets (you needn’t decide which route until the end). This makes blocking much less effective, keeping people from being completely unable to finish routes while still requiring the hassle of using a station and losing points for it. The brilliant thing about the Stations is that although they perform the obvious “fix” of route blocking, they can be used in other clever ways too, such as piggybacking very long route segments belonging to your opponents so that you can look at tickets more often, and complete them more quickly. This strategy would be much more viable and obvious if the game had a Globetrotter bonus for most completed tickets, but as it stands it’s still an interesting way to take advantage of the stations.

The tickets themselves have a new method of distribution. The game has only six long routes, each of which has the same back as the other routes, but a different background on the ticket information. Each player is dealt one of these at the beginning of the game with the rest of his tickets, and then chooses which to keep. After that, the tickets in the ticket deck only go up to 13 points. This is a great idea, greatly reducing the luck coming from 40-point ticket dives in the base game. It’s also a nice touch that it’s not obvious when a player keeps the long route, since there are only six and it would be a bit frustrating if another player could immediately guess your overall intentions. This is a great methodology for tickets, one that unfortunately hasn’t been repeated in other releases.

Overall, this map is more balanced than vanilla Ticket to Ride, and maybe even a bit more than the 1910 ticket distribution. The shorter route lengths and stations make for a much more skill-intensive game, but the tunnels are an annoying distraction, and I could go either way on the ferry routes. Of course, one other annoying aspect is that this could have easily been an expansion of the original game, like Switzerland, since you are basically re-buying the train cards and train cars. However, if you own the original Ticket to Ride, I would still suggest this game for something a bit different.

Pros: Short tickets and stations balance gameplay, new and exciting map

Cons: Expensive if you already have TTR, tunnels are obnoxious, stations are hard to use cleverly

One other comment: I’d really love to see another USA expansion with a tightly focused ticket deck, maybe only focusing on the east coast, but with a pack of Stations included. They’d adapt well to any map, though unfortunately there are no purple or white stations to use with Märklin or Nordic Countries.

Ticket to Ride: Europa 1912Europa 1912

Europa 1912 is an expansion for Ticket to Ride: Europe, much akin to the 1910 expansion for the original game. This expansion comes with a plethora of new tickets and various ways to use them, as well as a new piece for each player, called Depots, and rules for using them. Let’s talk about the tickets first.

Since your tickets may have worn thin by now, the expansion includes the original tickets – a nice touch. In addition, there are 19 new routes to add to the base game, 6 new long routes, and 30 new “Big Cities” routes. Unfortunately, they get just enough wrong with every combination of tickets that I’m left very frustrated.

The “Big Cities” variant uses the 30 new Big Cities cards along with 15 from the original ticket deck, and the long routes are not used. The gimmick is the same as the same variant in 1910 – each of the tickets goes to at least one of the Big Cities – and in this case, there are nine instead of seven. However, this ticket distribution is much unlike the one for the U.S. map, and in my opinion, much worse. The key is that in the USA version, the tickets mostly go to one big city – only  23% of the tickets (8 of 35) go from one big city to another. In the Europe Big Cities variant, 80% of the tickets (36 of 45) go directly from one big city to another. This means that as long as you go from one big city to the next, ticket diving is a sure thing, and you’re bound to clean up every time you look. Furthermore, the tickets vary wildly in value, going all the way up to 25. When you know exactly the 9 cities that everyone wants, the bluff in the game is gone, and so is part of the magic. Suddenly there becomes very few strategies – the game comes directly down to blocking and repeated ticket diving, with no other option. Playing this variant was a huge disappointment.

The “Mega Europe” variant had the perk of having more long routes to choose from at the beginning of the game, but it requires you to mix in all cards, including the far over-valued Big Cities tickets, making it extremely random, if less linear, compared to the Big Cities game. The worst part is that the new long routes have a blue back, not just a background on the ticket info, so now it is painstakingly obvious when you keep a long route, ruining one of the things I enjoyed about the original game.

The last variant is called “Europe Expanded,” which involves adding 19 regular (non-Big Cities) routes to the base game, and changing no other rules. This is a good way to mix up the original game a bit, but 19 cards are definitely not enough to get $20-kind-of-excited about. The worst part is that you can’t even use this the way the original game was intended. The reprints of the long routes, including the original ones, have that blue back, but you can’t mix the new 19 cards into your original Europe deck either, because the new cards have a tiny “1912” logo on their backs. What would really make this variant worth it, would be using all 12 long routes (if they had proper backs) and dealing out 2 to each player, and letting them look simultaneously at all of their starting tickets, but only allowing them to keep one long one. I can only assume the blue back is to make sure someone doesn’t keep both in the Mega game, but if they did cheat in such a way it would become painfully obvious when the game was over. It wouldn’t matter if they kept them anyway, since the Mega game has tickets worth more than any of the so-called “long” routes!

The last part of the expansion is the depots. Each player is given a warehouse (a flimsy cardboard sheet to stick train cards under) and four wooden depots. At the beginning of the game, each player places a depot. Whenever a player draws train cards, first he places one face-down under any player’s warehouse card, and then later when any player connects to any other player’s depots, the connecting player may discard a depot of his own to gain all of the cards in the depot owner’s warehouse. You can also add more depots to the board whenever you want. Each player with the most unused depots at the end of the game gains 10 points. Most interestingly, depots and stations cannot coexist on a city.

Unfortunately, this part of the expansion was not very good either. It sounded interesting, but it’s entirely too swingy – having situations where a player can gain 6-10 cards while claiming a route leads to situations where no other player can catch up in time before that person has claimed all of their routes, again making for a frustrating game. Furthermore, well-stocked warehouses lead to players arbitrarily blocking routes to gain access to the warehouse cards, which can also be frustrating. I’m assuming the depots were meant to allow an interaction with the stations in the game, but they seem again to only add randomness to the game, and they’re also awkward and fiddly to use. Even if you don’t plan on using your depots (so as to gain the 10 point bonus), you still have to remember to always burn a train card when you decide to take cards. It’s not that I mind the series adding another layer of complexity – I really enjoy the Passenger rules in Märklin – but these just add frustration, randomness and confusion, without a true extra layer of depth. They also don’t look very nice – they’re not cheap or anything, but the wooden components stick out like a sore thumb on a board covered in plastic trains and plastic stations. Furthermore, if you bought this expansion because it had “a special expansion compatible with all Ticket to Ride maps!” and you only own Nordic Countries or Märklin, you’ll be very disappointed by the lack of purple or white depots.

That’s a long way to say that I really do not care for this expansion. If the new long routes did not have a different back, I would still begrudgingly want the expansion so that I could expand the base game with more long routes and more short routes. As it stands, I can’t even use any of the tickets to expand the base game as it was designed to be played. Furthermore, I have no idea why no Globetrotter bonus card was included (although you could certainly add that bonus on your own, maybe using the card from another game). Add in the fact that the Big Cities variant and the Depots are just flat-out frustrating, and this expansion gets two thumbs down.

Pros: some new short routes and long routes for the base game

Cons: Big Cities ticket distribution is horrible, depots are frustrating to use, blue back on long routes ruins the bluffing aspect of the tickets, no Globetrotter bonus card

The actual Europe map is an exciting, fun map with some very good additions to the series, and only one poor addition (tunnels). However, unlike the USA map, the Europe map had nothing needing fixing, leading to a relatively useless expansion, marred further by some poor printing decisions. Hopefully at some point they’ll reprint the expansion, or include the extra short and long routes in the base game. Either way, Ticket to Ride: Europe is still very fun on its own, a much more tense game than the original without being mean-spirited or frustrating.

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