Ticket to Ride Germany: A four-sided review

Ticket to Ride Germany is the latest (2017) standalone version of the top-selling family game, Ticket to Ride. It comes with everything you need to play, so you don’t need the base game (or Europe) to play this particular map.

While it’s not an expansion per se, I’m not going to talk through the basic mechanisms of the game here. If you want to learn about those, check out my review of the original Ticket to Ride. Here, I’ll talk about what’s different in this version.

In the box you’ll find a large game board, 225 plastic trains, 200 full-size cards, 60 wooden meeples, 5 wooden markers and a cloth bag. Board game comparison site Board Game Prices lists Ticket to Ride Germany for around £30 with a variety of retailers. This is about the same as the original; great value, seeing as you get more components here. And importantly for some, it includes a purple train set (alongside the nicely German black, yellow and red – plus white).

Teaching Ticket to Ride Germany

I won’t go over the basics here. Please see my original Ticket to Ride review for a rules overview (linked above). Instead, I’ll focus on what the Germany edition adds. But it’s important to note this is a standalone game and the version described below is the only one you get in the box. These all add to the basic rules from the original. But there isn’t an option in the German rules showing how you could play this without the changes made below. So it may not be the best version to teach to, or gift, beginners.

The track in Ticket to Ride Germany is all standard, as in the original. There are no ferries, tunnels or whatnot. So locomotive (wild) cards also work basically, as in the original. There are a few countries to travel to, rather than cities. But the only mechanical difference with these locations is that two routes going into a country do not directly connect to each other. The end game bonus here is the ‘Globetrotter’, which awards 15 points to the player who completes the most tickets. Which, with the other changes below, makes sense.

Destinations and passengers

The destination tickets come in two sets, short (3-11 points) and long (12-22) routes. Whenever you draw tickets, you choose which combination of tickets to choose – announcing the ratio before you take any tickets. At the beginning you much keep any two (or more); while later, you only need to keep one (or more). This may sound minor, but it makes a noticeable difference and certainly helps gives you room to try different strategies.

The game turn is the same as in the base game: either draw two cards (or one face-up wild); claim a route, or draw new destination tickets. However, when you claim a route (put trains on the board) you can also claim some passenger meeples. These are ceded from the bag at the start of the game, with most stations/countries getting a single meeple. But with the main hubs getting three to five. If available, you can claim one from each end of the route just claimed. At game end, in addition to standard scoring, players score 20 points for any colour (of the six) they have the most meeples in – and 10 points for second place.

The four sides

These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.

  • The writer: I’m a big fan of Ticket to Ride Germany. The meeples have a similar effect to the shares on the Pennsylvania map, but are simpler to parse and score. But the effect is to give players a different way to score points. Sure, you still need to complete tickets. But it makes the end game decisions more interesting. Just spamming down track is a viable option, if you can get meeples. Or you can just go for four short routes, knowing you’ll have a good chance of getting simple ones to complete. It gives players a little more control.
  • The thinker: I see the value of Ticket to Ride to the hobby, but it really isn’t for me. There’s too much luck over skill, especially in the simpler versions. This version does give you an added route to victory, but you’re still largely at the whim of the card draws. If I had to play, I’d go for a more complex map, such as United Kingdom, which adds a little more strategy.
  • The trasher: I don’t mind this game. And the addition of the passengers in Ticket to Ride Germany does add more to think about in terms of your opponents. There are just 10 in each colour, so it’s easy for fortunes to change and to work out who needs what for majorities. This also means that potential blocking moves also come with a meepley bonus!
  • The dabbler: Even as someone who dabbles in board games, I found the simplest (original) version of Ticket to Ride did get a little tiresome after a while – especially with less players. This edition adds just enough to make things more interesting, without a new rules overload. The board is one of the prettier ones too, while also being easy to find things on. Even the new card art is a step up. So overall, this is definitely a positive upgrade across the board.

Key observations

I feel the passengers add a nice dimension to the game, but not everyone agrees. Some see them as overpowered (no need for tickets), while others see them as too much setup faff for little benefit. As always, it’s horses for course. But these extreme opinions clearly miss the point (and both can’t be right). If you don’t want to add a new way to score, you’ll want to avoid this and perhaps try TtR Europe (which adds a little complexity in other ways).

Is this version OK for beginners? Personally, I’d say yes. The taking of meeples is very simple and feels intuitive. And the extra rules only add about two minutes to the teach. Is it for more experienced players? Possibly not. The meeples are less involved than the shares in Pennsylvania, and you only get the one map, plus a load of content you don’t need if you already have a base game. So, you’re better off buying the UK/Pen expansion set.

It was pointed out to me (by Greg Darcy at BGG – thanks!) that the change in train colours is problematic when using the France/Old West expansion. That adds a sixth colour, as it is a six-player map – but the added colour, white, is one of the five already in this expansion. However, you can but new sets of trains in a variety of colours for around £5, so there is an easy fix if you decide you want to expand your TtR experience further down the line.

I should also point out (if it’s not already obvious) that this is a very different/simpler passenger mechanic to the one used in the Marklin edition. Which may feel odd, as this edition uses the same map as that (and the Deutschland) edition. That is a superior, but more complex, mechanism that makes that version unique.

Conclusion: Ticket to Ride Germany

I’ve very much enjoyed my plays of Germany. But it sits in a slightly odd place in terms of who should purchase it. for me, I think it will replace the vanilla (US) version, which I’ll probably pass on to a new gamer as a gift. So, for me it’s a keeper. And if you’re looking to buy your first Ticket to Ride, I would suggest this one – or Europe, if you’d prefer the challenge to come more from how to lay routes than in ways to score.

However, if you already have a base game you’re happy with, this is probably a pass. There’s only one map and a bunch of extra bits you don’t need. So you’d be better of getting one of the map packs (I’d suggest looking at Japan/Italy or the UK/Pennsylvania set mentioned above). But either way, this is another solid addition to the Ticket to Ride canon.

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