12th Jul2019

‘Ticket to Ride London’ Board Game Review

by Matthew Smail

TTR-London-box

Even though it has retained its place on my shelves throughout house moves, various clear outs and many more occasions that could have spelled its demise, I almost never play Ticket to Ride anymore. Something about this classic gateway game from Days of Wonder has begun to grate on me – it takes a long time to play and it simply doesn’t offer the wealth of choices that I want from a board game.

Enter Ticket to Ride London, the second game in a line of smaller, shorter games that take literally everything about the original game, add a little bit of their own flavour and shake things up accordingly. Ticket to Ride London is set in the swinging 60’s and presents itself with Austin Powers level enthusiasm – Union Jacks, hippies, London buses; all the stereotypical British icons from the period are here.

In fact, Ticket to Ride London is built around those famous red buses, as opposed to the trains that we see in most Ticket to Ride games. Players will plan routes by playing matching cards from their hands and then placing buses in their colour on the board. To plan a pink route with four buses on it, four pink cards must be spent – grey routes can be bought with any set of cards in a matching colour.

Turns are very simple in Ticket to Ride London and there are only three possible actions, the first of which is the placement of buses as mentioned above. The other two are to draw two cards (either from the face up selection of five, or off the top of a deck) or to draw two new destination cards and keep one or both of them. Destination cards allow players to score bonus points based on fulfilling routes from one location to another.

There are a couple of subtle rules that change the normal rules slightly. Wild cards can be used to replace a card of any colour, but when chosen from the face up market, the player is limited to drawing a single card. Destination cards left unfulfilled at the end of the game will cost points as shown, rather than gain them, you know the drill.

Aside from the theme, Ticket to Ride London only introduces one unique concept, which is that of scoring connected districts. This simple idea basically allows players to score a (usually modest) amount of points for connecting three or four locations within a limited area. Unlike in other Ticket to Ride games, there’s no award for longest continuous railroad or anything like that, and this alternative has led to generally closer scoring in the games that I’ve played.

With a smaller board than usual (in fact, all the components are smaller, from the manual to the cards that drive the action) Ticket to Ride London takes much less time than the bigger variants in the series. A two player game will be done in fifteen minutes almost every time, whilst even at four players, twenty five minutes seems to be about the norm and the board will be very congested by the end.

I began this review by stating that I had felt that Ticket to Ride had begun to outstay its welcome. Whilst still sound, the simple mechanics had begun to grate on me in the face of ever more exciting ones seen elsewhere. Ticket to Ride London completely addresses these issues by reducing the length of each game by more than half.

Whilst Ticket to Ride London is still too large to be a proper travel game, it is most certainly a game that can be played on a train table, in a caravan or at an office or pub. The box is about half the size of the original, but everything that you may love about the playing experience seems to have been retained. The theme may or may not make a difference to you and whilst I don’t care about 1960’s London specifically, I do enjoy the familiarity of playing on a map that I know well.

Ticket to Ride London feels like just what the series needed to me, and whilst I haven’t played it, I understand that Ticket to Ride New York (which was the first of these smaller versions) will likely offer a similar experience in a city that you might be more interested in. Either way, the smaller editions of this classic game are now my absolute preference and if I want to introduce a friend to board gaming in future, Ticket to Ride London is where I’ll be starting.

**** 4/5

Ticket to Ride London is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator

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