Updated: May 6
There can be few folk reading this who aren't already very familiar with Alan R Moon's classic set collection board game Ticket to Ride. First published in 2004, it has spawned a dozen or more versions and variations: depending on the edition they buy, players can collect sets of matching colour cards and build their transport connections between stations and hubs in the USA, Europe, Asia and a host of individual countries. The beauty of Ticket to Ride is that its basic rules are simple and easy to grasp - making it ideal as a 'gateway game' for non-gamers. And the clever thing about most of the different editions is that each introduces a manageably small but significant extension to the core rules so that you aren't simply playing an identical game on a different map.
Then, last year, the publishers, Days of Wonder, launched Ticket to Ride: New York. This was a cut-down small-box version of the basic game but with a map showing New York City landmarks. We realised there and then that this was surely just the first of many: an inexpensive board game that doubled as a souvenir. Sure enough, Days of Wonder last month released Ticket to Ride: London to coincide with the UK Games Expo (albeit that the Expo was held in Birmingham rather than London). We've little doubt that similar souvenir editions will soon be springing up in cities all around the world; the only question is which will be next. Our money is on Ticket to Ride: Paris followed by Ticket to Ride: Tokyo, although Ticket to Ride: Rome surely can't be far behind.
The Ticket to Ride: London game itself follows the easy-to-play basic rules. A map of London shows several mostly well-known London locations. They are connected by routes that vary in length from 1 to 4 spaces. Players each have one or more destination ticket cards showing two locations and they are trying to collect and lay down the sets of matching colour cards needed to take a route with the aim of completing the journey shown on their destination ticket. Players score for routes as they claim them and for completed destination tickets but they lose points for any tickets in hand that they fail to complete. Rather than the trains used in most editions of Ticket to Ride, players in this game claim routes by placing out London buses, although only one player has these in their iconic red.
Days of Wonder have taken the curious design decision to set Ticket to Ride: London not in the present day but in the 1970s (with some of the artwork looking like a hangover from the 'Swinging Sixties'). The board shows a pre-decimalisation UK postage stamp (although the coin beside it is post-decimalisation); the box lid seems to feature a John Lennon lookalike and the miniskirted brunette and bowler-hatted gent look more than a little reminiscent of Emma Peel and John Steed from The Avengers (1965–68). The 50-year old look is in keeping with the design of the now long-gone 'Routemaster' traditional London buses but it does give rise to some anomalies. For example, the Globe Theatre is shown on the south bank of the Thames but the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe was only completed on that site in 1997. If you'd caught a taxi or asked a bus conductor to direct you to the Globe Theatre at any time between 1909 and 1994, you'd have found yourself at a theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, north of the Thames (now renamed the Gielgud Theatre) :-)
This nitpicking doesn't detract in any way from the game, of course, just the souvenir aspect of Ticket to Ride: London. Nevertheless, it's good to have a souvenir that works as a very playable game: a huge improvement on the usually dull ubiquitous city editions of Monopoly.