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[Review] Ticket to Ride: Mystery Train Expansion

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tomvasel
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Joined: 03/23/2011

I stand by my opinion that Ticket to Ride is THE gateway game - the best game to introduce to folk who aren’t game enthusiasts. Every time I teach it, I have great success; and my copy is rapidly becoming worn from the amount of times I’ve played it.
Days of Wonder, the producing company, has introduced a nine-card expansion entitled Ticket to Ride: Mystery Train Expansion. (Actually, ten cards are included; but one of them is blank, allowing players to add a card of their choice.)

All nine cards are “ticket” cards and are shuffled into the ticket deck during a game, after players have been dealt their initial three tickets. The tickets have different backings than the ticket cards from the original game; but Days of Wonder stated that this was deliberate, so that players would be tempted to draw the tickets, hoping to get a good one. This certainly does work; because whenever I saw one on the top of the pile, it took tremendous self-control NOT to draw tickets, because some of them are entirely useful.

It’s been mentioned elsewhere that the expansion favors people who play with shorter routes. I find this an interesting twist, because it really does help those with shorter routes, while not de-emphasizing longer routes. In fact there is one card (Tycoon) that actually helps a player with a longer route, so there’s something in this set for people with both strategies. On to the card themselves...

- There are four new route cards - all of them short, worth 2, 4, 6, and 7. The routes themselves are extremely interesting, as they tend to get in the way of longer routes; thus encouraging more player interaction. Of course, at the same time, they are more easily ignored, and I haven’t seen a game decided by them yet.
- The Tycoon card gives a player 10 points if they have a connection between the West and East coasts at the end of the game. The rules card in the game specifically lists the cities, which is good, because some rules-lawyers might argue forever (I’ve seen it!) over which cities are technically on the coast. Still, this is a nice card, and one that really helps someone connecting the coasts anyway.
- The Station Agent card gives a player 10 points if they have visited the most cities by the end of the game. I really enjoy this card, as it is a nice counterpoint to the card that gives 10 points for having the longest continuous train.
- The Inspector card allows a player to double the value of any ticket worth 10 points or less at the end of the game. This effectively makes many of the shorter routes worth as much as one long route and certainly makes the game interesting. (Unless your shortest route is worth only 2 points, as it was for me in one game!)
- There are two Engineer cards, which allow a player to play one on their turn, instead of doing anything else. The player can then search through the ticket draw pile, taking a destination card of their choice. This is an extremely powerful card, and really worth getting. It’s for this card alone that I’ll draw tickets, because finding a matching route amongst already laid trains can frankly win the game for a person. The card isn’t too powerful, as some claim; but there’s no denying its usefulness.
- The blank card, of course, leaves one with a variety of possibilities of which I’ve seen countless ideas on the internet. My favorite is the Conductor: “This ticket is worth a number of points (maximum 15) based on the number of trains you have left unplayed at the end of the game. Score the trains left as if you had played them on a route of that length. You can only score the bonus for up to six trains. This card will not assist you in triggering the end of the game.” There are many more, and it’s nice of Days of Wonder to provide blank cards with their games.

Is the expansion necessary - certainly not! I’ve played the game scores of times, and never thought that the game needed anything else to make it fun. That being said, I do enjoy the expansion greatly and think it adds even more variety to an already great game. Since the expansion is extremely inexpensive (oftimes free), I see no reason that most people shouldn’t pick a copy up. My copy has become a permanent part of my game and will increase the longevity (which already was close to forever) of one of the best games of the decade.

Tom Vasel
“Real men play board games.”

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