Ticket to Ride vs. Ticket to Ride vs. Ticket to Ride

Alan R. Moon's Ticket to Ride has only been out for four years, but it has picked up several prestigious board gaming awards, and is quickly becoming a popular "haul it out of the closet and get yer game on" addition to game night. Last week, the Xbox Live Arcade version was released, joining Catan, Carcassonne, and Lost Cities as games that have breached the digital divide. But how does it stack up against the freebie Java version, and the board game itself? Read on, ticket holders, and find out.

Ticket to Ride
: The Board Game

It's impossible to replicate the feel of holding game pieces in your hand. A thick plastic controller always feels like ... a thick plastic controller. There's something about the smell of a gameboard, the clinking sound of the pieces, and the riffling of cards. Sure, it gets a bit out of control when you're playing Axis & Allies, and have hundreds of tiny plastic doohickeys that always manage to go missing, but Ticket to Ride's cartoonish pieces are brightly colored and easy to keep track of.

It's also a great party game, and you don't have to be intimately familiar with the German Offensive of 1942 or alternate passages Frodo can take to get to Mordor. People who aren't normally into board games love playing this. Don't ask us to explain it. It's addictive like Tetris is addictive, and that's simply lining up blocks.

  • Lots of little colored trains
  • Fun tactile experience of building your rail lines by hand
  • Great for large groups
  • Several different expansion boards/sets
  • Cat-ready box
  • Little pieces can get lost, stepped on, eaten by nephews, etc.
  • Counting out the longest route and keeping track of everything can be somewhat challenging, especially after a round or two of drinks
  • Hard to round up people to play a game at 3:30 a.m.
  • $50 price tag

Ticket to Ride: The Web Game
Publisher Days of Wonder has been offering up a Java version of its Ticket to Ride board game for awhile now, and the game is surprisingly robust, easy to play, and a good graphical representation of the board game experience; complete with little train whistles and animated cards showing what the other players are doing. Anyone can play a game for free on the Days of Wonder website, but only registered players can host games and track their stats in multiplayer.

Every Days of Wonder board game comes with a code inside for six months of free gaming, and if you keep buying different board games, you can keep extending your six months as long as you want. Of course, if you only want to play online, you have little use for the stack of "hard copies."

  • Streamlined mouse
  • Automatic scoring
  • You don't have to count your pieces out onto the gameboard
  • Online multiplayer with up to five players
  • In-game chat, when you play with friendly folks
  • Video tutorial makes learning to play easy
  • Subscription fee or code required to host games
  • Some players of the "not so friendly" variety. (As in, they'll paste "Can't you play any faster?!" multiple times into the chat box)
  • No expansion boards/sets

Ticket to Ride
: The Xbox Live Arcade Game
Less than a week on Live, and Ticket to Ride has already replaced Catan as our board game we play online. These games don't move as quickly as the ones on the Days of Wonder site, although you can attempt to quash your boredom by watching the animations on screen. Clouds drift by, steamships pull into port, and zeppelins will buzz above your trains. Of course, it doesn't add anything to the gameplay, but neither does the Pop-o-Matic -- it's just a fun way to roll the dice.

We've been playing the XBLA version on a 40" LCD television, but we keep yearning for the look and feel of the Java version. There's too much wasted space in this edition that could've been filled with something as simple as a a puffing steam engine or a rotating wheel. Still, it's addictive as hell and inspires those "I'm not turning this off until I get at least one frakkin' win" game sessions.

  • Cheap; it'll cost you 800 Microsoft Points ($10)
  • Easy (for now) to find online games. (This might change when the "newness" factor wears off)
  • They're bringing the 1910 and Europe expansions to the game
  • In-game voice chat
  • In-game video chat; seriously, we don't want to see your "caboose"
  • Still has some bugs
  • The orange and red routes are nigh impossible to tell apart
  • Doesn't use up all available gameplay area on screen, resulting in too much black space on the top and bottom of the screen
  • Addictive, dammit

Final verdict
And the winner is ... Ticket to Ride: The Board Game. It's hard to beat old school, and with the added playability of six different expansion sets, you can stretch your gameplay for years. Of course, it could set you back in the process, as the board game versions range from $20 to $50, depending on the expansion. Talk about a golden ticket! However, if you're looking for sheer convenience, both the Java and Xbox Live Arcade versions get you close enough to the game that you'll still get an experience that's pretty close to the real thing. If we ever get around to picking up the CD-Rom version for Macs and PCs, we'll let you know how that one is too.
Thanks to BoardGameGeek for the nifty game shots.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.