The premise of Ticket to Ride is simple: You’re a railroad tycoon attempting to link cities on a board. Players randomly draw “destination tickets,” which tell them what cities to connect (say, “Los Angeles to Chicago” or “Duluth to Houston”) and then buy up train tracks between the two cities until they’re linked. Players get points both for the tracks they buy and for completing destination tickets, and they lose points if they fail to link their cities. The player with the most points at the end of the game, naturally, wins. It’s simple, and it’s compulsively playable.
According to ICv2, TTR (or, in fan shorthand, “trains”) was the second best-selling hobby board game of fall/holiday 2014. The main TTR edition features a board of the United States, with a couple of Canadian cities, but there are also editions based in Germany, Scandinavia, and Europe, as well as expansions covering the Netherlands, Africa, Asia, India, and Switzerland. There’s also a “Märklin” version set in Germany that lets you sell merchandise along your routes, historical expansions to the US and European maps, and, most bizarrely, an expansion that lets players use an alien named Alvin and a dinosaur named Dexter to attack each other.
Personally, I’m a partisan of the Swiss map, which lets you gain points by connecting surrounding countries (for instance, you get 15 points for linking Austria and France). My college roommates and I played that map so often during our senior year that I’m pretty sure I know my Swiss cities better than my American ones now (what up, Schaffhausen). But none of the games are duds. The American map is the easiest on beginners, but the European map probably stays fresh for longer. If I were starting out, I’d go European first.
Buy at Amazon: Ticket to Ride ($44.99); Ticket to Ride: Europe ($44.99); Ticket to Ride: Germany ($69.62); Ticket to Ride: Nederland Expansion ($23.99); Ticket to Ride: Asia Expansion ($33.99); Ticket to Ride: The Heart of Africa Expansion ($27.11); Ticket to Ride: India/Switzerland Expansion ($29.76); Ticket to Ride: 1910 Expansion ($19.95); Ticket to Ride: 1912 Expansion ($17.99).
Buy on iTunes: Ticket to Ride - iOS ($1.99).
Play online: Ticket to Ride - Online (free).