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TICKET TO RIDE: MARKLIN EDITION

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Days of Wonder, 2-5 players, ages 8 and up, 30-60 minutes; $39.95)

 

Some companies have been fortunate in finding a game with the strength and popular acceptance to not only create a loyal following but serve as a springboard for variations on that game’s popular theme. Mayfair has The Settlers of Catan (Fall 1996 GA REPORT), Rio Grande has Carcassonne (Summer 2001 GA REPORT) and Days of Wonder has Alan Moon’s award winning Ticket to Ride. Ticket to Ride has already spawned one successful “sequel” (Ticket to Ride: Europe) and now, the newest entry to the family, Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition has been released – and this new arrival is a beauty.

Fans of the previous releases will have no trouble getting into the game as the fundamental game play of TtR:Marklin is very similar to Ticket to Ride (Spring 2004 GA REPORT) and Ticket to Ride: Europe (Spring 2005 GA REPORT). The basic mechanics still apply: you draw train cards to create sets, matching card colors to track colors so you can place your own color-coded rail cars on the board. Laying track earns you Victory Points charted on the scoring track on the board perimeter. Destination cards award VP bonuses if you manage to construct a complete line linking the cities on the cards. But, once again, Moon has managed to give this version a feel all its own.

There are slight differences in choosing Destination cards (you can choose between short and long routes, for example) and the setting has changed – from the United States to Europe to, now, Germany. A new modified “wild card” has been introduced: the +4 card. This card may be used ONLY on track lengths of 4 or more. (Then shouldn’t this be called the 4+ card?) But the main differences between basic play and the Marklin edition centers on passengers and cargo pick-up.

At the start of the game, merchandise tokens (small circular tokens in denominations ranging from 1 to 7) are placed. But there is method to the madness. The tokens are not placed randomly. Instead, tokens are color coded to match cities. There is one black stack (found at Berlin and consisting of the highest valued tokens of 7, 6, 5, and 4), six red stacks (4, 3, 2), 16 yellow stacks (3, 2, 1) and 16 “independent” white tokens (single tokens valued at 2). Going hand in hand with these stacks are passenger pieces.

After placing a length of track, a player has the option of placing ONE of his passengers on the city at either end of the track. On a subsequent turn, instead of laying track or drawing cards or drawing additional destination cards, a player may move his passenger.

A passenger travels from his starting city along track to as many other cities as he can reach. As he moves into a city, that passenger claims the topmost merchandise token from that city’s stack. (He does NOT claim a token in his starting city, however.) Traveling on his own track is free. But, if he wishes to travel on another player’s track, a passenger card must be played.

Passenger cards are another new addition to the deck. There are only 10 of these and they can be invaluable. For each opposing player’s a passenger wishes to travel on, one passenger card must be played. In this way, more merchandise tokens can be claimed. After the passenger has gone as far as he can go, the total amount of merchandise tokens is added as Victory Points to that player’s score. The passenger token is then removed from the board and is out of the game. Each player has three passengers. Unlike the train stations in Ticket to Ride: Europe, unused passenger pieces do NOT score. So, you had better use them. The trick is knowing when to “pull the trigger”.ticketridemarkcard

Passengers compel players to make new decisions. And, as in life, timing is everything. Placing passengers near Berlin is a good idea since Berlin holds the highest tokens. But quantity is a more important factor than quantity. You need to be able to travel across a lot of track to maximize the scoring potential so you might like to wait until you have placed a significant amount of track. But how much is significant? Played right, you can snag an extra 30 or more Victory Points. Wait too long and even a long train ride might net you only 10 VPs or less as claimed tokens are NOT replaced.

As with the other games in the series, the last round starts when a player’s supply of trains winds down to two or less. When the final round is completed, points are scored for Destination cards fulfilled (and deducted for those not completed) and 10 points awarded for the player completing the most Destination cards, a change from giving that bonus for the longest stretch of track. If a tie, ALL players tied receive 10 bonus points. This gives an added incentive to draw and complete those Destination cards but if also causes another shift in strategy too. In the past, the game tended towards a bias in favor of offensive play as all strived to complete the longest track. Here, since there is NO reward for length, a smart player will concentrate on defense and try to block the opposition from completing long stretches of track. If you allow your rivals to build track unmolested, they will be sure to draw more Destination cards, and what’s worse, complete them! The result? You will be buried in an avalanche of bonus points at game’s end. The player with the highest final total wins!

In addition to colors, Days of Wonder has continued to use icons to differentiate between different train cards. And a good thing too, as the wild card locomotives and the standard black train car cards look, at first glance, very similar. The Marklin influence is seen as the cards depict different train cars from Marklin and the game comes with a Marklin catalog and CD-ROM featuring the full line of model trains! I was kind of hoping that with the Marklin tie-in, and Marklin being so well known for terrific looking toy trains, there might have been mini-Marklin trains inside the box. (Parker Brothers did something along those lines using Tootsie Toy trains in their Across the Continent game decades ago.) But no. The same, colorful, plastic trains as found in the previous editions are used here. Perhaps a special edition is in the wings somewhere down the line.

Ticket to Ride: Marklin Edition is another strong entry in the Ticket to Ride series. In level of difficulty, it falls between the original game and the more “gamer’s game” edge of Ticket to Ride: Europe. Introducing passengers and cargo adds a new facet to play without adding unnecessary complexity. Couple that with the shift in emphasis on Destination cards and the result is a terrific game that more than justifies another Ticket to Ride purchase. – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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