Ticket to Ride Asia was the first in the series of expansion boards to be released for the Ticket to Ride series. Otherwise known as Ticket to Ride Map Collection Volume 1, this is not standalone and requires a base game (Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride Europe or Ticket to Ride Germany) to be played. Included in the box is: a double-sided game board, destination tickets for each side, rulesets for the two versions and wooden card holders. With locations from Moscow to Hong Kong is this map collection an experience worth venturing on or is it a train too far? Let’s find out!
Bringing team play to the Ticket to Ride franchise, for the first and only time, is the Team Asia side of the board. This enables either 4 or 6 players to pair up to battle it out for train based pride. Overall, the route placement and hand management gameplay is similar though a few small tweaks make this a very different experience.
The changes are present from the very start of the game. Each member of a team gets 27 trains of their respective colour. Note this expansion comes with some additional trains of each colour to allow for 27 each. This pile of trains is what individual players must claim routes with instead of there being a central allocation for the team. The next change to how the cards are used and drawn. Whenever a player draws train cards during play one is placed onto the team’s card holder and one into that player’s hand. The cards on the card holder are then available to be used by either team member.
The biggest difference is how the destination tickets or objectives are handled. At the start of the game each player, not team, receives 5 destination tickets. These must be kept secret from all other players. Keeping a minimum of three, two must remain secret and one can be placed onto the team’s card holder. The game plays as normal with players taking it in turns to take actions and ends when one team is down to four trains in total. Bonus points are then awarded for the team with the longest continuous train and the team who has collectively completed the most destination tickets. Destination tickets that have been completed award the points denoted on them, whilst incomplete ones detract the same number of points. Finally, whichever team has the most points wins!
The discouragement of discussion in the rules of Team Asia adds a take it or leave it element into Team Asia. While the rules state small talk is allowed, discussion of the game isn’t. Often this results in the table being left quiet, somewhat ruining the fun, lightweight atmosphere of the franchise. Normally, my gaming group happily chats alongside the gameplay but this rule discourages it despite specifically allowing it. Maybe it’s the group of players I played with, we just found it safer to not say anything so we didn’t accidentally cheat.
On the other hand, it makes things tense even between team members, with players unsure if their teammate needs those train cards on the card holder or not. More often than not, when you have your eye on using a Locomotive from the card holder for one of your secret objectives it gets used by your teammate to claim a different route. The saving grace is that by using the same colour trains it isn’t possible to block off your teammate, which would have been frustrating.
The map of Team Asia contains some triple routes similar to the base games. In 4-player games (2 teams) only 2 of these 3 tracks may be claimed, though both players on a same team may decide to claim one each, effectively blocking off the other teams. This rule is often forgotten or confused during play as it contradicts the concepts of double/triple routes players already know. The difficulty comes in remembering which member of a team placed the train down on the route.
Normally, your colour train is there reminding you the other routes cannot be claimed. To make matters worse there is an exception. Both tracks of the double-route from Hong Kong to Canton remain open no matter the player count. For the sake of not confusing players it has worked best ignoring the ability to claim more than one route of a double or triple route as a team.
Instead of a normal action a player can place up to 2 destination tickets from their hand onto the team’s card holder, effectively sharing information. Despite only being a single turn being spent to share this information it can break up the flow of the game. A bit like a chain of dominoes once one team has taken the plunge to share the others swiftly follow leading to a round or two where sharing information is the most common action. It’s just a bit odd and I feel the game should either allow complete sharing from the beginning or none whatsoever keeping the secret objectives hidden throughout.
Another unique spin on the Team Asia board is how tunnels work. Adapting the basic rule introduced in Ticket to Ride Europe, instead of each tunnel resulting in 3 cards being turned over up to six can be, the number being determined by the route. A minor change to the rule makes the risk that bit higher. This often means players need an extra card or two of that colour or locomotive just in case!
The unique selling point of this board is that it offers a team variant. Not only is the Team Asia board playable without teams but I actually enjoyed it more without them. This is after playing it with up to 3 players, quite a good number for any Ticket to Ride board, so equal to the number of teams that would be playing. I’m unsure if it would work well with 4 players, the board would certainly be cramped. However, the size of the board is ideal for 2-3 players, with enough room for route building with a few blocking opportunities.
Flipping the board over reveals the Legendary Asia side, which is much closer to the regular gameplay of the Ticket to Ride. Players get their own allocation of trains, the teams are disbanded and the normal competitiveness resumes. For those whom have played the Europe base game, Ferries have returned requiring at least one Locomotive (wild card) to be claimed, one difference from the original. As normal, the game is played until one player has two or less turns, triggering the final round. There is only one lot of bonus points up for grabs in Legendary Asia for the player whom has linked the most cities together. Naturally, at the end of the game the player with the most points wins. Enough of why it’s the same; what is special about this side of the board?
Mountain Routes look visually as if they are a kind of tunnel route. However, appearance is where the similarities end. Xs on the track, signify a section is mountainous. I say section as it can be on only one train segment of a route. For each mountainous segment the player must discard a train carriage to the corner of the board. Therefore, the amount of Xs determines the number of trains a player must discard. If unable to place the amount of trains dictated by the route and discard the number of trains dictated by the mountain route rule the player cannot claim the route.
You would expect that this makes claiming such routes a waste of trains. To counter this for every discarded train carriage 2 points are awarded to the player. This can turn a short 2 train route into a 6-point scoring route. Mountain routes are therefore ideal for getting rid of trains close to the end of the game, to trigger the final round of play. Throughout the game the speed of the game is ramped up due to trains being discarded, reducing players train pools faster than normal and by extension the game length.
The theming of the both sides of the board and destination cards is spot on for the locations present on the board. My issue is that as train cards are not included the theming isn’t rounded off across all the components used. As an expansion it is to be expected to some extent: the train cards of Europe or the US base game just jump out as odd when playing, a shame as otherwise the theming is pretty strong.
Everyone that has played this map collection has enjoyed using the wooden card holders for the team variant. So much so that I’ve started using them when playing the non-team side of the board (and even other Ticket to Ride games). Being able to see destination tickets at all times without holding onto them makes the game simpler to play and holding less cards is always beneficial. No longer will people forget what their objectives are!
For those whom have been to any of the locations on the board there is instantly that extra connection made with the map collection. Otherwise, player’s lack of geography really shines through in this version, more so than any of the base games of Ticket to Ride. While I have found the destination cards fine for locating the general regions for stops, others have struggled when canvasing the whole board to find the stops they need to link. Players will over time learn the locations. Yet, as most will not intuitively know where locations are, it isn’t best for introducing new players to the franchise with.
The Legendary Asia side of the board is most likely going to see more playtime in the future than the team variant for me, though with some tweaks I can see any group thoroughly enjoying pairing up to compete across Asia. For those looking to expand their collection or enjoyment of the series getting a double-sided board helps to change things up and keep the game feeling fresh for longer. Though, the enjoyment caveat of knowing some of the region’s geography does ring stronger for Ticket to Ride Asia than any other variant I’ve played. All-in-all, in spite of the epic locations and theme, and Asia being the first map collection to have been released, it wouldn’t be the first I’d recommend unless the team play aspect truly grabs your gaming group.
[Editor’s Note: Ticket to Ride Asia was provided to us by Esdevium Games for review purposes. The game is currently available on 365 Games for £21.99. It is also available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]