Ticket to Ride Nederland, otherwise referred to as Map Collection: Volume 4, is an expansion from publisher Days of Wonder. Designed by Alan R. Moon, featuring artwork from Cyrille Daujean and Julien Delval, this expansion integrates with Ticket to Ride, Ticket to Ride: Europe or Ticket to Ride: Germany. Based on a map of the Netherlands, it sees 2 – 5 players spend around 45 – 60 minutes claiming routes and paying bridge tolls. However, is paying for routes a fun twist? Let’s find out!
Note: This review focuses on the changes introduced by the expansion. If you are unfamiliar with the base game, check out our review here.
Ticket to Ride Nederland starts a little different from the base games. Players start with 40 not 45 trains, they draw 5 destination tickets keeping at least 3 and claim 30 bridge toll tokens from the bank. While the first player starts as normal on zero points, each player on from them in the turn order gains 1 point, so the third player starts on 2 points.
While destination tickets and the way of gaining and spending train cards for routes is the same, this is where the biggest tweaks to the core game arise. Firstly, all routes are available regardless of player count – so no more using only one side of a double route with 2 – 3 players. Secondly, each route has a bridge toll price assigned to it – denoted by a number on the board. When a route is claimed that bridge toll must be paid. If it is the first time a double route has been claimed, or it is a single route, the tokens are paid to the bank. However, if it is the second track of a double route the cost is paid to the player that had already claimed it.
Costing between 1 – 4 bridge toll tokens, if the player is unable to pay this they must take a loan card – worth negative 5 points. Note, that not only can loans not be repaid they also exclude the player from bonus scoring. The game plays out in the normal way, with the final round triggered by a player having two or fewer trains remaining. While there is no bonus for the longest train, like in the base game, bonus points are awarded. These are based on whom has the most bridge toll tokens left, at the end of the game. In a five player game this would see the person with the most gaining a huge 55 points, with second getting 35, etc. through to last place getting 0 points. As usual, after calculating points the player with the most wins.
Players start with such a large pool of bridge toll tokens it seems hard to imagine needing to take a loan. Depending on the stations a player needs to link, and the routes already taken by others, the bridge costs add up quickly. Having to pay another player rather than the bank is something most will actively avoid. In turn, this often sees them building around claimed routes – which can cost more tokens but won’t see any given to an opponent.
The rulebook suggests that this is a Ticket to Ride experience where you won’t want to waste time and not claim routes quickly. Becoming the perfect driver for this is the fear of having to pay another player bridge toll tokens. You would be actively giving them an advantage. Not only will they be less likely to take out a loan but also be higher in the runnings for bonus points.
To make the experience tight and cutthroat at 2 players there is an option to play with a dummy player. It works well to fill up the board as if a third person was there but this comes at the expense of speed. Breaking up the flow differently to an actual player, it stops players thinking what they want to do, shifting their focus, which an actual third player wouldn’t do. Starting in the 3rd round after both players have been the top card from the destination deck is flipped. Most of the time listed at the bottom of the cards – unrelated to the destination ticket – are two adjacent stations. The dummy player claims one of these, with the player getting the choice of what track to cover alternating per choice.
Going until the dummy players trains runs out this can see bridge toll tokens earnt by players and routes claimed just ahead of players, just like a real player may do. The effort of remembering to do this extra step and how much it impacts the experience is showing when the dummy player runs out of trains. All of a sudden turns flick back and forth between players and the fast gameplay of Ticket to Ride resumes.
A huge points total is there for the taking in Ticket to Ride Nederland. Points are thrown at players for the destination tickets, often scoring around 20+ points – with some rewarding over 30 points. Therefore, scores of 200+ points are not out of the question for a 2 player game. This makes the balancing of a few points at the offset of the game seem… pointless. There are also significant jumps in the point values earnt by the bonus cards, ranging from 55 to 0. Even subtracting the points earnt by the bonuses from the player behind you, they can be worth as much as completing one of the longer destination tickets. It adds an interesting choice, adding weight to the importance of splashing out on routes with high bridge tolls – which otherwise players would simply grab if they could afford them.
Not knowing the geography of Holland past the major cities is, as with many of the map packs, a slight problem. The destination tickets are clear enough to help players read them and at least see the region the stop is in. When it comes to the readability of the board though it is the choice of font that lets Ticket to Ride Nederland down. Using a heavily stylised font the names are hard to read at a glance. While the destination tickets are fine, using the dummy player (where there is no help other than the city names) is made even slower as players cannot just glance around the board, they have to clearly read each name.
Ticket to Ride Nederland offers a solid twist on the regular gameplay. It doesn’t increase the weight of the experience, with only a few additional tokens being spent when routes are claimed. The dynamic of not wanting to hand tokens over to opponents helps the expansion feel a little different also, as in regular Ticket to Ride players don’t think twice about claiming the second route of a double route. The biggest flaw of the game is not the acceptable dummy player, it is the font used. On top of this, other map collections come with two maps – providing double the content. Overall, this is an enjoyable expansion for Ticket to Ride fans, it’s just not the best expansion to get first.
(Editor’s Note: Ticket to Ride Nederland was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, some of which are running dropoff services, find your local store here.)