GTM #208 - Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails
Reviewed by John Kaufeld

You love Ticket to Ride. You even cherish the various expansions and alternative versions. But, you’ve longed for something more... something a bit more ambitious that would stretch your strategy and challenge your skills. You want a Ticket to Ride game that makes you sweat, while shifting your brain into high gear.

Your wish is designer Alan Moon’s command! His answer: Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails. Let’s sail (or rail, if you prefer) into the ‘Top Five’ aspects you need to know about the game.

~ Going Places on the Two-sided Board ~

The Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails board gives you two ways to play: Motoring around the Great Lakes or traveling around the World (literally, because several routes wrap from one side of the board to the other). The game wisely includes individual rulebooks for each board, which makes it easy to start playing. The books also include icons to identify what’s unique between the boards. Because the boards use slightly different setup and harbor scoring rules (more about that in a moment), the graphic designers elegantly crafted reference charts directly into each board’s artwork.

~ Exploring New Cards and Board Features ~

The game includes separate train and ship travel decks. But, in addition to the normal mix of train or ship cards, each deck also contains a type of special card. The train deck has dual wild cards which now count for either a ship or train. The ship deck adds new double ship cards, which let you place two ships instead of one when claiming a route.

The World board also adds “pair routes” which require a matching pair of train cards to place each train. The World board’s ticket deck includes a new “tour ticket,” with multiple destinations and three ways to either gain or lose points.

~ Building Bonuses with Harbors ~

Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails also introduces the harbor, a new buildable playing piece that works with your tickets to earn victory points. Each player gets three harbors. Building a harbor requires two pairs of train and ship cards in matching colors (or wild cards), all with the harbor symbol. You also need an existing connection to the harbor city.

Harbors earn bonus points for every ticket showing the name of the harbor city. In the Great Lakes, harbors score 10 points for one ticket, 20 for two, and 30 for three or more. On the World board, they start at 20 points for one ticket and go up to 40 for three or more. Unbuilt harbors cost you four points each at the end of the game, so plan ahead to get them on the board by mid-game after drawing one or two batches of new tickets.

~ Picking Your Mix ~

Since the two boards contain a different mixture of rail and sail routes, players start with a pre-set pool of trains and ships. After looking at the starting ticket cards, each player selects a mixture of train and boat pieces from the pool to use in the game. As you play, you can spend a turn to swap any number of trains for the same number of ships (and vice versa). Swapping also costs one (1) VP per item traded, so trading five ships for trains immediately takes five (5) points off your score.

~ Starting Beginners Somewhere Else ~

One word of caution: I discourage using Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails as a gateway game for introducing new players to the tabletop hobby… because their brains will explode! Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails gives experienced players plenty of new challenges, which we definitely needed. Use classic Ticket to Ride for gateway nights.

~ The Verdict ~

Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails builds on the classic Ticket to Ride system, adding a new level of strategies, choices, and scoring opportunities. Moon accomplished this with a deft hand, adding muscle to the game instead of just adding bulk.

If you love the Ticket to Ride system, but crave something with more strategy and complexity, Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails is for you! Between balancing your card draws between the train and ship decks, figuring out your routes, managing your supply of trains and ships, and collecting cards to place your harbors, there’s a lot to keep you venturing back to the game…by rail or sail.

Fast Facts:

  • Age range: 10 and up
  • Set-up/Play time: 5-minutes to set up, 60-120 minutes to play
  • # of Players: 2-5
  • Price Point: $29.99
John Kaufeld often frets over whether the word "meeple" has a proper plural form. You can find him writing about board games, parenting, and other stuff on Twitter at @johnkaufeld and in his newspaper column, The Dad Game (http://dadga.me/column).