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Let’s Play: Ticket To Ride Nordic Countries

Ticket To Ride Nordic Countries

This week's Let's Play blog honours the joyous occasion set to befall us all! I will be running through the oh so festive Nordic Countries version of Ticket To Ride!

Although this is the version I will be directly referencing, the core mechanics are present through all Ticket To Ride games. In the spirit of this, I will mention where if a rule is specific to this version of the game.

Ticket to Ride is a game of building train routes and making sure you secure the routes that your customers have asked for. Now I know the theme may sound a little dull but believe me this is one hell of a family or gateway game. Most Ticket To Ride games run up to four or five players however Nordic is an exception only taking on three.

Ticket To Ride Nordic Countries - Map & Rules

Lets start with what the map represents. The game board covers Northern Denmark (Aalborg, Aarhus and Copenhagen) on its southern edge and rises to the northernmost Norwegian city of Honningsvag and the Russian City of Murmansk. The board's most easterly Town is Imatra in Finland, with Bergen in Norway taking its place as the Western Edge.

Basically all of Sweden, Norway and Finland are covered, with parts of Denmark and even Russia included. Though Scandinavia covers a large area, it is thinly populated. Therefore as opposed to the full Europe map there are large areas with no cities or train routes present, routes being represented by a number of coloured spaces, and this is what makes the map so tight and why it is only playable with 2 or 3 people.

Next up is the rules of game! First thing to explain is  how to win this game! Like most euro style games victory is determined by the highest number of victory points at the end of the game. These points come from building routes and scoring destination cards at the games end. Each Ticket To Ride game also has an additional objective and these differ between game. For the Nordic edition we have the globetrotter bonus card and it is awarded to the person who has completed the most destination cards at the game end.

Setting up the game

At the start of the game you will each choose a colour of train tokens, either Purple, Black or White, before each being dealt four train cards. Now I have to take a minute here to talk about the fantastic art work on the train cards included in the Nordic game. Normally they would show a carriage in one of 8 colours or a locomotive, however in this version they are also covered in snow and I must say they look great!! The locomotive looks especially amazing, covered in snow with a warm glow behind it. For me it is Christmas in a card, well ok as Christmas themed as a train can be.

Anyway back on track! After you have received your train cards you will take the remainder of those cards, turn 5 face up next to the board and place the rest in a pile face down next to them - these are your draw pools.

You will then be given five destination cards, these are you big scorers at the end game, and each one will have a route on it and a points value. The longer the route on the card, the more points there will be. For example a route from Bergen to Copenhagen (which is spelt in its true form on the board), would be worth a solid eight points but for a route from Bergen to Narvik you would earn a hefty sixteen.

However, these long routes take more trains of course and other people will also be converting those lines for their routes, so you have go to be snappy. From these five you may choose to discard up to three of them. Now you may be wondering why you would discard any!! Well this is because if you don't complete all your held routes by the end of the game, those route will have their points value scored negatively against you, so it doesn't hurt to be a little cautious sometimes, you won't really have time to build a route running north to south and then east to west.

All destination cards discarded at this point are put back into the box secretly and then the remainder of these cards, those not dealt out or discarded, are placed face down next to the board to form the destination deck.

Playing Ticket To Ride Nordic

You have your starting train cards and destinations, now it's time to start the game.

The game rules stipulate that the most seasoned traveller begins the game, but any random method works for first player determination. Once decided play will commence, starting with the first player and working clockwise from him or her, with each player taking one of three actions:

  1. The first is to draw more train cards. You may draw two of these either from the face up pool or blindly from the deck - it can be one of each. In most Ticket To Ride games if you draw a locomotive from either of these piles first you will not draw a second card, however in Nordic this is not the case.
  2. Draw destination cards. You would take three from the destination decks and you can choose to keep up to three of them, but you must keep at least one. This can be a little risky late in the game as you could potentially end up with routes you cannot complete netting you negative points.
  3. Your third option is the bread and butter of the game and that is to claim a route! This is where the colour of those carriages on your cards matter. The train routes on the map as I mentioned before are shown by a number of coloured spaces, each route will only be in one colour and to claim that route you must play a number of carriage cards equal to the spaces on the route and they must be of the correct colour. The exception to this are grey routes which may be claimed by a set of any one colour and locomotives which can played as any colour, but are also needed for a special type of route.

Once claimed you place your trains covering the correct spaces on the map and score the amount of points the route is worth, with longer tracks scoring more points. The coveted 9 space routes scores a whopping twenty-seven points and now that route is only usable for your destination cards.

Easy right?

There are also 3 special routes that I need to mention! These are:

  • Double Routes - Both you and one other player can build on them. These are shown by two sets of tracks side by side on the map.
  • Ferry Routes - Require you to play at least one locomotive in place of one of your carriages or play an additional theree cards of any colour.
  • Tunnel Routes - These are the bane of a gambling player because you never know how long that route will be. Once you have laid down the cards you plan on claiming the route with, you then draw a further three cards from the top of the train pile. If any match your colour then you must play an additional one of that colour to claim the route and this is stackable if you unveil three cards matching your carriage then you must pay three, also bear in mind that locomotives revealed count as being a carriage of your colour. These routes are shown bolder, jagged outline.

The game continues with each player taking one of these actions until one player gets down to only two trains at the end of his current turn - at which point each player takes a final turn, including the player who started the end game sequence. Once concluded all players calculate their score by adding the points for the destination cards they hold positive, or otherwise. The globetrotter cards is then awarded to player who completed the most destination cards, and the player with the most points is then awarded the spoils of victory!

Final thoughts

Ticket To Ride is without a doubt a great franchise and is the perfect game to lure players into the world of board gaming. For me, the Nordic and India maps are the most challenging. The tighter routes create a higher level of player interaction and require more planning, perhaps they are not the gateway games that the European or USA maps are but for seasoned gamers these are the ones to really look out for.

The train cards are just the icing on the cake, they are so wonderful I really cannot overstate how much myself and my partner loved the little snow covered carriages and locomotives. Nordics only drawback is the player count, since it is limited to two or three, however Europe takes up to 5 and would be the next choice if a larger map is required.

If you have never tried Ticket To Ride I suggest you to grab it, and if you are already a veteran and require a new challenge the Nordic map is a must have.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas or glaedelig Jul as they say in Denmark.