In a time where dreams of international travel are constantly being crushed by the never-ending COVID crisis, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries provides a sprinkle of winter cheer for all those who climb aboard. With almost identical mechanics to those of the original Ticket to Ride, this version is not only easy to play but easy to teach and pick up. All of this making it a solid contender for any game nights.
Part of the now rather immense and noble family of Ticket to Ride games, Nordic Countries sees up to three players go against one another to claim rail routes across Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Originally only printed for sale in these countries, Nordic Countries has been available around the world since 2008. It is a firm favourite in my collection! The aim of the game is the same as other Ticket to Rides. Claim routes to gain more victory points than the other players, simples.
While there aren’t many moving parts to Nordic Countries, what is there is done well. The Train cards are nicely designed, bringing bright colours into the game and the board itself is gorgeous. Part of the reason I adore this game so much is because of how well every element fits together; nothing stands out as odd or out of place. The contrast between the vibrant Trains and the pastel blues and pinks of the board makes for a fun look and a well-designed game.
While it is likely you have at least heard of one of the Ticket to Ride games, allow me to whizz you through the rules for Nordic Countries. Players take a colour and the respective scoring marker and trains, along with four Train cards and five destination cards from their shuffled decks. They may discard up to three of their destination cards but can keep them all if they wish.
These destination cards represent routes to claim and offer varying amounts of victory points as a reward. But beware, as if the game ends and you have routes unfinished, you lose that many victory points as punishment, possibly derailing your lead! Five cards are then drawn from the Train card deck and placed face-up beside the board. And just like that, you’re ready to hop aboard and get playing!
On their turn, players may take one of three actions. They can either claim a route playing Train cards and placing their train markers to gain points, draw two Train cards either from the deck of the face-up selection. Or, if they’re feeling lucky, pick up three destination cards keeping at least one.
Tunnels are a feature unique to Nordic Countries and show the routes as they are in the real world. When a player claims one, they draw three additional cards from the Train card deck. If any match the colour of the route, that player must pay that number more cards to claim the route. The spend cards and the three drawn are then all discarded. This adds an extra spin to the game and who doesn’t love a bit of risk?
Part of what makes the gameplay so enjoyable is how simple it is. While I freely admit I adore complex, sprawling games like Scythe and Gloomhaven, these can take an age to set up due to their countless components and so I often have to be in the right mood to play. Nordic Countries, on the other hand, is something I can and will play anywhere and anytime. The fact you are limited to one of three actions per turn takes the labour out of the gameplay. You aren’t made to think about what your opponent might do in five turns time.
Most evenings, I sit and have a game at home in front of the TV just to unwind and get away from the stress of everything going on nowadays. With a two-minute setup, Nordic Countries is also the ultimate event favourite and the three-player cap makes the game feel more intimate and intense than its five-player counterparts like Ticket to Ride: Europe.
While this is a beautifully relaxing game, the layout of the routes and the structure of Nordic Countries make the gameplay more aggressive than you might expect. It's why Nordic Countries is one of my favourites. Players find themselves having to block their opponents to get the routes that they need. Every route claimed is political. As someone who most often plays as a pair, Nordic Countries brings a level of player interaction that the other five-player versions of the franchise can lack. Yes, it is relaxing. But if you and your opponent have similar destination cards you’ve got to be quick and snap up the most direct routes. If not, you'll risk lagging behind, or worse locked out of claiming the route at all.
Despite being part of such a sizeable board game family, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries is a charming game that adds fun twists to the modern classic Ticket to Ride. I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone looking for a candidate for small group games nights or even just for play with one other person. Nordic Countries is both relaxing and great fun with plenty of player interaction for two- or three-player games. A favourite in my collection that I’ll play time and time again, I cannot recommend this enough to anyone. If you couldn’t get away for your Christmas holidays, don’t worry, Nordic Countries has your back!