"Roll up! Roll up! Come and enjoy this whole new experience! Open your minds and be amazed at the sights you'll see!"
This almost sounds like a traveling circus showman encouraging the members of the public to view the latest attractions. It harks back to a previous era where word of mouth and printed bulletins were a way to advertise a new show, rather than social media and directed text messaging.
1910 brings to mind the film "The Greatest Showman". The characters on the front are holding tickets, a top-hatted gentleman with a big cigar and a glamorous lady with a parasol. This little expansion box is promising a lot. It is claiming it will fundamentally alter your Ticket to Tide strategies and tactics. It is saying it will surprise even long-time veteran railroaders. Also, it is offering hundreds of hours of new fun if you hop aboard for a whole new ride!
Ticket to Ride, Catan and Carcassonne are games that are in the public consciousness. You can pick up a copy in some supermarkets or book stores, and this increased exposure is good. Ticket to Ride is considered by many to be a gateway game. Unfortunately, that term comes with some gaming snobbery and from the outset I will nail my colours to the mast and say "I like gateway games". Without them, the non-gaming public will still be considering any Monopoly edition or Mousetrap as the only games worth purchasing for Christmas. Gateway games are accessible. The rules are usually straightforward, gameplay is relatively slick and component quality [in the case of Days of Wonder games] is usually excellent.
The original Ticket to Ride was quickly followed by its European counterpart. This is the most popular version in the UK. However, to enjoy the delights of the 1910 Expansion an original USA Ticket to Ride board game is required. Unfortunately, Days of Wonder do not sell the North American board and cards separately in the same way that other world regions are covered.
Ticket to Ride has a simple set of rules. Players collect railway cards to form sets. This allows them to claim railroad routes between towns across the continent in the hope of linking far flung cities. There is competition for the routes and bonuses are available for the longest continuous railroad route and whether player-specific goals are met. In a standard format up to five players will enjoy these set collection and area control mechanics, and wrap up the game in less than an hour.
Thom Newton has provided a more detailed explanation on how to play Ticket to Ride in his review of the European 1912 expansion.
Days of Wonder are promising more variety and additional tickets and routes. That is true - but what makes 1910 stand out is the changes to the way the game is played. In the original Ticket to Ride most of the longest routes are East to West orientated. This means that to do well most of the battle is to control the start of these longer transit routes. There is little need for the shorter Mid-west tracks that run in a North to South direction.
This imbalance is exacerbated by just 30 tickets in the original game. Some cities in the original Ticket to Ride do not even get a mention [Washington and Las Vegas]. These spots are therefore just transit points and rarely contested. 1910 gives an addition of 39 new tickets and ensures that every city has adequate representation. During a four-player game this means that routes and competition is spread more evenly across the United States.
Sometimes Ticket to Ride can get a little staid. The lack of tickets can encourage a standard approach in order to play well. There are no bonuses for the longest route or most tickets completed. This is corrected in the 1910 expansion. Players can choose whether to add these 10 or 15-point bonus cards before play starts. The beauty of the globetrotting bonus is that it encourages players to take a risk - grabbing extra tickets in the hope of completing the routes, but at the same time having a risk of losing points during the end game scoring for ticket failures.
The new cards can all be distinguished from the originals by the addition of a "1910" symbol in the corner. There are also four new tickets from a now out of print mystery train expansion that are thrown in too. This mini-expansion first appeared at Essen years ago and gives a few short routes to give quick bonuses.
What Days of Wonder have done in the 1910 expansion have given a more cutthroat gameplay option. Occasionally when playing Ticket to Ride we can be a bit too "British", apologising if we have taken a route that others might need, or saying "no, you go first" and letting others jump in front! With the big city rules, this just is not possible. Of the 69 ticket cards, there are 35 that have the big city moniker. All of these start or finish [or both] at one of just seven cities; Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Seattle.
With just a handful of key connection points, the competition becomes very fierce. No more polite Britishness here. Instead, it is brusque American, go-getting, sharp-elbowed arrogance. The geographical locations of this group are nicely distributed across the states. This forces players to criss-cross the country if they want to fulfill their quota of tickets.
With 69 ticket destinations and the two bonus cards, this gives plenty of choice of gameplay options. The original cards can be identified and used if a traditional Ticket to Ride experience is needed. For a more aggressive and cut-throat game, playing with just the 35 big cities will ensure a hard-nosed gaming experience.
Players could use all 69 tickets for a "big top ringside seat ". During this gameplay, we prefer to add our own local rules and insist on players starting with four destination tickets, one of which must be a "big city" ticket. This amendment gives some competition at train station hubs but ensures a widespread sprawling train network.
On opening the base game box I was surprised. Handling the little deck of cards felt like being given tickets to the circus and then being ushered to the back row of the stalls and then trying to see the acts sat behind a woman with a big hairdo! It is a slightly frustrating experience. The original cards are half-sized, small, fiddly, and difficult to shuffle. The 1910 expansion elevates the whole package. Now we have front-row seats. The colours on the cards are more vibrant. As a gamer with colour vision difficulties all of the cards are entirely distinguishable, helped by the symbols. The cards have a linen finish. The whole atmosphere is improved and gameplay enhanced.
Days of Wonder provide full-sized [proper] cards for Ticket to Ride Europe. Why can they not do the same for the base game in the original? At least the 1910 expansion corrects for this.
Playing the USA version requires a different strategy compared with playing the European game. Of course, the geography and routes are different. But there are no tunnels or ferries. It is very much Ticket to Ride version 1.0. Similarly, there are no stations and route-sharing opportunities. Perhaps this ensures some of the dog-eats-dog gameplay rather than a more cooperative approach of a European game. On reflection, the decision not to have stations probably reflects more on differences between American sentimentalities and European's mindset.
New Experience - Final Thoughts
My final thoughts on the 1910 expansion is that this changes how I view Ticket to Ride USA. The opportunities to affect gameplay with some more aggressive styles [with the big cities] changes the feel of the game. It is still a gateway game. True to their word, Days of Wonder have used the 1910 expansion to re-inject some life and vigour into this old showpiece.
We do not play Ticket to Ride often. It usually makes an appearance if non-gaming guests fancy trying something from the games room. For us 1910 is a mandatory part of the game. I just wish it would fit into the original box rather than filling up more shelf space.