The History of ‘Ticket to Ride’

by Nov 2, 2021Olaf's Corner0 comments

What defines a great board game?…

It is its theme, the accessibility and elegance of the rules, the design and production of the components, the depth of strategy, or the level of enjoyment one experiences when playing it? I believe it is a combination of all of these factors, and very few games are able to fulfill all of these points satisfactorily. 

But there are exceptions. These are the games that have staying power and that are loved not only by thousands, but by millions of people around the world. There is no doubt in my mind that the game Ticket to Ride is one of them.

Ticket to Ride was created by the American designer Alan R.Moon and was first published in 2004 by the game publisher Days of Wonder. Since its inception it has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide and has received dozens of international awards, including the much coveted ‘Spiel des Jahres’ in Germany. It is one of the most popular modern board games in the world, an honour that can only be shared with other mammoth titles like Catan or Carcassone.

One of the reasons for its success is that it is deceptively simple. The game casts payers as railroad developers, crossing North America in the age of steam. It is played on a large and colourfully illustrated map of the United States and southern Canada. It even features Winnipeg as one of its destination cities – Something that I am strangely proud of! In addition, it features a large deck of cards that depict train cars in different colours as well as a supply for mini plastic trains for each player in their colour. Most turns a player can take one of two actions: They can either add cards to their hand from the card supply, or they can claim a route between two cities on the board. If they choose the latter, they trade in a set of cards of the same colour as the track and place their train tokens on that route. They then immediately receive points for that action. The longer the route is that they claim, the more points they get. The game ends when at least one player has two or less train tokens left. The player with the most points is declared the winner after one final round. That’s pretty much the core of it. To add a little more depth, each player also receives another set of cards listing pairs of cities. At the end of the game, players receive bonus points for each card they were able to link up, but they loose points if they couldn’t. This adds some hidden point structure that can alter a player’s ranking at the very end. 

Even though Ticket to Ride is a game that can be learned and taught easily, it also has a lot of hidden depth. The game encourages players to develop strategies and forces them to make constant tactical decisions. What is the better choice, building routes to your advantage or blocking routes to limit your opponents options? There are many different paths towards victory which encourages replayability. Most Ticket to Ride games last about 60 minutes, depending on the number of players.

Moon recalls that the idea for Ticket to Ride came to him during a morning walk along the Atlantic shore in Beverly, Massachusetts in in 2003. He had been working on a different train themed game for a while but the play testing did not go particularly well. As he was pondering on how to change some of the designs a new structure for a game popped in his head. By the time he arrived back at home the general outline for his new creation had been developed in his mind. He immediately created a prototype of a map and wrote down the basic idea for a rule set. The play testing with friends that followed was greatly successful and after some further tweaking of some routes one the board and some fine tuning of the rules, the game as we know it, now was born. Moon sent his design to three publishers. This first two didn’t reply, but Days of Wonder offered him a meeting which eventually lead to a publishing deal. The rest – as they say – is history.

But things did no end there. Today there are plenty of expansions and stand-alone versions that were added to the original Ticket to Ride. Most of them have small variations on the game play itself, but the real charm is that they allow you to build your networks of railroads on different maps from around the world. There are versions set in Europe, Africa, India, Asia and UK amongst others. The choices are endless. Ticket to Ride allows us to travel the world in our minds, even in the midst of COVID related travel restrictions.

If you haven’t played Ticket to Ride before, then you absolutely should. In my opinion it is a must-try. For first first time players, the original North American map is the best starting point, in my option. If you are already familiar with the game, I encourage you to bring it back to the table or to explore one of the many new destinations from around the world. ALL ABOARD!



2-5 players, ages 8 and up

The original that started it all. Featuring a map of the US and southern Canada. Best choice for first time players. 



2-5 players, ages 8 and up

A stand-alone adaptation (meaning you don’t need to own any other version) of the original, featuring a map of Europe. A few extra rules regarding tunnel building and other variants. A great choice if you are looking for a new experience after playing the original version.



2-5 players, ages 8 and up

The map collections are expansions, meaning that one has to own the base game for its components. They allow you to travel to different parts of the world (I.e. Africa, Japan, etc.). A wonderful addition to the original.



2-5 players, ages 10 and up

The most elaborate version of ticket to Ride which expands gameplay across the globe. Now you also move across water (thus the sails). I would recommend this to any Ticket to Ride fan who wants to expand the game into even further strategy territory. Featuring a large game box which includes a double-sided game board (one side showing the world, the other showing the Great Lakes of North America). Each side has a few differences in game play.



2-4 players, ages 8 and up

The express version which features a map of Manhattan. The box and the game board is smaller in size and gameplay is shorter. A great option for travelling or a quick game that last about 20 minutes.

Are you intrigued to try a game of Ticket to Ride? Here are my top suggestions:

Ticket to Ride

2-5 players, Ages 8 and up.

Ticket To Ride

The origional that started it all.

Ticket to Ride Europe

2-5 Players, Ages 8 and up

Ticket To Ride: Europe

A great next step. Explore Europe with some new added challenges.

Map Collection (Various Destinations)

2-5 Players, Ages 8 and up

Ticket To Ride Map Collection: Volume 4 Nederland

Explore various places around the world. Base game required.

Rails and Sails

2-5 Players, Ages 10 and up

Ticket To Ride: Rails & Sails

Add sea travel to your track building. A great option for advanced players.

Express: New York

2-4 Players, Ages 8 and up

A trimmed down version that can be played in 20 minutes.

Check out more ‘Ticket to Ride’ in our store:

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