03 November 2023
A First class experience that will take you on an unforgettable journey
Written By Matthew Vernall
Did you know that legacy games are now over a decade old? Risk Legacy exploded onto the scene riding a wave of shock and awe, mesmerising players with the concept that a board game would let you literally leave your mark, forever changing the board by adding stickers, personalising continent names and, the biggest point of controversy, tearing up components. These games aren’t designed to be disposable; even the original Risk Legacy is still fully playable even once you’ve seen the last of the planned content. They’re instead created to be personal; this isn’t just any game you can take off the shelf, it’s yours, your playgroup’s memories, actions and consequences, permanently etched into the fabric of the board instead of remaining in your mind.
It’s that same drive to create lasting gaming memories that, some 12 years later, has been revisioned and in many ways remastered, this time taking the phenomenal family game Ticket to Ride along for the journey.
What new features does the legacy version of Ticket to Ride have?
From the moment you lift the lid on this game (after moving away the very clear ‘FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS’ cover, to make sure you don’t inadvertently ruin the experience) you can immediately see the wealth of possibilities in store for your group of 2-5 players over the next 12 games.
Each player becomes the president of a rail company, collecting their personal company box which will hold their cards, collected achievements and bank slips recording how well they did in each game. This company selection also comes with a unique design of train, adding a little immediate flavour as you choose between the middle-class carriages of the blue B&O to the more industrial black New York Central Systems.
Your first game takes place on a suspiciously segmented section of America’s East Coast, with obvious jigsaw gaps on the western and southern edges. Those familiar with the smaller boxed Ticket to Ride games like London or New York may recognise this more condensed layout and this is very much intentional: the game wants to welcome you into the main changes to Ticket to Ride quickly so it can really begin to break your expectations.
The core gameplay remains the same: players compete to complete tickets, which require them to lay out train routes from one city to another. Each route requires a set number of carriage cards, often of a specific colour. On your turn, you can either draw carriage cards from the face-up supply or blind from the deck, play out carriage and/or locomotive cards (which count as all colours) to complete a route, or draw more tickets to see if there’s any other moneymaking journeys they can complete. The game continues until one player has two or less trains remaining, giving everyone one last turn before revealing tickets and tallying up totals.
It's here that there are some subtle differences to the standard game, such as players no longer earn points for simply placing down routes: If a player manages to complete a route that matches their company’s colour, they earn a cardboard $2 coin, said coins replacing the iconic wrap-around score board that naturally wouldn’t be doable when the whole game board isn’t available from the start.
Another way to make money/points is through events: shuffled into the carriage deck are newspapers, which immediately reveal an event card from the deck. These events range from ways to earn money for certain routes or locations, to penalties that discourage more direct ways of completing tickets. They add a little variety to every game, ensuring midgame twists that may dramatically change how players strategize.
Some cities on the board are also marked as ‘large cities,’ offering a free carriage card when a route is completed to them, encouraging players to tussle for space early and to use up their trains as quickly as possible. This is further incentivised with a money bonus based on how many trains you have remaining by the end; less trains left, more money made.
All of these elements feel like minor tweaks, small adjustments from a designer who’s worked on a game for nearly 20 years, unsurprising given original Ticket to Ride designer Alan R. Moon has been working on this game design since the very start. Whilst pleasant and enjoyable, I was expecting my review to come down to a hearty yes recommendation, for being a pleasant and novel way to experience a much beloved game.
Then we opened our first box.
What surprises are included in Ticket to Ride Legacy?
You do not know how much I want to wax lyrical about this game’s secret, slowly unlocked content. The immediate spark of joy as you finish your first game is everything that makes legacy games magical; immediately obvious in context, but nevertheless surprising and delightful.
This happened every time we revealed something new, discovered something exciting about the game. Content is unlocked at a steady, slowly increasing rate, rapidly accelerating as you make more and more progress. Nothing I revealed was been a disappointment, every new feature was met with eager concentrated stares, each of us trying to grasp the potential point value and find a way to monopolise on this.
There is constant sense of discovery as you play, from the bigger reveals of new frontiers to the smaller stories of postcards, minor personal elements that not only give players unique benefits, but many of which tease future features, secretly guiding players so that they can finally take advantage of their hidden power (or even discover exactly what it then does.)
Everyone I played this with wanted to share it with others. A few of them have already pre-ordered their own copy to play with family and friends around the festive season, despite seeing a lot of what the game has to offer, just for the sheer experience of getting to see the game play out different, develop in its own unique way that is the epitome of why legacy games aren’t a fad, but their own frontier of cutting-edge game design.
Is Ticket to Ride Legacy a good game?
I applaud the hard work that these three designers have put into crafting and refining such a joyous experience. I’ve often found the best legacy games to have been games with a more co-operative focus (Pandemic Legacy and Betrayal Legacy being particular standouts) but Ticket to Ride Legacy has finally sold me on the value of an ever-shifting challenge that incentivises healthy competition between players. Maybe it’s the game’s perfect theming, but playing the game feels like you’re constantly taking advantage of new opportunities to win, enjoying the challenge as the map gets bigger and the tickets harder to complete (but all the more lucrative if you manage it) and above all thrilling in the race to the Wild West.
Few campaigns capture that same buzzing energy of kids at Christmas, wanting to tear into each box and play game after game. It’s a rare experience that celebrates both the original game and the legacy elements in equal measure, one that I am delighted to have experienced and cannot wait to see others go on their own railroad adventures.
PLAY IT? MUST PLAY
Who designed Ticket to Ride Legacy?
Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West was designed by Rob Daviau, Matt Leacock and Alan R. Moon and is published by Days of Wonder
What's included in Ticket to Ride Legacy?
Without spoiling any surprises, the game has the following contents:
- 5 Puzzle-Cut Board pieces
- 280 Plastic Trains
- 136 Illustrated Cards
- 5 Company Boxes
- Bank Slip Pad
- 142 Cardboard Dollar coins
- Campaign Deck
- 8 Frontier Boxes
- Conductor’s Toolbox
- 8 Frontier Boards
- 77 Postcards
What game is Ticket to Ride Legacy similar to?
Seems silly to say, but fans of Ticket to Ride will really appreciate the campaign elements and wider journey available in Ticket to Ride Legacy. Both games naturally have a lot of similar core mechanics, but the unique legacy elements ensure that you need to make room for both in your collection.
This review was originally published in Tabletop Gaming Magazine Issue 84 (November 2023), available in stores and online now.
If you'd like to learn more about how Ticket to Ride Legacy was made, check out our interview with the designers.