30 October 2018
You have to assume that Ticket to Ride: New York’s 1960s setting is an attempt to avoid having to call it Tap to Ride: Uber Edition had it been set in the Big Apple today. After all, beyond a brief mention on the back of the box and the Don Draper and Fonzie look-a-likes on the cover, the decade’s influence is barely much of anything here – references to physical ticket stubs, slightly antiquated vehicles and a vaguely psychedelic background to the wild cards notwithstanding.
Ticket to Ride: New York as a whole, in fact, appears to be barely much of anything at first glance. A heavily pared-down edition of Alan R. Moon’s fabulous train game, this time starring diddly plastic taxis in keeping with its urban setting, it plays almost exactly like Ticket to Ride – but smaller, and faster.
Yes, there are some subtle gameplay differences – largely in how many cabs you start with and how many are required to complete routes, plus the game’s freshest addition of offering extra points for passing through tourist attractions that smartly levels out the standard longest route bonus – but this is still Ticket to Ride as you know and (probably) love it. Well, nearly.
It really does play stunningly fast; expect to bash out a match in under 10 minutes with those used to the usual Ticket to Ride flow of gathering cards and aggressively claiming routes. The box is ridiculously small – not quite pocket-sized, but easily a worthy contender for a place in any travel suitcase or rucksack. The lightweight taxis prone to skittering across a bumped board mean that it might not quite suit being played in the back of an actual taxi, but the whole set is like a delightful miniature diorama of the Ticket to Ride experience. It’s a precious little thing.
A little too precious, as it turns out. Ticket to Ride: New York resembles its magnified predecessor in looks and gameplay, but there’s an inescapable feeling that it’s just not quite the same. You’d expect the compressed board to have a more claustrophobic, competitive feel, but the shorter distances and play time mean that momentum never builds to a point where finding your route from Wall Street to Gramercy Park cut off feels as important as when you’re making your way from, say, San Francisco to Pittsburgh. Completing a long-distance journey in Ticket to Ride often feels like a monumental achievement against the odds – here, it sometimes has as much staying power as most conversations had in the back of a cab.
That’s not to say that Ticket to Ride: New York doesn’t feel worthwhile taken as a whole. It won’t give you the full Ticket to Ride experience – but it isn’t the full Ticket to Ride, and it’s not trying to be. What is here crams just enough of the satisfying loop of collecting cards and claiming routes into a time commitment that just can’t be argued with. At this price (cheaper than a taxi trip in most major cities) and this size, having a travel-friendly version of an all-time board gaming great that can be played as a gaming night filler, half-a-dozen times in a lunchtime or while waiting for the next train is almost a no-brainer. Just don’t be surprised when you’re still pining for a proper journey after you've popped down the road.
What Ticket to Ride: New York lacks in staying power compared to its bigger sibling, it absolutely makes up for with a breathless pace and absurdly compact size. Keep Ticket to Ride on your dining table – play Ticket to Ride: New York everywhere else.
Designer: Alan R. Moon
Artist: Julien Delval, Cyrille Daujean
Time: 10-15 minutes
This review originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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