Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails review

09 December 2016
IMG_4434-86155.jpg Rails & Sails adds – shock – boats to the equation
We discover whether it’s smooth sailing for Alan R. Moon’s latest or if it’s all gone off the tracks instead

There’s a very strong chance that if you’re reading this magazine it means you’ve played Alan R. Moon’s classic Ticket to Ride. Thanks to its colourful, plastic trains and simple, family-friendly mechanics, it has become the poster boy for gateway games; the gentle nudge that moves you away from traditional board 
games and into the hobby of tabletop gaming.

Over the years there have been many variations of Ticket to Ride, based on new maps or updated mechanics, but nothing has particularly upset the apple cart (or should that be carriage?) That is, at least, until Rails & Sails came along. You see, this is more like Ticket to Ride: Advanced Edition, thanks to its bigger map, extra mechanics and more complex choices. But is bigger always better?

First things first: generally, the concept behind Rails & Sails will be familiar to most Ticket to Ride players. The aim is to complete railway networks by collecting coloured cards and then joining up routes. At the end of the game, the player with the most completed routes is invariably the winner. It’s a core concept that’s exceptionally simple to grasp and this is why Ticket to Ride has remained so popular over the years.

However, Rails & Sails (as you might have guessed from the name) mixes it up by putting boats into the blend. That’s right, now as well as completing the traditional train routes, you must also venture across the globe's many seas and oceans to far-flung locations. This means that throughout Rails & Sails there’s a certain agony of choice; do you try to complete a new train route or go for the big points with a shipping line? This is compounded by the fact that from the start of the game you’re given 75 plastic ships and trains (50 and 25, respectively) but can only keep 60. Luckily, you can swap during the game – but each time you exchange a boat for a train (or vice-versa) you lose a point. 

Once you’ve finished agonising over your initial choices, it’s onto the game itself. On your turn you have a number of options; just like the original, you can choose coloured travel cards that will be played to ‘claim’ particular routes. For example, Mumbai to Bangkok costs just three yellow cards, while Edinburgh to New York requires seven ship travel cards. The routes you go for will be dictated by ticket cards, which display routes you’ll need to snag and the points they’re worth. As you might imagine, the longer the route, the more points the ticket card is worth. So a short jaunt from Bangkok to Tokyo is only worth six points, while Edinburgh to Sydney nets 25 points.

Again, it goes back to that agony of choice – do you go for the easy options or try to score big? The issue with going big is that it’s easy for players to block off your potential routes by placing their own ships/trains in the way; making Rails & Sails a surprisingly ruthless experience.

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The core gameplay that made the original Ticket to Ride an acclaimed worldwide hit remains absolutely engrossing, and Rails & Sails does a fine job of freshening up the formula by adding original mechanics and an added layer of strategic complexity thanks to the longer journeys and combination of land and sea routes. 

Publisher: Days of Wonder

Genre: Set collection

Players: 2-5

Time: 60-120 minutes

Age: 10+

Website: daysofwonder.com

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