Ticket to Ride after dark

Ticket to Ride Pulls Out of a New Station

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Ticket to Ride has enjoyed a lot of success on the Internet. It was one of the first hobby board games to be playable online, and the online version’s success has played a big role in recruiting the game’s 4 million fans. Publisher Days of Wonder has every reason not to fix what ain’t broke, which is why it’s not surprising that big updates have been few and far between.

That changed today with the release of new versions of Ticket to Ride on iOS, Android, and Steam. Days of Wonder has consolidated its apps, put everyone on the same server, and given the user experience a significant polish.

So how did they do? Is the new version of Ticket to Ride worth the wait on the platform? Or is it a derailment? And how many bad train puns can I stick in this blog post?

Color is an App’s Best Friend

The first thing you see when you open the app is splashes of color. The original Ticket To Ride app worked mostly in sepia tones, with cog-like buttons that took you to different features of the game. It was a nice look, the controls didn’t really stand out.

Not so any more. The new screen uses color and a lens motif to make the controls obvious. The text border is smaller, the anchor character pushed to the foreground a little better. The image has more life, cycling through a day and night cycle. Therse are all small improvements, but they add up.

Ticket to Ride before...
Ticket to Ride before…
... and after.
… and after.

The play screen has received a similar dose of polish. Numbers are bigger, there’s more contrast with the background, and in even though there’s more information on the board it’s (mostly) easier to tell what’s going on.

Game board before...
Game board before…
... and after.
… and after.

But enough about the style, how does the game play?

Well, there are some drawbacks. The game board is easier to read, but the ticket deck is where the train deck used to be, and I keep tapping the wrong deck when I want to draw blind. Fortunately, there’s a dialog box confirmation to save me from my bad habits, but I’m not thrilled at having these two decks right next to each other.

There’s a similar problem with joining games in the lobby — you have to select a game, then look down to the bottom of the lobby box for the “Join” button. It’s a big green button, but that doesn’t help you find it when your wrist is hovering over it and blocking the view.

These aren’t big glitches, but there’s a big difference between an okay user experience and a smooth user experience. This one’s just okay.

Ticket to Ride Goes Asynchronous

The second big change is the broad availability of asynchronous multiplayer games. Ticket to Ride Pocket Edition players have had this for a while, but this is the first time every player has had access to it. It’s… not as great as I’d hoped.

Don’t get me wrong. I love asynchronous multiplayer. I play most online board games that way, and it’s a great way to keep up with friends who are on wildly different schedules from me.

But the same things that make Ticket to Ride such a great live game work against it in asynchronous play. Those lightning-fast turns (1 decision, three possible actions) are great when you’re waiting for other players, but it’s a little unsatisfying to jump into the game, make one 5 second move, and then be done. I’ll get some use out of this feature playing friends I wouldn’t normally get to play, but I’d rather play live.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in the live game. The new India map in particular is a treat. It’s a tight board full of short routes that almost forces opponents to block each other, and there’s a nifty “mandala” bonus that rewards you when you create loops of trains. The train routes in India look like nothing you’ve seen on other maps, and I’m having a blast playing it.

Mandala madness!
Mandala madness!

Change isn’t easy, and not everyone is a fan of the new and improved Ticket to Ride. (Based on some comments I’ve seen in chat, I think a lot of players failed to understand that the game was migrating to a new server. Most of the player information carried over just fine, but some games were interrupted and gamer rage ensued.) I like most of what I see, though. This is a nice step upwards for an already great game.

 

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