Sean recently found a great deal on the first version iPad at Target, and shortly after getting the iPad, he found and downloaded a Ticket to Ride app! We tried it out the other night. Since we only have one iPad, we played in a “play and pass” mode where we took turns and passed the iPad back and forth. The app has some definite advantages over the real game, but there are some downsides, too.
We played the basic USA version of Ticket to Ride, without the 1910 expansion that we usually use at home. I blogged about Ticket to Ride earlier; I won’t go over all the details here since the basic rules were the same in the iPad version. I’ll focus more on how the experience of playing with the app compared to playing the real game.
Since we were playing in dim light, we picked colors that had good contrast. I picked red, and Sean picked green. When it was my turn, a screen appeared with my player color and a play button for me to click to take my turn.
It was handy that the player image appeared automatically after we took our turns, so that our hidden information wasn’t visible when we handed the iPad back to each other.
However, there was a lot more hidden information in the iPad version than in the real game. When you have the iPad and are taking your turn, the other player can’t tell whether you are drawing train cards or destination tickets. If you are drawing train cards, the other player doesn’t know which ones you took.
In the real game, I pay attention to what colors the other players seem to be collecting and when they draw more destination tickets, so it was weird not having that information. I couldn’t even see how many train cards Sean had in his hand, which is another clue that I use during the real game, especially late in the game when trying to judge how close the other player is to ending the game.
It was nice how the iPad highlighted the cities I needed to reach during my turn. And claiming routes was easy–just drag the cards and drop them. The iPad automatically used as many wild cards as were needed for a route.
When I claimed a route, Sean couldn’t see how I “paid” for the route, so he didn’t know whether I used all pink cards to claim a pink route or whether I used a wild or two. But when I handed the iPad back, he could see which route I had claimed.
I started out with destination tickets for Chicago to New Orleans and Denver to Pittsburgh. I got those finished pretty quickly and moved on to new tickets. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay enough attention to the fact that Sean was quietly filling up the routes along the southern border, and he blocked off some key cities.
As I started drawing more destination tickets, I realized that it had been a mistake to leave so many key cities to Sean–especially Houston! Houston kept coming up as one of the cities on the tickets I drew. In some rounds, two of the three cards I drew said Houston on them, and that made it pretty much impossible, since getting to Houston at that point would have meant going a very long way around that required six greens.
I did manage to connect San Francisco and Atlanta for additional points, and I connected El Paso and Winnipeg, but that was about it.
Meanwhile, Sean quietly built up the east coast, the south, and eventually even most of the north! I kept drawing more destination tickets hoping to get routes that would easily connect to the ones I had, but my luck was terrible, and I had made some bad strategic decisions in leaving key cities to Sean.
Late in the game, I kept drawing destination tickets hoping to turn things around, but the routes I drew tended to be totally unrealistic. I ended up getting stuck with quite a few routes I couldn’t complete. In the mega game, with so many more routes, I tend to have much better luck with that strategy. But it didn’t work out in this game!
I knew I wasn’t doing well, so I figured I should take a big risk in the last turn and draw more tickets, hoping to get a route I had already completed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
After we finished playing, the game told us to get ready for the results, and it was good that it warned us, because the scoring was super quick compared to the board game version!
The game scored my points first. Each of my destination tickets appeared on the screen briefly, and the points were added to my score. Then my incomplete tickets appeared, subtracting from my score. My final score was 88, which may have been my lowest TTR score ever.
Then Sean’s points were scored. He had tons of tickets completed, and he had great luck with drawing additional routes that he had already completed and great strategy in choosing routes that made it more likely that would happen! Sean’s final score was 179, which was impressive!
It was especially nice that the game calculated the longest train bonus for us. It takes way longer to do all the math and count up the trains in the real board game.
I liked how easy and quick setup, shuffling, and scoring was with the iPad. The interface was intuitive and easy to use.
But I do like the physical pieces in the real board game. And I really found myself missing the information that was available in the real game that wasn’t there in the app (watching the other player draw cards and seeing their hand grow). The app did provide info on how many trains each of us had, but that info didn’t jump out at me.
It also didn’t feel as social to be passing a screen back and forth. But it was quicker and easier, so I think it’s a great option for times when our time is limited or when we are too tired to set up a game.
The iPad version is also way more portable. We don’t need a table to play on and don’t need to haul around a big game box. It also seems like a great way to try out a new game that we haven’t played yet, to find out how much we like it before buying it! It’s much less expensive than a real board game.
The Ticket to Ride USA base game app cost $6.99, and we liked it enough that we also bought the 1910 expansion for $0.99, so we can play with the expansion in the future if we want to. In contrast, the actual Ticket to Ride board game is usually in the $35-40 price range, with the 1910 expansion around $16.
I’m looking forward to trying out more board game apps in the future!