#39.5 – Ticket to Ride [app]

Screenshot_20160604-122258.png

Base price: $7.
1-5 players.
Play time: 15+ minutes. (Maybe longer with online play?)
Google Play | iOS | Steam
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)

Full disclosure: A review copy of this app was provided by Asmodee Digital. Also I’m running Android on a Nexus 6.

So, I’m trying to diversify my pool of reviews by trying new things every now and then, and I think this is the first time I’ve tried releasing two reviews simultaneously of both the board game and the digital version / app. I think it’s an interesting thing to try, as it keeps them a bit fresher in my memory so I can better compare the two. Last time I did this was for Patchwork and Patchwork Mobile, but I released those pretty far apart. This also means that the .5 will make a bit more sense, since it’s immediately after the 39th review that was TtR.

Ticket to Ride is one of many in the suite of apps published by Asmodee Digital as a way for you to take your various board games on the road since honestly Ticket to Ride is kind of gigantic and I struggled to take pictures of it because it took up most of the tiny table I use for photography. The app is small enough to fit on a phone because that is how software works, generally speaking. Let’s talk more about it below.

Contents

The App

So, again, like Patchwork, there’s not much setup to go off of, here, so I’m going to just do a quick run through the app and see what it’s got going on.

Boot up the app and this friendly guy will tell you you have some options:

Screenshot_20160604-121756.png

Look how happy he is! Taking tickets and all that. If you hit Play, you can choose to play a variety of modes:

  • Solo against the AI
  • Online against a player online
  • Local against another nearby player
  • Pass and Play because you couldn’t convince your friends to buy the app for some reason

I’ll cover those a bit more later.

If you tap More, the friendly ticket-guy will continue to follow you and show you more options. You might wonder if he does this for everyone, but that’s not your concern:

Screenshot_20160604-121808.png

Yeah it’s got Achievements, which I love. Some of them are crazy (Play 20,000+ games or score 240+ points, which I can’t actually fathom doing), but others are fun (use all your trains, win without fulfilling any tickets, etc). Great way to switch it up from time to time.

The other things you can kind of glean their actions just from their names, but I think the Settings options are great. You can switch your dominant hand, your name / avatar color, and most importantly the game speed, which is a must for solo play. Everything goes so fast! A gold star to the developers for including that. Interestingly, they also include options to set your display size in case you’re playing on a tablet or a phone, which is a nice touch. (Note that some UI options change between tablet and phone, since you have more screen real estate.)

Last, we have the tutorial. Something I will note that I really appreciate is how you are not forced into playing the tutorial when you first open the app (take notes, other apps), which is really nice for someone who just finished writing a review including a how-to-play section. Lets me get to playing faster. So let’s take a look at the tutorial, but let’s do so in Gameplay so I can talk a bit about how the game plays at the same time.

Gameplay

So, starting in the tutorial, we have a very friendly AI that runs you through the rules of Ticket to Ride (while highlighting how the UI works, which I appreciate):

Screenshot_20160604-111935.png

Interestingly, instead of forcing you to take a set number of tickets and play out from there, it lets you take any number of tickets you choose. While this might just seem like a scripted play, after a couple runs of the tutorial I can confirm that the game is randomly set-up each time, which is really interesting. So rather than a “let’s show you how to play” it becomes a “let’s walk you through one game”, very much unlike any other tutorials I’ve played lately. I guess I’m surprised that the train game tutorial doesn’t railroad you into any choices? (heh)

This gets more interesting when you’re presented with a suggestion, and you can either choose to take the card it recommends or ignore the action, a la The Stanley Parable. But unlike The Stanley Parable, you can’t get the excellent Broom Closet Ending by doing so; rather, you just play the game on your own terms with the tutorial helping to fill in the gaps or make recommendations. This DOES mean you can play terribly — embarrassingly, I actually lost the tutorial match because I got greedy and took a ticket card without paying attention to my opponent’s train count. Don’t tell anyone.

Other than that, it plays very much like Ticket to Ride, just formatted for a mobile app. You can gain train car cards and tickets and claim routes, just like the normal game.

There are some online play options:

Screenshot_20160604-130553.png

You can actually play Ranked Games, even, but I lacked the karma (I assume I have to play a certain number of games before I can participate, or I have to be at a certain level, but that wasn’t terribly clear to me).

Tons of play options! But at its core, it’s still Ticket to Ride. Let’s talk about the app-focused Pros, Mehs, and Cons.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • Polished. That’s the first thing I think when I’m running through this. I’m a software engineer by trade, and I’ve built some really crappy apps in my time. This seems a lot snappier and seems pretty well-built, which I appreciate. I am not sure if there are push notifications, but I know that’s a place where Patchwork Mobile struggles. I’ll update if I see any problems with TtR’s.
  • Toggling game speed is a godsend. I tend to play really quickly (and sloppily, as my frequent Patchwork opponent can attest), and I appreciate that the app allows me to speed up a lot of the animations so that I can play more quickly. I can get an entire game played against the AI in about 10-15 minutes, which is awesome. Great game to play on the go.
  • They’ll let you read the rules of any of the other maps before you by them as add-on content. That’s nice of them. See which maps you like the rules of before you pick them up. I mean, you can find them online and all, but it’s nice that they have an option in-context.
  • Every. Game. App. Should. Have. Online.  Asynchronous. Play. They do, and it’s awesome. Even better is that you can set the timeout (as opposed to a blanket 24 hours or something) so you can either have a quick game or a slow game.
  • So many anti-player-frustration features. 
    • Some apps would make it so that if you accidentally tap something, you’re locked in to that choice. Not this one:
      Screenshot_20160604-112559Some players might find the extra pop-up frustrating, but I think it’s great.
    • Additionally, since the map is so tiny it allows you to zoom and uses crosshairs when claiming a route to make sure you pick the right one:
      Screenshot_20160604-112037
      Another pretty great feature, in my opinion. It also highlights the cities in your top ticket during gameplay, in case you’re trying to remember how to get there.
    • You can also highlight cities on a ticket card BEFORE you take it (by long-pressing it):
      Screenshot_20160604-111943Really helps me organize my brain before I take a ticket card, and allows me to start planning out my route. I know you can do that in the board game, but it’s nice to have the visual element in the app really pop.

Mehs

  • The app is HUGE. For reference:
    Screenshot_20160604-121741
    Yikes! That’s a lot of app (almost 1% of a 32GB phone’s storage). I assume it’s just assets and the like (art and pictures, which take up a lot of space), but … that’s a big app.
  • Wasn’t super clear how the online play options worked. I’m assuming a lot about the karma stuff, but it would have been nice to have a bit of information for my first time accessing the online play menu about how it works and what rankings mean and so on and so forth.
  • It’s also a bit unclear as to whether the extra AI personas are personas or different difficulties. If they’re all the same difficulty, well, the game isn’t terribly hard but it does have local and online play, which is still awesome.

Cons

  • Some menu options during the game are a bit tough to find on a phone. In tablet mode you can see the ticket card deck, but in phone mode it’s hidden underneath of your ticket cards, for instance. That’s really the biggest complaint I have, and it’s pretty easily solved by just … knowing you can do that. Your tickets are also stacked on top of each other in phone mode, and you need to tap to cycle through them. While it’s a bit difficult to use, you have to make some sacrifices for a mobile form factor. This might not be as good if your phone is super tiny, though.

Overall: Highly Recommended

Screenshot_20160604-115354

Spoiler alert: I take the NOLA-Miami and Atlanta-Miami routes.

Overall? If you’re even slightly a Ticket to Ride fan, I think this is a really solid and faithful adaptation of the game. The increased speed letting me play more games quickly really allows me to just pick it up and play it rather than having to break out the box and dump out a bunch of trains like I did last night. It seems a lot less buggy than some other apps I’ve played, it’s got solid online features, achievements, and rapid play, and it doesn’t change the gameplay of the original Ticket to Ride. It’s probably great to have on a tablet for a long car ride with kids, or pretty excellent to use when you’re on a plane (and, just for quick confirmation, solo play still works with Airplane Mode enabled). I’d suggest that this is probably the standard that other board game apps should try to shoot for: fun, fast, and unobtrusive.

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4 thoughts on “#39.5 – Ticket to Ride [app]

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