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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Boards & Brews at Home: TTR: Rails & Sails

Greetings all!  Today we enjoy delectable Carmel Hazelnut tea from Adagio Teas while returning once again to one of the most iconic gateway games ever released.  Back in February of this year, we decided to review the base game of Ticket To Ride, originally released in 2004.  It’s what most people refer to as the next Monopoly.  Ticket To Ride has brought a great deal of people closer to the hobby, and the expansions have only continued to pave the road in this magnificent sought after board game of family-oriented strategy.  In today’s at home segment we review the newly released Ticket To Ride: Rails & Sails.  This game made it's debut at Gen Con this year and we are pleased to have purchased it there.  We’ve played this game several times ever since we opened it in the last couple of weeks, and it certainly has some drawbacks, but it’s also not like any other Ticket To Ride game yet.  There’s a lot going on in this game versus the previous Ticket To Ride games, so if you’re ready to ride the rails with us again, and this time, sailing across the globe then read on.

In the past, multiple expansions have accommodated double-sided maps on their boards like India with Switzerland, United Kingdom with Pennsylvania, and now Rails and Sails. However, Rails & Sails is not an expansion. This is a standalone version that provides all cards, cars and required information in the instructions in order to play. Although, we would not recommend this version for beginners to Ticket To Ride.  Rails & Sails introduces some new mechanics and rules that without a doubt make it one of the most multifaceted releases yet.

Rails & Sails has a massive double-sided map containing the world map on one side and one map of the great lakes on the other.  Be prepared for more table space taken up though.  This map is actually 1/3 larger than the original Ticket To Ride USA Map.  So what are the additional aspects that separate this from the original?  In Rails & Sails you have optional harbors to complete based on the beginning and end points of the routes that you place down but only with two ships and two cars of the same color, and they must have the harbor symbol on the card when you play them during your turn.  The instructions say that these are optional, but you are penalized for each one you do not complete.  Also, there are now tour tickets that are intended to be completed in sequential ordered steps specified on the cards.  If you do not complete these tickets per the steps provided, you will be docked points for not completing them in the intended order.  At the beginning of the game, you have to select how many ships and trains you want within a given number (60 for the world map and 50 for the Great Lakes).  This is determined after you have selected and observed your tickets.  You are allowed to swap ships for train cars or visa versa if you see that you will not be able to complete the tickets further into the game, however you will be penalized 1 point per piece that you decide to swap out.

The world map is obviously a lot more stretched out than the Great Lakes side, which I'm gradually learning is more difficult for me.  Rails & Sails provides exponentially higher opportunities to score more points.  For today's game, Claire ended up completing 9 tickets for the world map and I completed 8.  However, she completely slaughtered me with 345 to my score of 248 points. This game has the biggest influx of point allowance since the Pennsylvania map.  I've noticed that I tend to work within tighter quarters for TTR maps, but the world map is still a vast open plain of strategic possibilities.

The Great Lakes side has continually been my better side to play this game.  While the openness of the world map is enjoyable and allows for higher points, the Great Lakes does not take nearly as long to play and end the game which is good considering that this version of Ticket To Ride on average takes twice as long to complete than it’s predecessors.  This is one more reason I like the Great Lakes map better since it feels more like a normal Ticket To Ride game.  The artwork on the Great Lakes side also makes it more visually pleasing to look at.  You can tell there was a lot more detail and work that went into this game overall to improve the visual appeal.  This map also doesn’t have the tour tickets which is nicer.  Most of the Great Lakes tickets seem oddly weighted in terms of points and we’re not sure why they are set up that way.  

Regardless of the various oddly weighted points on these tickets, this map faired much better for me this round.  I ended up winning this round with 220 and Claire with 163 points.  Like many other tabletop games, there is still plenty of luck in this game, and it actually feels like it’s even more than before and that may just be because of the added length on this game.  This version does play 2 - 5 players, and we would not recommend playing with more than 3 unless you want to see a game possibly go up to 2.5 hours.  That is a lot of time for Ticket To Ride so we’re not very enthusiastic about that, but the newly added mechanics do require much more of your attention to hand-management above anything else in this game.  Another frustrating element to this version is that the active player, who reveals the next train or ship cards, is allowed to flip either type of card, to mess up the next players ability to draw cards.  In other words, the active player could flood the draw area with mostly ship cards or mostly train cards to interfere with the next players draw.  This is a very sly move and honestly, almost as bad as someone intentionally blocking other players from completing their routes.  Claire and I have decided not to play this way against each other because it's just that lousy of a thing to do to the other players. When it comes to our two player games, we only replenish the ships with new ship cards and new train cards with their respective cards.  This option is technically not breaking the rules. 

The penalty for trading your ships/trains is something we did not particularly care for, as it costing a turn and a point for each item traded did not seem well weighted.  In a two player game it may not come up as much, but at 4 or 5 your plans can change significantly and the penalty seems unnecessary.  The tour cards also felt poorly balanced, as the penalty for not completing them is often significantly higher than the reward for completing it perfectly.   These two items would be easy to house rule, but that shouldn’t be a need in any game.  Another concern is the price tag.  When we purchased this at Gen Con, we paid 80.00 for it.  In some ways it makes sense, 1) you have a double-sided board, 2) The overall artwork is significantly improved on the tickets, boards, train and ship cards, 3) Unlike the base game and Europe, Rails & Sails has full size train cards, and 4) The ship cards have single and double ships on one card to improve the quantity of ships without having to allocate extra cards.  Should this warrant an 80.00 price tag though?  In our opinion, all things considered for a newly released game Rails & Sails is worth 60.00, and then maybe in 5 or 6 months we could see it drop down to 50.00  Spending 80.00 on this game is not something we were happy about, but we did it because Claire was especially enthusiastic about it due to the nautical theme and Great Lakes inclusion.  The Great Lakes brought back a lot of memories for her as a child and Rails & Sails has a trifecta of elements that separates it from other Ticket To Ride versions.   

We've had a chance to play this game a few times so far on both maps, and if there's any part of you that is questioning this game, then wait for the price to come down before buying it.  We're still glad to have purchased it when it came out, but that may not be for everyone until you've had a chance to play it.  Rails & Sails is much more aggressive than even some of the mid-range Ticket To Ride games, so do not consider this one for first time TTR players.  Consider that this one is much closer to a gamers version of TTR. 

Ticket To Ride: Rails & Sails
Overall Meeple Rating: 7.5/10

Game Mechanics:
1) Card Drafting
2) Hand Management
3) Set Collection

Have any thoughts or questions?  Leave a comment below.


  1. I can see where you gave this one a slightly lower rating than the base game review you did earlier on. Rails & Sails was more average for me, plus I wanted more complexity.

    1. Yeah, I agree with you. We still like it and recommend it, but not with the current 80.00 price tag. :(