Dang! I knew this would happen, the one Gateway game I don’t own ends up winning the poll… Now I have to talk about Ticket To Ride!
Ticket to Ride is a Train Game, well sort of. It has Trains in it and to me that would seem to deter more people than Trading, Building and Diseases, but apparently not. TTR has some things in common with Rummy and other “Set Collecting” games, except that it combines cards with a board. In the game you collect cards, hoping to get several of the same colour. The colours match the routes on the board which are all different lengths. When you have enough cards of the right colour you can claim a route and score points.
In addition to that you also have a series of Destination cards, two points on the board you need to connect in order to score the points on the card and avoid taking those points as minus at the end of the game, which is the penalty for not completing them.
The game is pretty simple, although the various expansions/maps have added different bits and pieces to increase strategy and have thus complicated the game more over time. It sounds like a good gateway game and as the poll has proved it is a popular, but then, why is it not in my collection?
There are many reasons, firstly that I don’t think the game sounds that interesting and that is really the kicker for me. If I can’t get excited about it I can’t bear to part with my cash.
Which brings me to point 2. TTR is the most expensive of the Gateway Games that I offered as choices in the poll. TTR has an RRP of £35, that’s £5 more than Settlers, £10 more than Pandemic and £15 more than Carcassonne.
However, what Ticket to Ride has going for it, more than any of the others in my opinion, is the fact that Days of Wonder have gone to the trouble of producing a tutorial video. Catan.com has a great flash based, interactive teaching thing, but you still have to read it all and it’s 35 steps longs. As for Z-man and Rio Grande, both companies publish the rules as PDF’s which is fantastic but that is where the help stops. (I should mention that Z-man publishes all of their Rules, quite often in advance of the release, RGG however has some but not all of it’s games with PDF Rules and I have noticed some of them are out of date or badly formatted).
But what did I vote for? As readers of this Blog will know I got into this hobby through Settlers. I thought it was fantastic and I’ve used it as a jumping off point with my family and friends, but if I was going to teach someone board games now… well… I’d use Carcassonne.
What? After this lukewarm review? Yes and here is why. Carc is simpler than TTR or Settlers, you do precisely one thing on your turn, choose a tile and put it on the table. Yes the scoring is a little more complex than Settlers or Ticket to Ride, but the core mechanic is simple enough for a child to understand.
Secondly, Carc is the cheapest, you can easily buy the game plus an expansion for what you’d pay for Settlers, you could have two expansions for what you’d pay for Ticket To Ride. If you teach someone a new game and they love it and they say “That’s great, where can I get it and how much?”, they are much more likely to purchase the game if you say “£13.99 on Amazon” than if you say “£33.99”
So, why not Settlers?
Sooooo many people have been brought into the hobby through this game, including myself, in fact it was the first review on the blog, all those months ago.
The problem for a new player in Settlers is that you can have a horrible run of bad luck. Poor placement of your opening Settlement can lead to disaster, as can poor rolls for resources.
I have a lot of respect for the system and the ways that the expansions adapt and change the game to make each experience different, but I’ve also become jaded by it. Too many times have I sat through the arguments about who put the robber on whose land. Who cut who off and built where they were going to build. Too many times have I heard people moan that their numbers haven’t been rolled and that that is the only reason they aren’t winning.
In short, for my Family, Settlers has become more about the Metagame than about the theme and that makes me not want to play it.
No votes at all for what I would consider the simplest of the co-op games. I guess I wouldn’t use it as a Gateway game either, unless I was planning on getting players into playing more complex co-ops like BSG or Red November.
It seems that every great game has expansions, but that could not be more true than with Gateway Games. All of them have at least one, Carcassonne has 8 large box expansions and at least 5 small box ones.
It is said that Game Publishers make more from expansions than they do the core game and only successful games will sell expansions, therefore it stands to reason that the more expansions a game can support the better it is?
Anyway, that’s about it form me for this week. Thanks to all the voters, next week’s poll will be about what you do first when you buy a new game.