I’m assuming readers are already familiar with the original game with this review as there are some changes to the basic game that make this game deeper but somehow managing to keep the game light and accessible for everyone.
The game goals are essentially the same. Collect points by claiming routes that will help you to complete your tickets and actually completing those tickets you hold using the limited number of traincars you have available.
What is different here are some new components and a new way of starting the game. While the original game gave everyone random tickets and sometimes allowed one player to scoop up the longest routes and claim many of the long paths around the outside of the board to massive points, Europe separates the long routes and hands one out to each palyer at random with a minimum of one extra ticket that will be put back in the box and therefore make it less likely for players to guess what tickets players are trying to fulfill. A big advantage with this is that players now start off on a more even footing with a good chance of getting 20 points from their starting ticket.
Players who weren’t happy with the size of the original cards will be very happy to know that the cards here are full sized cards that can stand up to much shuffling and abuse. Alongside players who complained that it was difficult to shuffle the smaller sized cards with the large thickness of hte deck, some players had trouble identifying the symbols on the smaller cards too, and the larger cards aer less of a strain on these players.
Players also start off with 3 plastic train stations in their color. These stations are a way to help you fulfill your tickets by allowing a player to use an opponent’s route as if it was their own. Only one station can be on any given city, and you can only choose one route the station is allowing you to use. You may use the route to fulfill as many tickets as you can, but you cannot change the route you select. Since the point swing of a ticket can be rather high for final scoring, and the Europe map feels tighter in a five player game than the original, the stations are a very useful addition. Unused stations are worth 4 points at the end of the game, and during your turn, you may purchase the first station for a single train car. Your second station will cost you a matching pair, and the third will cost 3 matching train cars.
The board itself has two new things that also has an interesting effect on gameplay. The first are Ferries. Ferries are grey and act the same as the regular grey routes, but at least one space will have a locomotive symbol on it. This means that a set of train cars must include at least the required number of locomotives along the path as well as a matching set of colors. A four train car path that has one locomotive symbol must have at least one locomotive in the set and three matching trains (any of which can still be locomotives). This simple sounding addition makes the locomotves far more valuable than before. Whereas players before tended to leave the locomotives on the table unless absolutely necessary, players are now encouraged to collect the face up locomotives on their turn. The makes resets less likely and adds some depth to choosing the train cars to be chosen.
Along some routes, the train cars are surrounded by an odd looking oval shape. This is a tunnel route and is similar to a tax. To claim the route, a player needs the required number of train cars, but then the top three cards from the deck are revealed. Each locomotive or train car matching the set color that are revealed will cost the player one additional train car in the set (matching color or locomotive) to claim the route, or the player cannot claim the route. The train cars already used are given back to the player, but the turn is essentially forfeited and the player may try again the next turn. I feel this adds a little bit of luck and risk in the game without ruining the simple appeal of the game, and seems to have the added effect of slowing down the “express players” who try to end the game early with as many route points as possible. The usage of the tunnel “tax” has the added effect of cycling through the deck more. I feel this helps the game by recycling sets much sooner than before when players often had to simply collect tickets for a few turns to recycle the deck just so that the highly valued colors that game could be replenished.
Overall, I must say that while I thoroughly enjoyed the original game, this new variant adds only a few things that have a much greater impact than expected, and add some depth to the game without sacrificing the simplicity the more casual gamers want.