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Subject: Ticket to Ride: Switzerland - From the PC to Your Tabletop rss

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Geeky McGeekface
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Recently, Days of Wonder announced that the latest game in their hugely successful Ticket to Ride series was going to be Switzerland, an expansion based on a design originally created by Alan Moon for the online version of the game. I figured I’d have to wait like the rest of you to play this. But Dale Yu had brought his homemade version (actually created by his brother based on the computer rules and graphics) to Gulf Games, so I got a sneak peek. With DoW’s kind permission, I thought I’d give you all a preview of this upcoming game.

Since Switzerland will be an expansion, buyers will only receive a new game map and ticket cards (they’ll have to provide the train pieces and train cards from TtR or TtR: Europe). The first thing you notice about the map is that DoW and Moon did a good job choosing the site of the game. TtR:S borrows the idea of tunnels first introduced in Europe and, in line with the mountains that cover much of the real Switzerland, there are a lot of them. Just about half of all the routes in the game are tunnels. Switzerland is also a small country with lots of neighbors and to reflect this, there are routes which lead from Swiss cities to the surrounding countries (similar to what was later used in Marklin). The map shows a total of 17 routes which connect to France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Such a tiny country doesn’t have room for long rail lines, so the Swiss map, similar to the Europe map, has very few five and six card routes. Finally, there are double routes between many of the cities, just as in earlier versions of the game, but, since the game is limited to two or three players, both routes are only available in the three-player game, while with two, if one of a pair of routes is taken, the other is off limits. Thus the map is specifically tailored for both numbers of players.

Mechanically, there aren’t too many differences between this version of Ticket and its predecessors. As befits the smaller map, each player only uses 40 trains instead of the usual 45. A more significant change is the role of locomotive cards. These continue to be wild, but in Switzerland, they can only be used to claim tunnel routes. Because of this more limited role, it no longer costs an extra action to draft a locomotive card from the display—they are treated just like any other face-up card (except that the display is still flushed if three locos are exposed). By the way, tunnel construction is identical to the process used in Europe: draw three cards and add a card from your hand for each match you get or lose your turn.

There’s also a new type of ticket card in the game. These show a city together with three or four of the surrounding countries. Each potential connection has its own point value. A player retaining this card scores points for the most valuable connection he makes. If he doesn’t succeed in making any of the connections, he only loses the lowest point total listed on the card. This not only gives the cards a great deal of flexibility, but it also reduces the risk in keeping them, since the possible penalty is usually pretty low. I wonder if this makes them overly powerful, but I haven’t checked to see if the points awarded are lower to make up for all this, so I’ll assume that they’re still well balanced.

There’s another difference with tickets. Whenever tickets are discarded, either at the beginning of the game or when a player draws them during their turn, they are removed from the game. Thus, tickets become a limited resource and players need to be aware of how many are left if they think they’ll want to add some before the game ends.

Those are the only changes with the rules, but the real differences reveal themselves during the play of the game. In both of the games I played (one with two and one with three players), things started innocently enough. But as soon as someone claims a route or two, people begin to feel the pressure. This is a very tight map! Players almost can’t help but butt heads. And the way the routes are laid out is very nice. Losing a planned connection is painful, but not deadly, as there are almost always alternatives. But worming your way around those roadblocks takes time and the right cards. Even the connections to the neighboring countries show this; there are multiple connections to each, but they tend to be spread out geographically, so there’s usually a preferred path and if you don’t claim it first, it adds to your problems.

The Ticket to Ride games always feature a good deal of enjoyable angst, but I think it reaches its zenith in Switzerland. The tightness of the map means that players tend to claim routes earlier than usual and there’s a constant struggle to grab that critical connection before an opponent does. There’s plenty of scope for nasty plays, but even simple self-preservation can lead to cutting off other players, which is fine in a two or three player game. This is the no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners version of Ticket to Ride and I wouldn’t want it any other way!

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, the lack of true wild cards can make the non-tunnel routes a real challenge to construct. This can be particularly problematic when the loss of a connection causes you to abruptly switch plans. Leaving a longish colored route for last can be a frustrating and costly decision, so the players need to take that into account.

The one aspect of the game I’m unsure of is the limited ticket supply. Alan Moon has said that he likes drawing tickets, so he made that one of the focuses of this game. Drawing new tickets is an important part of the designs and I enjoy it as well, but I’m not sure I want it to happen with too much frequency during the game. It takes a while to decide which tickets to keep, so the game can drag to a halt if this choice is made repeatedly. I know that Alan likes to deplete the ticket deck when he plays and I got to see that strategy first hand. Valerie Putman was one of my opponents in my three-player game and midway through the game, she spent about eight or nine consecutive turns drawing tickets. It was kind of weird and did slow things down a bit, but not enough to detract from the gameplay. As it turned out, the strategy didn’t work; Valerie may have mistimed it, because I was able to end the game while she still had a few unfulfilled tickets in her hand and that kept her from winning. It won’t bother me if repeated ticket drawing turns out to be a viable strategy, but I hope it doesn’t turn out to be the most common one, as that might slow things down too much and the other parts of the game seem more interesting. But I have a good deal of faith in both Alan and Days of Wonder, so I trust that a good balance will be maintained.

Up until now, there hasn’t been any real question of what my favorite Ticket to Ride game is. Marklin is the only one that seems like a true gamer’s game to me and that will always be my choice. But Marklin’s one weakness is that it plays better with more players than with less. Suddenly, that problem is solved. Once Switzerland comes out, I’ll be able to play that game with two or three and Marklin with four or five. Perfect! The only issue will be if I can convince my wife to play with the more contentious Swiss map. Maybe I’ll have to provide some good Swiss hot chocolate or a ski chalet-like roaring fire to put her in the mood!
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Jonas
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I'm assuming you have the earlier versions of TTR, since Swiss version is not compatible with Marklin.
 
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Susan F.
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Larry Levy wrote:
There's also a new type of ticket card in the game. These show a city together with three or four of the surrounding countries. Each potential connection has its own point value. A player retaining this card scores points for the most valuable connection he makes. If he doesn't succeed in making any of the connections, he only loses the lowest point total listed on the card. This not only gives the cards a great deal of flexibility, but it also reduces the risk in keeping them, since the possible penalty is usually pretty low. I wonder if this makes them overly powerful, but I haven't checked to see if the points awarded are lower to make up for all this, so I'll assume that they're still well balanced.


Essentially, the balance with those cards comes from making sure your opponent doesn't get all of them. From playing online, I can say that if you let your opponent pick up all the multi-country cards and actually make the connections, you're hooped! So, drawing lots of tickets is almost compulsory. (The "play all your trains before your opponent realises what you're doing" strategy is not well suited to the Swiss map - though no doubt it can be done if you draw the right cards).
 
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Greg Nichols
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Re: Ticket to Ride: Switzerland - From the PC to Your Table
Larry, excellent job describing the uniqueness of the Swiss map. I've played it several times online and it indeed has a cramped feel that lends players to anxiety by mid-game. While Marklin is also my favorite, I've no doubt this map will come out when I have a 3 player gaming session.
 
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Geeky McGeekface
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chessduffer wrote:
I'm assuming you have the earlier versions of TTR, since Swiss version is not compatible with Marklin.

That's correct, Jonas; the Swiss expansion can be used with the train cards from TtR or TtR: Europe, but not with Marklin. Although I bet you could manage it if you removed some specified cards from the Marklin deck--I imagine the smaller deck size wouldn't be much of an issue. But I think DoW is assuming that almost all the people who own Marklin also own one of the other two games.
 
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Geeky McGeekface
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[q="Rusty567"]Essentially, the balance with those cards comes from making sure your opponent doesn't get all of them. From playing online, I can say that if you let your opponent pick up all the multi-country cards and actually make the connections, you're hooped! So, drawing lots of tickets is almost compulsory.
Thanks, Susan. I'm sure when I start to play the ticket drawing won't prove to be a problem. If opponents start drawing tickets, I can always begin doing so myself. I'll probably also be more aggressive with my drawing once I get more familiar with the map; it looks as if the smaller map size means that you have the chance to fulfill more tickets than in either of the earlier games.
 
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Bruce Jones
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Re: Ticket to Ride: Switzerland - From the PC to Your Table
This was my favorite of the PC maps. Glad to see it will make it to a table near you.
 
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Breno K.
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Re: Ticket to Ride: Switzerland - From the PC to Your Table
Are there stations (like in TtR: Europe) in this version?

I'm guessing it doesn't, since you said things can get pretty nasty (although a 5-player TtR:E can get quite messy in the france-germany region, so much that even the three stations can be of little help).
 
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Thomas Vilfroy
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Re: Ticket to Ride: Switzerland - From the PC to Your Table
No, there is no Stations in this version.

All you get will be the Tickets (45) and the Board and the Rules.

And this map can only support 3 players max.
 
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Bryan Jensen
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I've always loved this version. Would jump on a game whenever one opened up on the TTR website. Nevertheless, I don't love to play such board games online that it was worth buying the PC software just so I could initiate Swiss games of my own. This will definitely be an expansion I'll pick up.
 
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