Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pulling Train: "Ticket to Ride: Märklin Edition"

A few years back, Andrew started his very own birthday tradition.  In lieu of cake, presents and pointy headgear, this selfless chap started using his special day as an excuse to host a casual board gaming event.

Amidst this last orgy of concentrated dice chuckin' and card floppery, me, Cheryl, Mike and Audrey managed to sneak in a game of Ticket to Ride.  Despite the fact that Audrey annihilated the rest of it, Mike liked the game so much that he rushed out the following day and picked up his very own copy.  He was logical about it, though, procuring a different version then what Andrew and I own.          

So, after Chad's turn to pick a game was postponed (turns out his off-off-off Broadway run as Rum Tum Tugger in Cats got extended for an additional week), we gave Mike the nod.  Hoping to humble all of us (Iron Sheik style, presumably), Mike opted for Ticket to Ride: Märklin.  

If you want a basic rundown of the game rules look no further then Headless Hollow who have a great cheat sheet available right here.  

For those of you who are already familiar with the original Ticket To Ride, here are just a few of the wrinkles associated with the Märklin Edition:
  1. First off, the map is Germany and its neighboring countries, not 'Murica and Wilderness 'Murica (I.E. Canada).  
  2. When players complete a route from one Destination to another, they can also place Passengers/Travelers/Little Guys in Amish Hats With Suitcases.  On a subsequent action, the owner can then move their passenger along a continuous route and claim bonus points.  As each stop is claimed, their values diminish.    
  3. Special cards can be played to co-opt your opponent's routes for more "Traveller" points. 
  4. Train cards marked as 4+ can be used as wild cards to complete routes in excess of 4+ trains.  Picking up one of these doesn't count as two cards like a the standard wild card.
  5. Bonus points are awarded at the end of the game to the player with the most completed Destination Tickets.
Before we made our way down into the Arena (I.E. Dean's basement) I casually asked Dean's wife Claudia if she wanted to join us, since it seemed like the sort of game she'd probably dig.  Midway through the game I started kicking myself since she's a real shark when it comes to Eurogames.


Andrew: Red      Claudia: Purple
Me: Black   Dean: Yellow
Mike: White

We started the game by pulling four Destination Tickets apiece.  You can sorta pick your poison a bit here by drawing any combination of long or short Destinations.  I decided to be a bit conservative and take three short Tickets and one long one (which I promptly turfed because, hey, long ones freak me out...*a-hem*).

Claudia did the exact same thing.  Mike and Dean went for a two-and-two mix and both of them chose to discard one long Ticket.  Just to be different (as he is want to do from time to time), Andrew picked three short Destinations and one long one but decided to chuck out a short route instead.

As we got started, Andrew claimed a one-train route, the first of many to follow.  A few turns later he placed a three-train circuit from Münster to Bremen.  Claudia cashed in four of a kind for a route between Köln (where she placed her first traveller) and Frankfurt, scoring seven big points.  Dean plopped down a three-train route from Kassel to Hanover, where he also left a passenger.  Mike got onto the board by jacking a three-train path from Dusseldorf to the Netherlands (where he also deployed a passenger).

Claudia staked a claim on Frankfurt to Würzburg while I snapped up Kassel to Dortmund for seven points.  Mike wheezed a one-train path from Dusseldorf to Dortmund and Andrew followed suit.  Dean placed a two-car route route from Frankfurt to Mannheim.

Terrified that the direct paths to my Destination Tickets would quickly dry up, I diverted from my original plan and went on a minor tear.  In quick succession I claimed my very own Dusseldorf to Dortmund, earned four points for Kassel to Hanover and then secured the last direct route from Köln to Koblenz.  Claudia jumped right back into the mix by picking up Magdeburg to Berlin.  Dean made a grab for Kassel to Frankfurt and Andrew snapped up yet another weenie one-pointer with France to Saarbrücken.

Dean continued to battle back by capturing Mannheim to Stuttgart and then followed up with a slew of bonus points by sending his rail rider all the way from Hanover to Stuttgart.  I scored another seven big points by marking the blue route from Hanover to Magdeburg.  Mike broke his drought and went the fuck off,  procuring a four-trainer (Münster to Hanover), a three-trainer (Netherlands to Dusseldorf) and then sending his traveller all the way from the Netherlands to Dresden (thanks to the strategic use of some "hijack yer opponent's route" cards).  Claudia responded by claiming Berlin to Dresden and then dispatching her rider from Magdeburg to Chemnitz.       

I picked up the two-train route from Koblenz to Mainz and followed this up by going from Mannheim to Stuttgart.  Andrew also scored two points by going from France to Karlsruhe.  Dean shot from Bremen to Hamburg.  Mike dropped the hammer, scoring an insane ten points by acquiring Erfurt to Hanover!  Daddy Two-Trains (a.k.a. Andrew) claimed Stuttgart to Karlsruhe.  Still chipping away at my second Destination Ticket, I snapped up Mainz to Mannheim.  Short routes seemed to be the order of the turn as Claudia took a quick jaunt from Leipzig to Chemnitz.    

Andrew double-fisted Koblenz to Saarbrücken and Dusseldorf to Köln.  Sensing that another fast track  Destination Ticket route was in serious jeopardy, I mirrored Andrew's last move.  Andrew then dispatched his first passenger from Bremen to France.  Dean's traveller went all the way from Bremen to Karlsruhe, scoring a whopping 17 points!

With all of my initial Destination Tickets completed, I tried to snap up some long routes and passenger points by going from Hanover to Hamburg.  Mike gobbled up France to Freiburg.  Claud reeled in yet another metric shit-ton of points by procuring Erfurt to Nurnberg and Nurnberg to Würzburg.  She then then sent her scared l'il traveller all the way from Köln to Hamburg.  

Thusly inspired, Dean got another passenger from Bremen to Stuttgart.  Mike picked off two quick routes: Freiburg to Stuttgart and then Stuttgart to Ulm.  Andrew immediately decided to get all up in Mike's cowcatcher by procuring Ulm to Augsburg and then Ulm to Stuttgart.  Dean got back in the fight by claiming an epic ten-point route from Nürnberg (where he dropped a traveller) to München.  Claudia kept piling on, scoring seven points by running trains between Erfurt and Chemnitz.

After dropping some decent early routes and secretly completing all of my Destination Tickets, I started  to run out of steam ("Steam"...trains?  Geddit?  Yes?  No?  Oooo-kay, then).  My Hamburg to Bremerhaven claim scored four points, but ultimately it served no real purpose.

With Ulm to Augsburg, Augsburg to München and a rider dispatched from Nürnberg to Lindau (thanks to a piggyback from Mike), Dean continued to surge with the traveller points, threatening to leave Andrew and I fighting for the dubious honor of last place.  Trying to keep his eye on the prize, Mike completed Ulm to Lindau and then got his passenger token from Erfurt to Mainz (leeching nicely off the "duopoly" that Andrew and I had created from Dusseldorf to Koblenz).

Andrew picked up Nürnberg to Augsburg and finally got one of his shiftless travelers from France to Kiel!  Naturally this pilfered a section of the passenger route that I'd been grooming for the past three turns and the subsequent ride from Hanover to Kiel ended up being pretty anti-climactic.

The remaining routes start getting snapped up pretty quick.  Dean scoreed Regensburg to Austria and Mannheim to Karlsruhe.  I picked up Hamburg to Schwerin.  Claud went for Hanover (where she plopped down a passenger) to Erfurt.  Mike (who'd been surreptitiously collecting 70% of the train car deck) suddenly spazzed out, pulling train on München to Lindau, dispatching a rider from France to München and then topping things off with a seven point claim on Frankfurt to Kassel.

Hoping for an 11'th Hour "Hail Mary" play, Dean grabbed München to Regensburg, Kiel to Denmark and Mainz to Koblenz.  With little hope left but some random point grabs, Mike scored München to Austria and Kiel to Rostock.  My sad grasp for table scraps (Emden to Bremerhaven and Köln to Frankfurt) was equally pathetic.       

For the past three or four turns I'd been obsessively snatching up cards to complete the Regensburg to Dresden route (to try and make something, anything out of my second rider), but somehow I managed to mix up the White and Black train cards which delayed my progress by a turn.  Andrew, taking advantage of my mistake, claimed the eighteen point route (!) and also picked up Augsburg to München as well as Frankfurt to Würzburg.  Suddenly he was nipping at Claudia's heels.

But she quickly battled back, nabbing Leipzig to Berlin and then transferring her last passenger in a circuitous route from Hanover to Berlin.  She proceeded to polish us all off with gusto by scoring Kiel to Schwerin, Schwerin to Berlin and Mainz to Frankfurt.  


Mike took a brutal -9 point hit for failing to complete his Netherlands to Karlsruhe route.  Claudia scored 32 points from completed Destination Tickets and I got 30.  Andrew had 28 points from this source and Dean scored a paltry 15.

Claudia and I each nabbed 10 bonus points for tying on the most completed Destination Tickets.  Laboring under the misconception that bonus points were awarded for completed routes not completed Destination Tickets, there were a few "poopidy-doo's" and "fiddle-dee-dee's" uttered in the Dean and Andrew camps.

Claudia: 149 (!!!)

Andrew: 112

Dean: 109

Me: 107

Mike: 98

After an exceptionally strong start, my failure to exploit passengers really killed me.  It's downright sad that I left one on the board and one in reserve!  I also didn't properly exploit the whole "play cards to co-opt your opponent's route" thang.  Finally, becoming obsessed with completing a seven-train route during the endgame when your luck is turning to shite probably wasn't the smartest move either.

All told, the variations provided by the Märklin rules (particularly the advent of passengers) are all very welcome.  With a few more plays I wouldn't be surprised if this version proves superior to my treasured Ticket To Ride: Europe.

I heartily give Ticket to Ride:  The Märklin Edition five pips outta six!  

(six pips outta six if I keep my damn fool mouth shut next time and don't invite Claudia to play)

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