Ticket to Ride: San Francisco review

The Ticket to Ride franchise is one of most popular and recognizable names in board gaming, and today Asmodee and Days of Wonder announced the imminent release of Ticket to Ride: San Francisco. More than just a re-skin of the existing games in the series, it’s a city-based edition that takes familiar mechanics and applies them to a game that was designed to be more portable than the big box equivalents that are already out there. Ticket to Ride: San Francisco launches this Sunday (June 19) as a timed exclusive for Target stores across the US, and will receive a wide an international release in August as well. We were fortunate enough to get an advance copy of the game – here’s what to expect.

As you perhaps would have guessed from a game based in San Francisco, the familiar trains from Ticket to Ride have been swapped out for cable cars this time around. And you’ll still connect spots on the map, only this time they’re not major cities but famous landmarks across the city, ranging from the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz and the Painted Ladies – which to non-locals I tend to refer to as “those houses from Full House”.

The gameplay in Ticket to Ride: San Francisco was designed for 2 to 4 players, but although many of the mechanics will feel familiar you’ll notice that the average game will only take about ten to fifteen minutes once you’re learned the game’s rules, which doesn’t take long at all – especially if you’re already familiar with other games in the series. They all revolve around making connections between spots on the map, and this is no exception.

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At the start of the game, each player gets a bunch of colored cable car pieces (which come in blue, white, pink and purple) and draws two Destination Tickets – although they’re more like route tickets as they’ll show not just one but two places on the map, where you score points by connecting them. You can choose to try and complete both routes, or you can discard one of the cards, focusing on a single route instead to avoid losing point on incomplete routes at the end of the game. This results in an especially fun dynamic when playing multiple games in a row, as you’ll see players choosing differently based on what happened in the last round.

Longer routes are worth more points, but are also riskier – another player might grab an essential piece of the shortest possible route, forcing you to take a detour or just give up on the route completely. In Ticket to Ride: San Francisco, you’ll use different transportation types to claim routes, and because they’re all color-coded it’s easy to tell if you need to play cards with busses, vans or even a ferry.

Empty/grey route parts can be claimed with any type of transportation card, and you can play a Ferry Card as a “wild” card – though you have to be careful because you’ll need them to get to a place like Alcatraz. Completing a route earns you the number of points listed on the destination card (you don’t get more points if you take the long way there), and a scoring track on the outside of the board keeps tabs on how people have been scoring thus far.

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In some games, people will draw short routes, so they might opt for an additional destination card mid-game to try and score more points – a risk-reward mechanic because of the short playtime. Once someone uses up their cable car to the point where he/she has two or fewer left, a last round of play commences, giving everyone a final opportunity to score points and maybe claim a win. To do so, it can also be helpful to try and grab tourist tokens that are worth extra points at the end, especially when it’s not possible to complete your Destination Card in time.

If you’ve played the Ticket to Ride games based on New York, London or Amsterdam, you’ll know to expect from Ticket to Ride: San Francisco – a more portable version of a modern classic that’s ideal for shorter sessions. The varied modes of the transportation are a great fit for the city, as are the cable cars. It’s also a city with a ton of famous landmarks and a unique and colorful identity, both of which were translated well to the game board and cards. If you have a fondness for San Francisco, this is a an awesome new version of a beloved game. We can also see this one doing really well as a tourist purchase or gift idea once it gets a wide release – but if you’re looking to get in on the fun early you’ll have to head to a Target store this weekend! If you already own a couple of games in the series then this might feel too familiar, but if you enjoy both the Ticket to Ride formula and San Francisco then it’s a certain winner.

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