Games for the weekend: Ticket to Ride

Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid your chores for the weekend. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome enough to keep you busy until Monday, at least.

At first Ticket to Ride for the iPad (s aapl) seems complex. The goal is to claim train routes across the map with colored cards that match tiles on the map. You might need four purple cards to claim a route, for instance. Locomotive cards are wild cards, so I’d only need three purple cards plus a locomotive. I’m color blind and I love that developers Days of Wonder took this into consideration; all the tiles and cards also have symbols on them.

At the start of the game, you choose destination cards. If you complete these routes (Vancouver to Montreal, as an example) you earn the extra points shown on the card. If you fail to complete it, those points are deducted from your score. Naturally, in addition to forming routes to aid your cause, you’ll want to form routes to prevent your opponents from completing theirs. If you build a route across the path of the ones they’re working on, they can’t complete their rail building.

There’s one key number you want to keep an eye on: in the lower right hand corner is a number that tells you how many wagons you have left; you start with 45. Each tile you claim subtracts from that counter. When one player gets to two or fewer wagons everyone gets one final turn and the game then ends. In addition to keeping your eye on your wagon count, you should keep an eye on those of your opponents; too often I found my plans foiled when I didn’t realize other players were almost out of wagons.

Single player is solid, but multiplayer seems poorly thought out. It’s nice that I can create a multiplayer game with a random stranger via Game Center right from the main page, but inviting a Game Center friend requires going into the More screen, choosing Online Games and then the Game Center tab. Unfortunately, it shows all of my Game Center friends; not just ones who also have the game.

Ticket to Ride is well worth its price tag of $6.99. In about half an hour, you’ll understand the rules enough to enjoy yourself for the next dozen hours or so you’ll spend playing it. As a faithful recreation of a celebrated board game (it features the original artwork and maps), it stands on its own as an iPad game very well.