Ticket to Ride: Europe turned 15 last year. To celebrate, publisher Days of Wonder is releasing a flashy new 15th Anniversary Edition this year. It’s certainly bigger, but is it better? Or, at least, worth its whopping asking price of almost £100? We took an early look at the anniversary offering to find out.
For those unfamiliar with Ticket to Ride: Europe, the 2005 instalment in the long-running train game franchise is one of the series’ most popular entries, thanks to its addition of tunnels and stations to the first game’s classic but unadorned route-building.
Relocating the states-spanning competition of designer Alan R. Moon’s North American original to turn-of-the-20th-century Europe (1901 specifically), the standalone game introduced the ability to send your trains through handy tunnels - at the risk of having to pay more for them, if you drew any matching cards from the top of the deck - and build stations to utilise the existing routes of your opponents, making it a slightly more forgiving game than the sometimes cut-throat clashes over the exclusive routes of Ticket to Ride.
The 15th Anniversary Edition focuses on revamping Ticket to Ride: Europe’s visuals and components, rather than its gameplay. The rules remain exactly the same, down to the letter - although the revised rulebook does make the welcome improvement of replacing the original’s use of he/him pronouns with the more inclusive their/theirs, and is written in a bigger, clearer font.
The set also includes all of the destination ticket cards officially released for Ticket to Ride: Europe to date, including those from the base box as well as the Europa 1912 and Orient Express expansions and Ticket to Ride with Max promo from 2017. Three alternative ways to play are explained on the back of the rulebook: Mega Europe, Europe 1912 and Big Cities of Europe, which mostly alter the destinations players are trying to connect to their network. They’re not major departures from the original’s core gameplay, but they’re nice to have in a single box all the same.
The Anniversary Edition’s European map is an enormous board - it almost filled my dining table. While there’s no real need for the map to be bigger (it also means the game’s box is notably inflated versus the original, with a lot of unused room) - this mainly feels like equating value to size - it does at least make some welcome improvements in terms of presentation. The map is more colourful than the original, introducing varied terrain to Europe in place of the older map’s muted sepia tone. It feels more of a celebration of the continent, too, with icons representing specific 19th-century European landmarks in place of the generic modes of transport (ship, plane, motor car) on the previous version.
Less successful are the train card cards. The previous card back, featuring an illustration of a train in front of a gear-cog clock, has been replaced by the game’s 15th Anniversary Edition logo. Personally, slapping a logo in place of the existing artwork is a real eyesore, and doesn’t speak to the “premium” feel of the set. The revised destination tickets - which players fulfil to earn points - are a bit more colourful thanks to the switch from brown to blue, but just reuse the box artwork in a small frame and manage to feel an inconsequential change as a result. That’d be fine in a cheaper set, but when you’re paying full whack it’s hard not to feel a bit shortchanged.
Strangely, while the map board and card backs are more colourful, not everything has remained as vibrant. The train engines on wild cards - previously backed with a rainbow - are now predominantly grey, relegating their kaleidoscopic nature to two corners of the frame. It’s an odd decision that makes them harder to clock as wilds at a glance, and is particularly strange given the rest of the multicolour cards remain as vivid as before. As with the original, the Anniversary Edition features symbols on both the train car cards and the routes on the board itself, making it easier to identify the colour of routes for those unable to tell the colours apart.
The 15th Anniversary Edition’s headline addition are unique solid miniatures for each player colour, replacing the identical hollow carriages of the original game. Each set of sculpts is stored in a metal tin bearing the name and logo of a fictional railroad company from across the continent, delivering everything from lumber and steel to cars and mail.
It’s a nice touch, and easily the highlight of this set. The painted cars are notably different, and look delightful as they begin to populate the map. The difference in designs also make them easy to tell apart, and mean they don’t get lost against the more colourful background of the map artwork.
However, it’s not all good news. In the set we were sent for this review, we found at least one carriage in each of the five player sets that featured a visible printing error - and in multiple cases, several cars from the same sets were affected. It’s worth stating that spare carriages are included, so it’s possible to play without using one of the misprinted miniatures, but given a set billed as being a premium offering - with a price to match - and the fact that these carriages are one of its headline features, it’s very disappointing to see.
Also disappointing is the fact that the same level of detail and effort hasn’t been extended to each player’s stations. The stations are almost identical in design to their appearance in the original Ticket to Ride: Europe, and are the same for every player aside from the colour of their roof. With only three stations per player, the cost of producing such a small number of unique sculpts is likely to blame, but when you’re charging such a steep price for a special edition of a beloved game, barely changing their appearance from the standard box can’t help but feel underwhelming.
All this means that Ticket to Ride: Europe’s 15th Anniversary Edition ends up a bit of a mixed bag - or, erm, box. Individual components are certainly a step up from their predecessors, but at an RRP of £96/$100 - more than twice the original Europe’s RRP, and almost four times the £25 you can readily find the game for nowadays - and with the quality being inconsistent across the board, it’s hard to justify the price over the standard version for what you get.
It’s a shame, because Ticket to Ride remains a fantastic board game for newcomers to the hobby, and one that could benefit from a visual revamp - as the better parts of this set prove. This 15th Anniversary Edition makes significant visual improvements in places, but other additions feel like change for change’s sake - or, at worst, a step backwards. Maybe we’ll have to hold out hope the 20th Anniversary Edition will finally get things back on track.