Ticket to Ride for iPad
Ticket to Ride for iPad is Days of Wonder's second iPad adaptation (following Small World for iPad) and of course a conversion of their bestselling railroad game. You should read my tabletop Ticket to Ride review for more information on how the original game works; this reviews focuses mostly on the iPad adaptation.
(And please note that this game is only for the iPad, not the iPhone or iPod Touch.)
(Edit: an iPhone version of Ticket to Ride called "Ticket to Ride Pocket" was released on November 16, the same day this review went out. I haven't had a chance to play it, but screenshots indicate it has an interface that has been modified to support the smaller screen, and the game can also be used to play against players on any other versions of the software. I may review the new version in the future. With that said, I return you to this review of the iPad game.)
Disclaimer: I'm an iPhone game programmer, so Ticket to Ride is technically my competition. I believe I've given it a fair look, but caveat reader.
Ticket to Ride is a game of claiming train routes to earn points and satisfy tickets. You'll start off the game with 1-3 tickets which each require connecting up two cities on a map of the United States.
On your turn you'll typically either draw colored train cards or else lay down a set of appropriately colored train cards to claim a route. Shorter routes are worth just 1 or 2 points, while 6-length routes are worth a whopping 15 points. However, sometimes you'll need those shorter routes to complete your tickets.
Once you're happy with your progress toward your initial routes, you can choose to draw additional tickets. You usually need more than your first couple of tickets to win, but if you're overambitious and draw tickets that you can't complete, they score negative points.
That's pretty much the game in a nutshell, but I'll again point you to my tabletop Ticket to Ride review if you want more specifics.
Ways to Play Ticket to Ride
You can play Ticket to Ride for iPad in a large variety of ways.
Solo / AI: You can play by yourself against one or more computer opponents. Overall, Ticket to Ride includes AI that are variable, versatile, and somewhat intelligent. Different AI players will play in different ways, so you have to stay on your toes. My general experience is that the AIs are worse at completely tickets than human playesr, but manage to win anyways often enough. Sometimes I see AIs make moves that look dumb to me (like creating a triangle of tracks), but those dumb moves sometimes turn out to be anything but (e.g., a triangle of tracks can sometimes help an AI capture the longest-route bonus).
Despite some limitations, I think the AIs offer a sufficiently challenging Ticket to Ride experience to make the iPad version of the game worthwhile, but they're far from the only way to play Ticket to Ride for iPad
Online: Ticket to Ride offers not one, but two ways to play the game online: through Apple's Game Center or through Days of Wonder's own online site. While testing things out, I played a game via Game Center, but the two sorts of games are almost entirely indistinguishable within the game. Once you've joined up with one or more other players, you're back to your standard Ticket to Ride interface.
One question with any online play is whether there are sufficient opponents. Ticket to Ride's playing community at the Days of Wonder site has always been very robust, allowing a game within seconds much of the time. The Game Center community seems to be about as good, as I was playing within 30 seconds when I created a two-player game. (Four or five players game usually take a couple of minutes to fill at either location.)
To a certain extent, the Game Center seems a slightly poorer cousin than the Days of Wonder online play at this time. I could only see a list of current players when I went in through Game Center and there's currently no leaderboard and no achievements for Ticket to Ride through Game Center. Hopefully that'll change in a future release.
Pass and Play: Finally, we come to pass and play, which allows you to play with friends by passing around your iPad. You can freely mix pass-and-play players with AIs when you choose that form of play, so the game doesn't have to include only human players.
Generally, the pass and play gameplay works just like the solo and online play--except that the game provides some additional visual clues to make up for the fact that you don't get to see your opponents' turns. Each player's info box maintains a picture of what they did during their turn (e.g., the cards drawn or the fact that they played track) and if track was played, the trains on that track are animated to draw your attention to them.
Good thought was put into making the pass-and-play games work well.
Add-On Packages: Ticket to Ride iPad also offers a couple of add-ons: extra maps or other variants that you can buy for between $.99 and $3.99. Currently they include Europe, Switzerland, and the USA 1910 expansion. They seem well-integrated, as you just choose to start on one of those other maps after you've purchased them, but I haven't tried these out so I can't comment more upon them.
The tabletop game of Ticket to Ride of course had top-rate gameplay. This iPad game lets you play the same game via a huge variety of methods and so also earns a top Substance rating: "5" out of "5".
Graphics & UI
Graphics: Days of Wonder generally has great graphics, and that's true in this iPad game too. As you'd expect, it has all the cards and the board from the game itself, which are generally attractive. However, the game goes a step beyond that by using attractive frames and ornaments to combine those board gaming elements into a beautiful overall graphic design.
Audio: Ticket to Ride for iPad includes a few bits of background music that are attractive, but nicely fade into the background when you play. More importantly (to me at least) it has good incidental sounds for drawing cards, taking routes, and other in-game actions.
Animations: The use of animations in Ticket to Ride for iPad is excellent. Cards move, destination cities pulse, and trains drop to the track. When you drawn your first card, any face-up engines slide a bit to the right--to let you know they're no longer available. There's lots of stuff to attract your attention, but the board still doesn't feel too busy.
There are also some longer animations for when you complete tickets--showing you the route, then "punching" your ticket. I thought they were very clever the first couple of times I saw them, but they may be too much of a good thing, as after more games I feel like they take up too much time that I'd rather spend playing. (You can fast forward through the animations at the end of the game, but not during it, as far as I could figure out.)
Game UI: The UI for the game itself is very good. Just the markers on your destination makes the iPad game considerably easier to play than its tabletop cousin, but that's only one element among many.
The majority of the actions in the interface are driven by touch-and-drag. You can drag cards to your hand from the draw piles or drag them to the table when you're ready to lay track. For the latter, targeting symbols help you make sure that you're dragging to the right place, which is always helpful on the iPad. Some of these actions are backed up with simple tapping alternatives: for example, tapping a card can also be used to draw it.
I've already spoken about some of the output UI in the game, like those marked destinations. Generally, they're terrific, and the thing that most makes the game easy to play. At a glance you can also see everything about an opponent: how many trains he has, how many cards he has, how many routes he has, and what color he is. In pass-and-play games (as noted above) you can even see what he did last. You can also quickly see what routes you've completed (which stops the obsessive sorting and checking of destination cards that I often do in the tabletop game).
I have no problem saying that the UI is generally top-rate, but I also think there were some missed opportunities. For example, touching an opponent's info box doesn't tell me anything about what he did recently and I haven't been able to figure out any way to lay tracks with single taps alone.
Other UI: I'm less fond of the UI for the menus surrounding the game: the settings, hall of fame, rules, and the rest. It's generally attractive and serviceable, but I found myself confused more than once--for example, on how to access Game Center from within Ticket to Ride (I still haven't been able to get the list of Game Center players currently available, except by starting in Game Center) or how to change which way you login to online games (it's under Settings, not available when you choose to "Play"). A number of narrators provide text meant to explain these outer menus, but I find them more distracting than anything, because they have arrows to designate multiple pages of text, and I frequently hit those arrows when I'm instead trying to touch the arrows that navigate the interface (especially on the "Play" page, where there's not actually an arrow to back out of the page; you have to hit the background instead). None of this is bad, but it is clumsy, especially when compared to the very clean interface of the game itself. Fortunately, you don't need to mess with these menus that much.
Missing Features: As far as I can tell, there's no way to save a game that you're playing. If you try to leave the game page, you're asked if you want to leave the game. This strikes me as a pretty large deficiency if there's no way around it.
Overall, however, I'm totally won over by both the beauty and the usability of the game interface itself. This is one of the more attractive and usable games that I've played on the iPad, and thus I've awarded it a full "5" out of "5" for Style.
Ticket to Ride for iPad shows that Days of Wonder is just as adept with creating games for the iPad as they are with creating games for the tabletop. Though the overall interface includes some quirks, the game itself is terrific: easy to play, relatively challenging whether you go with AIs or humans, and obvious to interact with.