Hitch a ride with these board games like Ticket to Ride that'll take your tabletop train travels to new tracks.
Look out the window and you can just about still see it, fading into the distance. The train pulls away and you realize it’s time. Time to move on from Ticket to Ride. The path-connecting game’s immense popularity has seen millions of train cards collected into sets and thousands of locomotives lined up upon boards. Its myriad expansions have connecting routes across the globe and even through history. But that doesn’t mean you’ve stopped at every station worth visiting in the board game universe. If you’re looking for more games like Ticket to Ride, start making tracks to add these to your station.
Board games like Ticket to Ride
To help you link your train routes appropriately, our “games like Ticket to Ride” suggestions range from simple and speedy short stays to sleeper-train-length heavy hitters. As such, we’ve given each pick a train teaser rating to let you know just how taxing it’ll be.
Packing light: Railroad Ink
You might have heard of roll-and-write games, but let us assure you that they’ve got nothing on the rail-and-write genre. If you thought that joke was bad, wait until you realize that Railroad Ink’s name is a dreadful pun. In this immensely popular game of filling in the blanks, players roll a handful of dice, then use the resulting faces to draw train tracks, stations, and other routes into a 7x7 grid.
The aim is to link up exits, leaving as few disconnected routes as possible. Everyone uses the same dice roll, but where you choose to employ the results is entirely up to you. A refreshing breeze to teach, learn, and play, Railroad Ink is a game that almost anyone can start enjoying minutes after its introduction.
There’s minimal player interaction too, making it one of the least directly competitive games on this list. Slap Railroad Ink’s booklets and pens on a table, and everyone can get lost in their own little land of network planning for 20 minutes. The biggest challenge will be choosing which of the Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow versions to pick up in the first place. Honestly, it’s almost as bad as starting a new Pokémon game.
Train teaser rating: 1/5 -- Hop-on, hop-off, light entertainment. You could (probably) even play it on the train!
Ready for a race: Whistle Stop
Ready to rev the engines of competition? Before you tweet us about how you can’t actually rev a steam train, first consider checking out the route racing of Whistle Stop. This competitive tile-placing game ditches Ticket to Ride’s fixed board of networks. Here, you’ll be forging the tracks yourself by laying down winding tile routes for your two traveling cargo trains.
The tiles you place will see you snagging resource cubes to spend on game-ending points. On top of that, you’ll need to factor in passing through spaces that grant bonuses, upgrades, and a stake in a selection of impressively banal company brands -- USA Freight or American Railroads, which gets you excited to invest? Finally, there’s always the tempting opportunity to screw over a friend. Place a tile just right and you can shoot forward while their train meanders awkwardly in loops like the driver started his shift straight from the nightclub.
Careful planning is one thing, but in Whistle Stop, speed is also vital. Make it to the end first and you get dibs from a range of bonuses that can see your second train bring in the big haul. It’s a great blend of competition and planning. With only a few tiles to pick from each turn, though, Whistle Stop remains light enough to avoid your steam trains resulting in steamed brains.
Train teaser rating: 3/5 -- Load up for a weekend away with a cargo of bright colors and twisting tiles.
From macro to metro: On the Underground: London/Berlin
On the Underground: London/Berlin imagines a world in which the entire commuting population of a city has been condensed into a single human. A human which, presumably thanks to being laden with the mass of several million, utterly loathes walking. You take the role of rival metro companies. Your job is to build underground routes that you hope will lure in the world’s most ambulatory-averse human as often as possible.
Destination cards are drawn each turn which direct the lone passenger to new stations. You’ll be laying down the paths to get them there, taking into account their desire to avoid walking or even transferring lines whenever possible. Points are earned for each chunk of your line the passenger takes and also for generating certain connections or formations of track.
Understanding the locomotive logic of On the Underground’s lazy passenger is far from easy. Don’t be surprised if three or more players end up debating which route the imaginary figure will actually take each and every round. But if you can get the systems to click in your brain, On the Underground takes Ticket To Ride’s route-laying premise and heads full steam into planning and path-sniping perniciousness.
Train teaser rating: 4/5 -- Ideal for the Ticket To Ride player who can't stop scheming about how to ruin everyone else’s goals.
In it for the long haul: Brass: Lancashire
Fair warning on this one: Brass is a serious step up from Ticket to Ride. The good news is that we mean both in complexity and quality. A recent remaster of a board gaming classic, Brass: Lancashire is an economic strategy game that puts players in the coal-smudged boots of Industrial Revolution cotton entrepreneurs.
Things start in the canal era -- don’t worry, the trains are coming -- with players playing region or industry cards to build network links to or establish an industry presence in towns across England’s northwest. All of that costs money, which means you’ll need to take out loans.
You’ll recoup those losses by completing and flipping the tiles you place, usually by linking them to coal or iron supplies built elsewhere on the board.
Sounding tricky yet? We haven’t even mentioned development, the cotton market, or investment-dependent turn order. Oh, and halfway through the game, the rail era begins. You’ll wipe the board clean of connections, remove most of the buildings, score everyone’s points, and pretty much start anew with extra rules added to the mix.
Brass: Lancashire is a lot to take in. It’s a game you’ll definitely need to learn before inviting friends or family to the table. But, if you and your game night pals are willing to make that initial time (and mental) investment? You’re in for the one of the finest games out there that sees you plonking tiny trains down on a big board of tracks.
Train teaser rating: 5/5 -- Navigating Brass for the first time can feel like emptying an entire hauler’s worth of rules and systems onto your brain, but the resulting games are more than worth the effort.
Those were our top picks for games like Ticket to Ride, but here’s a secret: There are loads of other quality train and route-placing games out there. Catch a ride over to our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages to share any favorites of yours.
Need some more board game content to accompany you through a real-life train journey? The Going Analog Podcast has you covered. And if all those train puns haven’t sent your mind into a meltdown, we challenge you to train your board game knowledge for our Board Game Quiz Show!
(Featured image by Gabriela Palai)
Author bio: When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deck builders with him on Twitter @Fernoface, or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.