Fans of Ticket to Ride, rejoice: the excellent board game of building trains now fits in your pocket!
Days of Wonder did an excellent job on the iPad version of the game (especially when a later update added the Pass-and-Play option), and they’ve kept tweaking it in response to player comments. Ticket to Ride Pocket, just released today, isn’t just a smaller version of the same app; it’s actually been rebuilt to fit on the iPhone’s smaller screen.
I won’t get into the mechanics of the game itself here — for that, check out Andy Robertson’s review of the board game — but I’ll talk about the differences between the iPhone and iPad versions, and the nifty Local Play feature.
One of the trickiest things to do was to take the game and make it fit onto the smaller screen, but it works. A lot of the graphics are cut down and things are arranged to optimize the use of space. The main layout is still the same, with the train cards to the right of the board, your own cards at the bottom. But rather than your own avatar at the bottom right, that is where your tickets are stored. New tickets slide out when you tap on your own, allowing you to pick more.
All the player scores and locomotives are shown across the top, and you can tap any of them to pull a little drop-down that gives more details, like how many tickets and cards they currently have, and what their last move was. The blue arrow in the top left corner brings down a menu to quit the game, read the rules, or adjust settings.
You can pinch/spread to zoom in and out of the map, and it also zooms in a bit if you’re holding your cards over a spot for a little while, but I found that most of the time I played with the full view of the map and it seemed to work fine. My only gripe is that the white spaces and grey spaces can be a bit hard to tell apart if your screen brightness isn’t turned up all the way.
The iPhone version of the app doesn’t actually have online multiplayer, which ties into the multi-platform Days of Wonder network. Instead, it has Solo play against the computer, Pass & Play (like the iPad), and a new Local play option. This lets you start up a game, and any other iPhones or iPads within the same wi-fi network or Bluetooth proximity will be able to join up. I tried this version out with my wife on the iPad and me on my iPod touch, and it worked really well. The game plays out in real time, and it’s more convenient than the Pass & Play because you can see the moves as they’re happening without having to pass the device around. As with the Pass & Play on the iPad, route-completion sounds and animations are omitted so that nearby players can’t tell when you’ve punched a ticket.
The lack of online multiplayer might be a turn-off to some, and I’m not sure if Days of Wonder is planning to add it in later. Also, the America map is the only one currently available, but I would guess those would be available for in-app purchases later on as they are in the iPad version. However, the app is a slim $.99 compared to the $6.99 iPad version, so if you’re mostly going to play with nearby friends it’s not a bad option.
There are a couple things that might be nice to see in a future update. First, my wife hadn’t realized that in the areas where there are double routes, only one of them can be built in a 2 or 3 player game. So when I took the first one, she didn’t realize she’d been shut out there until she tried to build. I wonder if it would be possible to X out the second route when the first has been taken, or have it vanish entirely — this was also the case on the iPad version, and I hadn’t been aware of that rule myself until I tried to do the same thing previously.
The other is that, since we were sitting in the same room, I could hear the music playing from both devices, and they weren’t synced up. It’s not a huge deal, of course — you could simply turn off the music on all but one device — but it would have been cool to have the music actually synchronized as we played together.
Overall, I think Days of Wonder has done a fine job with the app. If you’ve got an iPad and can afford it, the bigger version is still a better experience (and the next update will add the Local play option), but if you’re mostly on the iPhone or iPod touch, Ticket to Ride Pocket is certainly worth a buck.
Wired: Newly-designed interface makes the most of the small screen; Local play option is even better than Pass & Play if you have multiple devices nearby; only a dollar for a great board game.
Tired: No online multiplayer or additional maps (yet?), grey and white routes a little hard to distinguish.
Disclosure: GeekDad was given access to test build of the app prior to release.