Recently, Cait and I have been playing quite a bit of Ticket to Ride: ten times in the past month, plus a handful of plays of Switzerland and Nordic Countries, the maps for fewer players. (We still prefer 1910’s Big Cities with two, as mentioned in my recent Boardgames! post.)
This weekend we picked up Thurn and Taxis, another Spiel des Jahres winner, and have already gotten seven games in as of this writing.
The games have some similar mechanics: route building, card drafting, and a race to trigger the end of the game. As co–Spiel des Jahres winners, they’re both lightish, family-friendly Euros. They also share, at least as we play them, an “oops, sorry I got in your way” level of player interaction, rather than explicit conflict.
Though I still enjoy Ticket to Ride, I’m really starting to prefer Thurn and Taxis, and not just because it’s the newer, shinier game in our collection.
The source of this preference comes from how you improve in each of the games. Though both require efficiency in playing routes, with Ticket to Ride you seem to get better by being more familiar with the contents of the ticket deck. Your advantages come from knowing what cities are common, or where routes tend to overlap (as these let you re-use your existing track).
Memorizing the cards is not something I’m interested in, and am in some ways loathe to do. I like to be surprised at the routes that come up. This leads to the somewhat odd desire to stay stupid at the game I’ve been playing most often.
In Thurn and Taxis, on the other hand, efficiency gains are all from the tactical decisions of which cards to draft and where to play cities. You get better by playing the game better, rather than internalizing the contents of a deck of cards.
Perhaps, in time, my preference will swing back. As Thurn and Taxis’s setup is the same every game, its replay value may diminish. At least with Ticket to Ride’s tickets, you have explicitly different goals every game, even if they start to look familiar after a while.