Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Romance on the train: Love Letter and Ticket to Ride

Sunday afternoon, Kathy and I played Love Letter (designer Seiji Kanai, artists Andrew Hepworth and Jeffrey Himmelman, publisher Alderac Entertainment Group) for the first time.  This microgame poses some neat little logic challenges and opportunities for second-guessing, although in our first play, we didn't find it quite as "brain-bending" as Citadels, our favorite hidden-role game for getting inside each others' heads.  As it happens, we played two rules incorrectly.  First, in the two-player game, we failed to turn three cards face up at the start of each round to reduce the size of the playing deck and gain early insight into which cards were already out of play.  Second, we thought (incorrectly) that the Guard could target another Guard in an attempt to eliminate an opponent.  Since there are five Guards in the deck (as opposed to one or two of any other character), that made the Guard extraordinarily powerful in our game.  I've written before about my propensity for getting the rules wrong the first time I play a game, but fortunately, we still had fun, and the game was over in less than half an hour.  LL is a quick little diversion that I expect will get more play - and that I hope will become more intricate in the tactics and counter-tactics of anticipating each others' cards.

Kathy's green score marker at the end of the game,
with our northwest connections in the background
This afternoon, I made Kathy a French 75 and myself a blue shark martini and set up a game of Ticket to Ride (designer Alan R. Moon, artists Cyrille Daujean and Julien Delval, publisher Days of Wonder).  As long as it has been around, TtR is still an old reliable for us, right up there with Settlers of Catan.  Even in its two-player form, this game is a great way to spend a cocktail hour.  As it happened in today's game, we had only a little conflict for routes in the northwest corner when Kathy connected Vancouver and Calgary, which took me a little by surprise.  As a defensive measure, on my next two turns, I took the one-train connections to Seattle and then to Portland to be sure I could make my Vancouver ticket by another route.  So from a geography standpoint, we were otherwise not very competitive.  Where the real gameplay got interesting was near the end, when Kathy started laying down consecutive five- and six-train routes to make the northern route, seize the lead in longest train, and rapidly draw down her train count to threaten the end-game condition.  In fact, she ended the game and stuck me with eight unplayed trains and two uncompleted tickets to win by a commanding score of 117 to 96.


  1. Wait wait wait wait....I have a question. What's a "French 75"?!?!

    We like TtR, but I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of playing the original or "Europe" with just 2 players, precisely because there can be so little interaction. We really like the "Nordic Countries" expansion, as it's designed for 2-3 players. So is the "Switzerland" board, but I feel that has some play balance issues with the cards.

    The new India map also seems decent for smaller numbers, and the jury is out on Africa...we've only played it once. Africa has some different rules on connecting specific colored routes, and the colored routes are laid out in a specific pattern to represent different terrain types (desert, savannah, jungle, etc.).

  2. A French 75 is gin, lemon juice, sugar, and champagne - essentially a Tom Collins substituting champagne for the club soda. Kathy's favorite.

    We don't have any of the TtR expansions, but it sounds like "Nordic Countries" would be a worthwhile investment. The only other map I've played is "Asia," and that was in a six-player partners round in open gaming at PrezCon. (That was a lot of fun.)

  3. Yes, if I were to recommend one of the expansions, it would be "Nordic Countries". I have yet to try the team variant on the Asia map...need to do that one of these days...