We were hesitant about Ticket to Ride Legacy at first. The original train board game is a darling of beginner gamers, but many start to find its simplicity same-y once they’re ready for more complex titles. Turning a 30-minute gateway game into a legacy title with hours of campaign content seemed like risky business – and a pretty dull commute.
But we’re in good hands when it comes to Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West. The game’s original designer Alan Moon has teamed up with Rob Daviau and Matt Leacock, the creators of Pandemic Legacy, one of the best board games to grace the legacy board games genre.
We began our review, then, with a mix of fear and wonder – much like the pioneers establishing the American railway system. And the result? Joy. Ticket to Ride Legacy is the same lighthearted, beginner-friendly locomotive with some delightful new carriages attached.
How we tested Ticket to Ride Legacy
Before we start our examination, let’s establish some key details about this Ticket to Ride Legacy review. Firstly, our review copy was kindly provided by Asmodee.
This review considers all contents in the game, but we’ve most thoroughly tested the first six games of the campaign. For review purposes, we played games with a full house of five players as well as the minimum of two players.
And finally, this is a spoiler-free review of the game. We’ve left all unlockable content a secret for future players.
What is Ticket to Ride Legacy?
Ticket to Ride Legacy: Legends of the West is a legacy adaptation of the original Ticket to Ride. If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘legacy’, this means Ticket to Ride has been turned into a campaign board game. Over time, you’ll unlock new content – some of which require you to permanently change the state of your game.
The core game remains familiar, with only a handful of new rules to learn upfront. Newspapers are shuffled into the train deck to introduce story beats and minor effects. Additionally, the starting game offers some rules that make the base game more forgiving – certain types of cities give a free card draw, and it’s easier to discard impossible tickets you’ve been dealt before the game begins.
Other than that, it’s all old hat. Players must draw and play train cards of matching colors to establish tracks across a map, scoring points for completing routes on randomly-drawn tickets.
At the beginning of the game, each player represents a different train company looking to make their fortune in 19th-century America. You’ll only have a limited portion of the US to build rail lines on at first, but as your wealth and knowledge grows, you’ll map the entire country with your tiny plastic trains.
The United States is split into 13 jigsaw pieces (five of which make up your starting game board). You’ll unlock these gradually by completing 12 games of Ticket to Ride. Each new game and territory introduces (or retires) mechanics, storylines, and effects to the campaign, so the way you play Ticket to Ride is constantly shifting.
There are already heaps of Ticket to Ride expansions, but Legends of the West borrows very few mechanics from these existing titles. The core game may be familiar to fans of gateway board games, but the legacy version’s additions are fresh – and often exciting.
Is Ticket to Ride Legacy good or bad?
Die-hard fans of Ticket to Ride will get their money’s worth here. It’s the same game you love, with added story elements and unseen mechanics. Yes, it’s an adaptation that’ll set you back a slightly steep $120 (£100), but there is a degree of replayability once the campaign is complete.
Legends of the West will also appeal to legacy newbies who aren’t quite ready to commit to a Gloomhaven or a Frosthaven. Its rulebook is mercifully short, the game expands gently, and complexity remains low even when you’ve unlocked all the moving parts. Ticket to Ride Legacy even includes scoring rules to account for players who can’t make every campaign – as well as balancing mechanics that give struggling players a chance to catch up as the games go on.
Plus, the production value is fantastic – something veterans and newcomers can both appreciate. Designers Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau are legacy legends at this point, and their newest punt at the genre doesn’t disappoint. The unlockable content in Ticket to Ride Legacy may not drastically alter the core game, but each box is highly thematic and a tactile delight to discover.
Theme is deliciously baked into Ticket to Ride Legacy, with multiple mechanics showcasing the dramatic, lighthearted, and downright-strange history of American railway expansion.
(Note that the designers have deliberately omitted the real-world exploitation of Native Americans and railroad workers – which a designer’s note explains “We found no way to include within the lighter theme of the game” but urges you to research in your own time.)
But while the gameplay is dripping with theme, Legends of the West has a fairly forgettable narrative. Its postcards – which introduce subplots and secret abilities or objectives for individual players – also feel like untapped potential.
Their writing is similarly bland, and obtaining these cards at random means you’re likely to end up with an ability that won’t be useful until certain parts of the game are unlocked. And since you can choose what order you open new territories in, there’s no guarantee that’ll be anytime soon.
Nevertheless, Ticket to Ride Legacy is a game that feels great, even if the storytelling doesn’t back its theme up. The simple concept of the original game translates well to a campaign-based experience, and there are enough treats and surprises to engage a legacy fan of any experience level.
Ticket to Ride Legacy captures the theme and gameplay that made the original train board game so beloved. Its legacy elements are tactile, creative, and thematic. The campaign’s storytelling doesn’t pull its weight, but the overall experience is light and joyous.