Games We Play

JAMES ON GAMES: Opinions, Observations and Ideas from James

Games We Play

In the Before Times, back during the Long, Long Ago… we played lots of D&D.  We played lots of Battletech.  We played lots of Car Wars, Strat-o-matic, Golden Heroes, V&V, Gamma World…  We played lots of everything.

In the spring of 2000, we created Fiery Dragon Productions, intending to release third-party supplements for the soon-to-be released Third Edition of the World’s Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game.  Perfect, huh?  A bunch of gamer friends creating a game company!  Imagine all of the gaming we’d enjoy…

Flash forward to 2007.  When we’re able to all get together, there’s usually only one game we play.  It’s called “Assemble the Product!”  Actually, that’s not a game at all, that’s work.  Busy lives means less time spent doing things for fun.  Fiery Dragon is fun, but it’s the kind of fun that comes from interacting with the community and developing products and sharing in the bonds of friendship.  When we get together, usually once a week, we’re not throwing dice around the table, we’re building counter sets and labelling tin boxes and burning ourselves on the shrink wrap machine.

But I’ve still got that Gaming Jones, and it’s an itch that needs to be scratched.  I’ve had to improvise and create a new, convenient group of gamer friends.  Well, that really means converting the family to the cause. 

My wife is not a gamer by nature.  She’s competitive, sure, but there’s about zero chance that she’ll ever crack open a D&D book or design her own ‘mech.  So I’ve had to expand the horizons of the household and find some games that we can both enjoy — she, the non-gamer, me the game addict with a part-time game company.

This is the first in a series of blogs about the games we play at home.


When I first decided to convert my wife to the hobby, I did a lot of research online to figure out something we’d both enjoy.  I wanted something that involved some strategy and interesting gameplay.  I wasn’t interested in mindless dice-rolling exercises (i.e., Monopoly!), I wanted something with some merit.  Ticket to Ride was given to my wife on Christmas Day 2005.  Sure, it was one of those presents that you give someone that’s really for you, but it’s all about the together-ness. 

Ticket to Ride, known as “Trains” within the family, is a game that has quickly become the title of choice for family get-togethers.  My mother and sister have both become fans, and there was a time when we were playing 2-3 times a week.

It’s got a good length, with games taking less than an hour, and great production values.  The physical components are nice and tactile.  The cards are simple and bright.  The rules are simple: on each turn, you may perform one of three options: Collect 2 Train Cards, Place a Train Line, or Acquire a Destination ticket.  (Well, there are variations on that, but those are the basics)

Colored paths form routes between cities.  If you collect enough cards of the same color, you can trade them in and claim the route — noted by putting your little train cars along the route.  Connect several cities allows you to meet Destination requirements that give you points. 

This turned out to be a great game for the family, because everyone gets to focus on their own game, building their own routes and meeting their destination requirements.  It can be competitive, but I’ve found that you get further and achieve more concentrating on achieving your goals rather than trying to deny someone else theirs (by capturing a route and blocking someone from their destination).

At GenCon 2006, I picked up the latest full version of the game — the third release, called Ticket to Ride Marklin Edition.  It adds a few layers of strategy and complication that I appreciated, but didn’t fly so well with the family, so we’ve stuck with the original mostly.

This past Christmas, I picked up the Ticket to Ride 1910 Expansion, which uses the same basic game, but revamps the cards and destinations to better balance gameplay and change things up a bit.  It has been well received and is considered another hit in the household.

If anyone is out there looking for a great “girlfriend or wife” game that also provides interesting game play and strategy, Ticket to Ride has worked for me!

Coming up in future discussions: Chess, Nintendo DS, Blokus, Balloon Cup, and more…

Posted in James On Games