The Curator's Collection: Ticket to Ride and Thunder Road
Welcome to "The Curator's Collection." One of the most common questions I am asked as a Guru at Snakes & Lattes (aside from "Do you know ALL these games?" and "Do you have any fun games?") is "What's your favourite game?" The answer I give is "It depends on who I am with" which may sound like a cop-out, but it is the truest answer I have.
As curator at Snakes & Lattes I have a collection of 3,000 games to play with and get to know, but I have a private collection at home that contains many of my favourite games of all time. This column will explore where my private and professional collections intersect and, on occasion, where they diverge (believe it or not, my comparatively small private reserve does have titles that won't be found at Snakes & Lattes).
For this first edition, I’m going to talk about two games. First, a game with mass-market appeal that gets a lot of play on our tables, and then a deeper cut from the Wayback Machine.
First up is Ticket to Ride. Designed by Alan R. Moon and published in 2001 by Days of Wonder, Ticket to Ride is the flagship of the Days of Wonder line. Known for games with high quality components, Ticket to Ride is no exception. Nice linen finish cards, molded plastic train pieces, and a turn of the last century aesthetic that makes the game feel older than it is. With over 3,000,000 sold and shelf presence in some of the larger retailers like Toys R Us, Target and others, there is no doubting this game’s broad appeal. Ticket to Ride won the coveted Spiel des Jahres in Germany, where it is known as Zum und Zug, and has spawned a long line of sequels and expansions. This game has legs. The game has fairly simple rules and is fast-paced, so there isn’t a lot of down time between turns. These factors make it very good for the casual gamer. The more serious gamer will enjoy the strategic train placement and set collection opportunities the game provides. It offers numerous choices to make every turn – which of the three possible actions do you want to take? Whatever the answer, each action offers numerous secondary choices to make, too. Ticket to Ride can be enjoyed by itself for years, but as the head of a family of products, it has great growth potential.
And now for a trip into the back catalogue, for a game that I’ve had for a little while in my own collection, that I’ve also managed to recently acquire for the café’s collection as well. You’ll find it in cubby-hole E13, but you’ll have to find it on eBay if you want to own this out of print classic. The year is 1986 and for the past five years Steve Jackson Games has been making bank on its Mad Max-style car racing and fighting game, Car Wars. Enter Milton Bradley, also looking to make some cash off the idea of jerks in cars shooting and ramming each other. With its complex movement and vehicle customization rules, Car Wars is aimed at the niche war gamer market. Milton Bradley wants a piece of the mainstream market. Their solution? Jim Keifer’s Thunder Road! With its patented interlocking two-piece board, Thunder Road gives players an unending stretch of desert road on which to engage in total high speed carnage. Each player has a set of three cars, the Doom Buggy, the Avenger and the Eliminator (or as we lovingly call it, TRUCKMACHINE!), and one gyro-copter. If the Avenger’s striking resemblance to Max Rocketansky’s V8-Interceptor doesn’t clue you in to the fact that they wanted to make “Road Warrior the Board Game,” then the gyro is a dead giveaway (seriously, check Youtube for the original ’86 TV commercial and then tell me that’s not what MB was going for!).
But lack of proper licensing aside, Thunder Road turns out to be a hell of a good time. The goal is as simple as the rules: Out drive and or out shoot everyone else until yours is the only functional car on the road. Thunder Road hails from a decade that didn’t produce a lot of good games, but they did make cool toys with rules for how to play with them. Thankfully Thunder Road turns out to be both of those things.