Russian Railroads is all about racing your opponents in building the most advanced and largest rail network.
You’ll need to lay track, improve it, hire employees and assign them correctly, add more locomotives to your fleet and construct factories to advance your technology.
It’s suitable for 2-4 players and is great for board game veterans and newcomers alike. It can get a little competitive!
One for people who love their board games to be full of strategy and take a good few play-throughs to master, Steam: Rails to Riches is the most complex game on this list.
Here you’ll be constructing rail links between cities in order to transport goods, but it goes far deeper than that. Cities and goods are colour coded, so you need to make sure the right colour goods can get to the appropriately coloured city. You also need to manage your finances tightly. Players bid for turn order and take a loan at the start of the game to get their empire up and running – this must be paid off before amassing victory points, and poor decisions early on in the game will make it nearly impossible to win.
There’s also a competitive element to the game, with a viable strategy being to spend resources on ensuring that other players can’t make exclusive links between cities. It’s for 3-5 players and is heavily decorated in board game awards and nominations.
The first Ticket to Ride pack to feature on this list (there are a few!), the India and Switzerland pack highlights what’s great about the Ticket to Ride add-ons and variations – they always change the game just enough to make it feel different without making a complete departure from what makes Ticket to Ride one of the best board games ever.
The India map is for 2-4 players and is mostly akin to the base game, although here there are a couple of additional ways in which players can score points. The Swiss map is smaller and meant for 2-3 players. This map features more rule changes, as players can now also link to countries and build tunnels.
There are two versions of Trains that are thematically different but mechanically the same. The 2012 version takes place in the 19th century, while the 2013 version is set in the modern era.
Both are set in Japan, where you need to build the best deck, place stations and lay track on the map in order to succeed in games for 2-4 players.
Trains has garnered high praise, collecting four nominations and a win in board game awards.
An expansion for Ticket to Ride that is meant for 2-5 players, the United Kingdom and Pennsylvania (odd combination aside) is another that adds a swath of new mechanics to the series.
The Pennsylvania concentrates on the new shares mechanic, where players are awarded shares for claiming routes next to the indicated company’s logo. Players with the most shares in a company are awarded extra points, so it gives players a new way to achieve victory.
The United Kingdom map, meanwhile, introduces the concept of technology. Starting out, players will only be able to build single and two-train routes within the borders of England. Wild cards can be played to improve technology and allow the claiming of longer routes, the use of ferries to reach water-separated destinations and build in the other countries on the map. Despite the name, it does also include the Republic of Ireland.
Another 2-5 player take on Ticket to Ride, this is a stand-alone version.
Spanning the entire European continent all the way across to Constantinople, Ticket to Ride: Europe features a couple of new twists on the original rules. This is the version that introduced tunnels to the series, which will require additional cards to complete. Like the UK and Pennsylvania pack, ferries make an appearance, too.
The big twist here is the stations mechanic, which allows you to spend points in order to make use of another player’s track.
More of a traditional expansion than some of the other Ticket to Ride editions on this list, the USA 1910 pack features a completely new deck and map, as well as a couple of new mechanics.
Like the base game, it’s suitable for 2-5 players. It holds a special place in my heart because it was the first version of Ticket to Ride that I ever played. I still think it has the best-looking map and theme of the entire series, although the mechanics aren’t my favourite - which is why it isn’t higher up the list.
A radical departure from the other games on the list, Colt Express is a super-competitive and fun entry.
Rather than building an empire or claiming routes, Colt is a 2-6 player game that takes place on a 3D board.
For quicker matches, each game is split into five rounds of two phases – a playing and drawing phase and an action phase. The idea is to amass the most riches by robbing a train set in the American West. You can shoot, fight, burgle and loot your way to victory inside and on top of train cars!
With a heavy emphasis on planning, Colt Express is a real blast of fun and one of the most refreshing board games in this genre.
Continuing the theme of more aggressive gameplay, this 2-3 player standalone version for Ticket to Ride is all about blocking and sabotaging the progress of your opponents.
Featuring a beautiful snowy map spanning Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries also makes a couple of changes to how locomotives work. You can now draw two per turn rather than one, but they can only be used on the longest tracks, ferries or tunnels. This has to be one of our favourite Christmas themed board games full stop and there’s time to fit in a train journey to catch a glimpse of Santa himself! This definitely comes in a close second to the 10th Anniversary game and arguably is a great alternative to the predictable game at number one below!
This is the version to go to if you want a hyper-competitive Ticket to Ride experience.
You could have probably guessed that a Ticket to Ride game would take the top spot. This is my favourite version of the lot. Featuring an extra-large map and bundled with the USA 1910 pack, the 10th Anniversary Edition of Ticket to Ride is the one to get if you want to introduce someone to the series.
Representing great value for money and including one of the best packs, combined with beautiful, high quality parts, this is the version that I’ve spent the most time playing out of any board game that I own.