Hot on the heels of Ticket to Ride: New York and Ticket to Ride: London, Ticket to Ride San Francisco is the latest game in the “city” series of Ticket to Ride titles, designed for people who want to play Ticket to Ride in half the time and table space. San Francisco keeps all of the route-claiming rules of the original game, along with the ferry routes from Ticket to Ride Europe, and adds a simple souvenir set collection mechanic to help player pick up bonus points and get in each other’s way.
Hey – don’t bogart that ferry card, man! Like, hi – it’s River from Nights Around a Table. Here’s how you play Ticket to Ride: San Francisco.
You and your friends play tourists racing around the golden city, seeing the sights and picking up souvenirs.
You’ll compete to claim routes between different hotspots in the city by the bay, laying down cable cars in your colour to connect different points of interest. Connect the locations on your route cards to earn points, but risk losing points if you don’t travel those routes by the end of the game. When one player gets down to two or fewer cable cars, everyone gets one more turn to finish out the game. Then, you add up your connected routes, your collected souvenirs, and the points you’ve already earned for travelling around Fog City, and the player with the most points wins!
If you already know how to play some flavour of Ticket to Ride, you’ll know 99% of Ticket to Ride San Francisco. This version brings a set collection mechanic, where you’re amassing these souvenir tokens that you gain while connecting routes, and the whole game has been shrunk down so that routes are only two or three spaces long in most areas, which means you can bang out a game of Ticket to Ride San Francisco in much less time than you would on one of the larger maps in a different version.
If you’ve never played any version of Ticket to Ride and you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, stick with me and i’ll take you through it!
You kick off the game with one – possibly two – secret Destination Ticket cards that depict two areas of San Francisco that you’re trying to connect. If you do connect that route by the end of the game, you’ll earn this many points – otherwise, you’ll lose that many points.
These coloured cards are your currency, and you start with two of them, dealt randomly. To claim a route, you pay a certain number of coloured cards matching the number of spaces in a given connection – so to connect Haight-Ashbury to Pacific Heights, you’d need to pay three black cards. Once you do that, you put down three cable cars in your player colour, and that route is yours. It’s important to note that there are four different plastic cable car player colours – blue, white, pink, and purple – and while some of the route colours match the colour of the cable cars – you’ve got blue here and purple here – the cable car colours have nothing to do with the routes. They just identify you as a player. It’s the card colours that you’re trying to match up to make connections.
So when it’s your turn, you can do one of three things: you can take transportation cards, you can claim a route, or you can draw more Destination Ticket cards.
DRAWING TRANSPORTATION CARDS
You begin the game with two random transportation cards in your hand, but of course you’ll need more as you play the game. If you choose to draw transportation cards on your turn, you can take two: either face-up from this array, or a blind draw from the face down deck. Whenever you take a face-up card, you immediately replace it with one from the deck.
Now, these multicolour ferry cards are special: they’re wild cards that act as any colour. And because they’re so powerful, if you take one of those as your first card, your turn is over – you don’t get to take a second card. If you draw your first card face-down from the deck and it’s a ferry card, well that’s a secret – nobody knows you lucked out and drew a ferry, so you still get to take a second card.
If this array of five transportation cards ever ends up with three wild ferries in it, you scrap the whole row and deal out five more. Later in the game, if the draw pile ever runs out, you shuffle the discarded cards to form a new draw deck. Make sure you shuffle those discards thoroughly, because they’re grouped by colour!
CLAIMING A ROUTE
If, instead of taking cards, you want to claim one of the routes on the map during your turn, here’s how that goes.
Choose a route, and pay the number of cards the route requires – so this one costs two yellow cards. Pay those cards out of your hand and into the discard pile. Then, lay down your cable cars to cover the route. When you claim a route, you have to claim the entire thing – you can’t just pay one yellow card this time, and the second yellow card on a later turn. Remember that ferry cards are wild, so you could pay one ferry and one yellow card to claim this route, or even two ferries. (Somebody should also tell the Port Authority that there’s a ferry floating down the middle of Columbus Avenue.)
If someone else’s cable cars are already here, that player has claimed that route, and it’s blocked off to you and the other players. But some routes have two parallel lines, like this one. If one player has already claimed this route, you could pay the proper cards to claim the parallel route with your own cable cars. But if you’re playing a 2-player game, you ignore the double-ness of these double routes – once someone has claimed one of them, you pretend that the parallel route doesn’t exist.
These grey routes accept any colour. So to connect Lombard Street to the Embarcadero, you could pay two green cards, or two pink cards. They just all have to be the same colour – so you couldn’t pay a black card and a blue card to claim this grey route. But as we saw, ferries are wild! So you could pay one ferry and one card of any colour to claim this route, or two ferries.
Certain routes up at the top of the map have a ferry printed on them. Those spaces require a ferry, in addition to whatever other cards they need. So pay a ferry and one card of any colour to go here, pay a ferry and a black card or a ferry and a yellow card – or two ferries – to claim this route, and pay a ferry and four of a kind, which may include additional ferries, to connect this route.
Every time you claim a route, you earn some points. Claim a 1-cable car route to get 1 point. 2-car routes get you 2 points. A 3-car route gets you 4 points, and that big 5-car ferry route we just saw earns you 10 points.
If you connect a route and there’s a souvenir token at one end or the other, and you haven’t collected that particular souvenir yet, you can take the token and add it to your pile of goodies. It’s one souvenir per route you claim, even if there are two stacks you can choose from. At the end of the game, you’ll earn an increasing number of points for your collection of unique souvenirs.
You can only claim one route on your turn, even if you have the right cards to claim multiple routes.
Instead of taking transportation cards or claiming a route on your turn, you can draw more destination tickets. You might do this if you’ve already connected the routes on the destination cards you started the game with – or if those cards are impossible and you just want to draw new cards to have a fighting chance. You might even be in a position where you’ve claimed a ton of routes, and you’re hoping you’ll just get a lucky draw and end up with a ticket with a connection you’ve already made.
Whatever your reasoning, you draw two tickets from the face-down deck and look at them secretly – you don’t want other players blocking the routes you need. You have to keep one of these cards, but you can keep both if you want to. If you decide not to keep one of them, you sink the rejected card to the bottom of the deck. If there’s only one ticket left in the draw deck when you take this action, you claim that single ticket, but you’re forced to keep it.
Remember that once you claim a destination ticket, you’re on the hook to meet its requirements by the end of the game, or risk losing the number of points on the card! Once you’ve claimed it, you’re never allowed to discard a destination ticket.
When one player whittles their cable car supply down to two cars or fewer, that triggers the end of the game. Everyone gets one more turn, including the player who triggered endgame.
Once the turns are finished, you count up the points. Players should already have earned a bunch of points for claiming routes as they played the game. If you forgot to do this, it’s fairly easy to go back and audit how many points everyone should have by counting up the route lengths.
Then, you score points for your unique souvenir collection. If you have only zero or one souvenir, you get zero points, but 2 souvenirs gets you 1 point, 3 souvenirs gets you 2, all the way up to 12 points for collecting all seven unique souvenirs.
Finally, everyone reveals their destination tickets. If you connected the areas on your tickets, you earn the number of points on the card. If you didn’t, you lose that number of points. A connection doesn’t have to be in a straight line. So if you needed to connect Haight Ashbury and the Mission, you could do it like this, or like this, or like this, or even like this! As long as you can trace a line along your cable cars from one point to the other that’s listed on your ticket, you earn those points.
Whoever earns the most points wins the game! If there’s a tie, whoever completed the most Destination Tickets takes it. If there’s still a tie, all tied players share in the victory, which sounds like a perfectly hippie thing to do.
To set up the game, everyone grabs the cable cars in the colour of their choice, and places their matching scoring marker on space zero. Stack all the souvenirs by type. In a 4-player game, the stacks will have 3 tokens in them. In a 2- or 3-player game, the stacks will only have two tokens apiece. Put the souvenir stacks onto the red nodes on the map – it doesn’t matter which stack goes where. You’ll have two stacks left over.
Shuffle the transportation cards and deal 2 to each player, and then flip out a row of 5. If you turn up 3 or more ferries, scrap the row and keep dealing until you get a row that doesn’t have 3 ferries in it.
Shuffle the destination tickets. Everyone gets two, and you keep them a secret. You have to keep at least one of these cards, but if you don’t like one, you can send it back to the bottom of the deck. You might reject a ticket card if your starting cards are in two completely different parts of the map, and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin.
The first player is whichever one of you hippies is most likely to ditch your principles of peace and love and found a multinational capitalist conglomerate that exploits the environment and grinds its workers into the ground. Or, decide randomly.
Play begins from that starting player and goes clockwise. But before you begin, in a 3 or 4 player game, the last player in turn order takes one of those leftover souvenir stacks and places it on any empty node in the city. Then, the second last player takes the other stack and chooses a spot for it. In a 2-player game, whichever player isn’t going first takes one token from each of the leftover stacks and puts those two tokens on two different empty nodes somewhere in the city. That’ll theoretically give those late-starting players an advantage, because they can place the tokens near routes they know they want to claim.
And now, you’re ready to play Ticket to Ride: San Francisco!
Get Your Own Copy of Ticket to Ride: San Francisco
This game positively oozes SF-ness, from its nods to hippie culture with cards that bear a (reasonable facsimile of a) Volkswagen bus, to its recognition of San Francisco’s satus as “gay Mecca,” festooned with rainbow colours, and with destination tickets bearing the signature of famously out politician Harvey Milk. i can’t quite tell if the “Lo Pan Antiques” graphic is a shout-out to Big Trouble in Little China, but if it is, good on them! The board brings back fond memories of the comical sea lions at fisherman’s wharf, and that time i jogged along the Embarcadero one sunny morning while doing my best impression of a physically fit person.
My favourite entry in the increasingly expansive Ticket to Ride series remains Ticket to Ride: Europe, but sometimes you just don’t have the time or table space to play one of the larger versions of the game, like Ticket to Ride: Marklin. Like, what if you want to play the game in cramped quarters on an actual train, and your stop is coming up?
Shop for your copy of Ticket to Ride: San Francisco using the Amazon link below, and Nights Around a Table will receive a small commission, while your price remains the same.