Board games have experienced a renaissance in the last few years. People have been flocking back to the family interaction around a table. Proof of this popularity can be seen in the hundreds of board games on Kickstarter at any one time. Trust me it's a thing. Interestingly enough the thing that drove families back to the table - families staring at a smartphone and not interacting - has come full circle and there are some amazing board game translations available on the App Store. One of the most polished - and most approachable for a general audience is Ticket to Ride by Alan R. Moon (published by Days of Wonder). It is a great game for family game night or if you have 15 minutes, an iPad and a need for some board game goodness.
Ticket to ride is basically a game of set collection and route building. From Days of Wonder's website:
Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.
Days of Wonder has long had an online version of the game, but their iOS version is a note for note translation of the original - right down to its gorgeous artwork. This is the board game translation to live up to on the App Store. It is perfect for family car trips - four passengers can pass the iPad around the car and play, while the driver completes the family's real ticket.
What makes Ticket to Ride even better is that there is a huge community of online players available any hour, day or night to challenge. It makes this game a black hole for boredom. Over time you are given a skill ranking (based on the Elo system used by chess players) that will improve as you get better. This allows you to play people who are about as good as you are and keep it fun for everyone. You don't get bulldozed by "pros" and they don't have to wait forever while novices figure out their turn. If you are totally intimidated by real life competition there is a tutorial, a solo mode (with up to three "bot" opponents) and the previously mentioned "pass and play" mode. As you improve your skill, you can layer new complexity on the game by purchase (either real or virtual) of its expansions that bring new countries to build trains across as well as new concepts (like tunnels and stations!).
It is hard to put into words how much I loooove this game and the fact that the digital and real world experiences are seamless makes me cherish it even more. A lot of "real tabletop" gamers poo-poo on Ticket to Ride, but I say this - it is easy for everyone to understand, has way more strategy than most of the crap on the toy shelf at a big box store, and has a theme most people can get behind. This is a game that brings people together. It is a "gateway" game to the better board games in the tabletop world - after your favorite non-gamer masters "Ticket", you can bring out a deeper game to teach. Highly recommended.
Winner: Spiel des Jahres 2004