REVIEW: Alvin & Dexter, A Ticket To Ride Expansion

Alvin is an alien riding in a flying saucer. Dexter is a rampaging dinosaur. Together, they form the oddest expansion for Ticket to Ride produced to date. What was once a peaceful game about businessmen buying up railways in early 1900's North America has been injected with a dose of monster mayhem. The surprise here is that the result is actually quite fun to play. Read on to find out why.

Just the Facts:

Players: 2-5

Playing Time: 30-50 minutes

Age: 8 to adult

Publisher: Days of Wonder

MSRP: $13 (requires base Ticket to Ride game to play)

Release: February 2011

The Gameplay:

When either Alvin or Dexter are present in a city, no player can purchase new train routes into or out of that city. When the game ends, ticket cards that specifically list a monster-occupied city will be scored at half-value. Players are also rewarded for wreaking havoc on each other, as the player who moves each monster the most throughout the course of the game will earn fifteen extra points.

To move a monster, a player must discard valuable locomotive cards. These normally serve as wilds in a player's quest to draw matching card sets into their hand, so there is quite a price to pay for monster movement. By discarding one locomotive, a monster may be moved up to three cities away, or two locomotives could be discarded for a six city move. After a monster is moved, it cannot be moved again until a complete round of play has passed.

Scoring for the total number of monster moves is tracked by two decks of monster cards. Players collect one card every time they perform a move and their total number is kept secret. The movement of monsters is limited by the number of cards in the deck, so once it is out, there's no more movement.

These cards track player's monster moves.

The Components:

Included in this expansion are:

  • 2 monster models
  • 42 cards
  • 1 rules booklet

The monsters themselves are beautiful sculpts with each perched atop a railway house in an action pose. The models are molded out of a soft resin so you won't have to worry about durability, but they are an unpainted yellow hue that isn't really befitting of an alien and a dinosaur.

A look at the Alvin & Dexter models

The twenty card decks (plus one scoring card) for each monster are each made of identical cards. There is one image of Dexter with a train clutched in his jaw and another of Alvin leading a railway-blasting fleet of UFOs. The art is very detailed and the print quality on the cards is high, so Days of Wonder maintains their perfect track record on graphic design.

Final Thoughts:

You can release that deep breath: Ticket to Ride is not approaching Carcassonne territory. This is a worthwhile expansion, not a quick cash grab. Even if it were, the sticker price is a mere $13, making this a very affordable pickup to add a new mode of play.

The game itself is quite fun, but I would be hesitant to recommend it to an inexperienced Ticket to Ride player. As is mostly the case with expansions, the base game is of a very high quality but additional rules and modes of play will only serve to confuse the first-time player. While Alvin and Dexter is no exception to this rule, it does provide some fresh gameplay that more experienced players will enjoy.

The monsters can be used both offensively and defensively. You can block the progress of other players  or you could take a chance by protecting an area you have plans to expand into in the late game. There's a certain risk to each action, so Alvin & Dexter adds to the strategy of Ticket to Ride, rather than detracting from it.

Alvin & Dexter is at its most fun when played with four or five players. This is already a game where players often look to foul up their opponents progress just as much as they look to advance their own, so the monsters are just another weapon at your disposal. With two monsters on the board, they are likely to create "dead zones" where nobody will want to purchase railways, making the rest of the board even more crowded and cutthroat. Once the monsters move, attention focuses to rushing into these untouched areas.