Ticket to Ride – Alvin & Dexter: Jumping the Alien Dino-Shark?
When the legendary Fonz leaped over that great lion of the sea while on those slender, wooden skis, he unknowingly created a phrase which would permeate other television shows, book series’, movie franchises, and yes, even board games. It is a term which defines the point at which one of these franchises goes down hill and no longer contains the high level of quality it once did.
The most obvious example in the board gaming world is the Carcassonne Catapult expansion. This was a silly expansion which tried to change the strategy game into a dexterity game, but instead what it did was create an outcry of disavowals from fans who began writing off Carcassonne as a lost cause.
Well, now many Ticket to Ride fans believe that the latest Alvin and Dexter expansion may just be the “jumping the shark” moment for this franchise. The theme of an attacking flying saucer and a destructive dinosaur seems incredibly goofy and not really fitting with a simple train theme. But is it destructive enough to be considered the end of the line for quality in the Ticket to Ride series? Or is it just a fun little add-on that shouldn’t be worried over too much?
Alvin and Dexter includes two figures (one Alvin the Alien and one Dexter the Dinosaur) and a number of cards for each. I must say that this expansion loses a lot of points for components. Why? Because although the two new monster figures are well-sculpted, but they’re hard to stand up and they aren’t painted!! They’re a gross tan colour. Why is this? Ticket to Ride is not a game like Warhammer where fans love to sit in their basements and paint every last figure they own. Ticket to Ride is a much more mainstream game. This must simply be case of not full understanding their key demographic.
As for gameplay additions, these two new creatures are used to invoke a sense of disaster movie chaos into the game. Cards can be used to move either of the two monsters around the board. Whenever Alvin or Dexter is in a city, no routes can be built into or out of that city. Also, whoever moves each of the monsters the most gets a bonus at the end of the game.
So is this the shark jumping moment for Ticket to Ride? In my opinion, no it is not. The theme may be silly but Ticket to Ride was never really a game with too serious a theme anyways. It always was pretty light and laid back. So having aliens and dinosaurs attacking invokes a “War of the Worlds” paranoia of these yesteryear times. The figures are even in sepia! (Yes that’s sarcastic. I’m still angry they aren’t painted).
The problem is that the theme really is only felt in the concept, not the gameplay. Even though this is a high-concept and risky idea, having movie monsters destroying cities, it really doesn’t change the game all too much. Its very easy to work around the monsters in the cities. Their destruction and chaos simply isn’t felt. They provide obstacles, but it doesn’t feel like much change since you can either build somewhere else for the time being or move the monster yourself.
I think that if they were going to go with a silly idea like aliens and dinosaurs in a ticket to ride game, they should have at least went all out with it. Perhaps routes could actually be destroyed, or card penalties paid f your attacked. Right now its a fun idea but actually doesn’t do a whole lot to the game overall and ultimately feels pointless. They avoided jumping the shark, but maybe they should have just went for it. After all, I’m sure the Fonz still enjoyed himself as he sailed over that dreadful beast.
Base Game –
Base Game and Expansion –