by Lee Valentine
Alvin & Dexter - A Ticket to Ride Monster expansion
Published by Days of Wonder
Designed by Alan R. Moon
Contents: 2 detailed plastic monster figures, 40 Monster cards, 2 bonus cards, rules booklet
Alvin & Dexter (A&D) is the newest Ticket to Ride
(TTR) expansion. It is a set of two plastic figures, one a
Godzilla-styled dinosaur called "Dexter" and one an alien with a
spaceship called "Alvin". They are usable with any TTR board
game set, and they sow chaos across the board in the cities they pass
through. Originally envisioned as a Godzilla variant for a Japanese
version of TTR that never came to pass, TTR-designer Alan
Moon did some additional work on the concept, added an alien, and
brought the world A&D.
Alvin and Dexter are placed on the board at the end of setup. One
monster of your choice can be moved as an additional action at the end
of your turn by discarding one or two locomotive wild cards from your
hand. If you discard one locomotive the monster can be moved one to
three cities away; discard two and he can be moved up to six cities
There are two decks of small cards marked "Alvin" and "Dexter"
respectively. You collect the appropriate card when you move a monster.
Until the end of your next turn neither you nor any other player may
move that monster. At the end of the game you count how many "Alvin"
and "Dexter" cards you have, separating each type. The player with the
most cards of a given type at the end of the game scores a 15-point
bonus. Tied players each get the bonus. So, Alvin and Dexter can
collectively contribute a 30-point swing to the game, giving you an
enormous incentive to pay attention to them, particularly in TTR
variants that lack long route destination tickets to drive the score up.
During the game, while a monster is at a given city you can't build
depots (TTR: Europa 1912), move passengers through the city
(TTR: Marklin), or build stations there (TTR: Europe).
Also, you can lay down trains on a new route if either of the end points
have a monster on them. These cities are "cities in chaos". At the end
of the game if you have any destination tickets and either end point is
a "city in chaos" the ticket is worth only half the normal number of
points for you (if you complete it) or against you (if you failed to
If you are playing a TTR edition that has long route destination
tickets, toward the end of the game players will probably drive the
monsters to the end points of one of those routes to try to cost an
opponent as many points as possible. During the game, they can be
easily used to hound an opponent by merely sitting on the last city he
built a route to, as many players build their routes sequentially.
In TTR and TTR: Europe picking a face up locomotive costs
you both your draws for the turn. Still, you will make this sacrifice
frequently because of the in game incentives to do so while playing with
A&D. Since the locomotives in TTR: Switzerland, TTR: Nordic
Countries, and to a lesser extent in TTR: Marklin (with its
special +4 locomotives) all cost you only a single draw, picking up
these cards will become an automatic reflex.
The dual use of locomotives both as wildcards and as movement cards for
the monsters in A&D will make claiming tunnels (in TTR:
Switzerland and TTR: Nordic Countries) more difficult. The
demand for locomotives can be at such a premium that claiming ferry
routes (in TTR: Nordic Countries and TTR: Europe) will be
difficult or impossible if you are also trying to compete for the 30
monster bonus points available, since ferry routes require you to play
locomotives to claim them.
Given this prejudice against ferry routes, A&D can be somewhat
disruptive to the normal play experience in TTR: Europe and
probably for TTR: Nordic Countries as well. Entire sections of
the TTR: Europe game board, for example, become undesirable to
choose as tickets. If you get a handful of them, you'll either have to
complete the route or control the monsters, but you probably won't be
able to do both very well. This will be even more true when playing
with three to five players because the locomotives will be spread out a
bit thinner among all the players, and they will be getting selected
more often than in normal TTR: Europe.
I suspect that the best set to use A&D with is the base
TTR board, and ideally with the USA 1910 expansion cards.
The "Big Cities" variant in the USA 1910 expansion would provide
interesting strategic options for using the monsters, without the
prejudice against ferries and tunnels (since there aren't either one of
these on the USA board). Even without the USA 1910 expansion,
this will be a nice addition to the base TTR board, particularly
for two players.
With more than two players A&D introduces an obvious strategy
that is difficult to employ in a normal TTR game: all the other
players can gang up on the scoring leader. Consider that, in a
five-player game, the locomotives are split five ways. The score leader
will, on average, have only 1/5 of the overall locomotives, and can be
easily hounded by the monsters if the other players agree to gang up on
him. Even without this expansion it is possible to collude against the
leader, but it is a trivial undertaking to do so with this expansion, as
it only minimally interferes with your own turns.
Even with two players, while the A&D expansion adds a new,
interesting layer of strategy, it also adds a lot of chaos. Given that
the mechanic is locomotive card driven, it's entirely possible that I
draw substantially more locomotives than you, and get an easy 30 points,
controlling both monsters. Indeed, that is exactly what happened in one
game we played.
This expansion has another odd side effect when played with TTR
versions where drawing a face-up locomotive costs you both of your draws
– you may avoid drawing face up trains if you can, particularly in
two-player play. Since many players will want every locomotive they can
get their hands on, if you draw a normal train from the face up stack
then there's a chance that it will get replaced by a locomotive which
your opponent will acquire for himself. While this is not enough to
stifle taking face up cards altogether, it changes the normal balance of
power between face up draws and blind draws from the train deck
sufficiently that drawing blind will become substantially more useful
Alvin and Dexter are both ivory colored plastic miniatures. Each is
approximately two inches tall. The models are quite detailed and eye
catching. Each monster sits atop a small train station. While the
building itself has no game impact, and is included for thematic
reasons, it does have an unintended side effect, since it is smaller
than the monster that's on top of it. The models are both quite top
heavy and have a tendency to fall over if your table is not level or if
you handle the miniatures incautiously. Fortunately, I became aware of
this design limitation prior to play so that the miniatures did not fall
over very often during our games.
The cards that come with the game are small, square cards. They are
full-color and have a nice linen finish. They are handled only
minimally during play, so they will see little wear during use.
The packaging itself is very colorful, and shows whimsical, full-color
art of the monsters attacking trains. The plastic insert that holds the
creatures will likely make sure that your monsters arrive to you intact.
Unfortunately, the insert grips the figures a bit too tightly, and it
can be troublesome to extract the miniatures. As a result, the
packaging is sub-optimal for storing the miniatures if you intend on
using this expansion regularly. Thankfully, the contents of the
expansion are small enough to fit inside a typical TTR game box
if you choose not to store the expansion separately.
The rulebook is largely clear. Like the rest of the expansion, it is
quite tiny. The text is brief, and is available in a variety of
European languages. Unfortunately, Alan Moon did not directly address
how Alvin & Dexter interacts with depots, stations, and passengers, in the
various TTR game editions. Given that this expansion was
intended to work with all TTR editions, this is a substantial
oversight. Nevertheless, Moon has provided guidance on this in online
forums, stating that the monsters do not destroy pre-existing depots,
stations, and passengers, but the monsters do prevent any new structures
from being built in "cities in chaos". Passengers similarly cannot
travel through such cities.
For a modest expansion, Alvin & Dexter can really shake up your normal
TTR games quite a lot. This expansion allows for some expanded
player-versus-player "take that" action and added chaos. Particularly
with TTR: Switzerland and TTR: Nordic Countries, where
locomotives are relatively cheaper to draw, the chaotic effects of the
A&D expansion will be more pronounced. With some sets like
TTR: Europe, A&D makes acquiring certain routes so difficult that
some players may feel the two simply do not mix well together. Still,
if you know what you are getting into and want to add a bit of chaos to
your TTR games, Alvin & Dexter may be a worthwhile
expansion for you.
The MSRP is low, the packaging is attractive, and the box features a
clear window to view both figures. Overall, this product takes up
little shelf space and is priced for an impulse buy. It is novel enough
that many TTR players (at least those that aren't purists) will
be curious about the product. While the small size of the product makes
it easy to find shelf space for it, it's also small enough that it could
go missed on a big shelf of TTR products. Store a copy or two
next to your other TTR products, but keep the rest of these near
your register if you don't have a "newly arrived items" shelf, because
this product would be easy to miss otherwise. It's definitely worth
picking up a few copies of this if TTR sells at all well for your
Gameplay: B (perhaps as high as A- for two players with the TTR: USA 1910 "Big Cities" variant)
Components: A- (great minis and cards, but the minis are top heavy and topple occasionally)
Rules Clarity: B (what's there is good, but it's missing some simple key rules that are required for play)
Packaging: B+ (great for long term storage, but it is not ideal if you use this expansion often and store it in its original packaging)
Retailer Salability: B