Ticket To Ride as Scrum

3 minute read

Ticket to Ride is a popular game by Days of Wonder. In it you try to create a connections with your train lines from one city to another. You create the connections by placing colored train cars on the connection points between cities until you have a traceable route from your starting city to your destination city. The longer the route the more points you earn.

Ticket to Ride

There are a number of challenges you face while doing this. For example, another player may to place his cars on a route that is critical to you and you may have to go another, longer way. Or the game may end before you have completed a route, in which case you will be penalized for the routes you did not complete. Many times the game puts you into a risk reward scenario.

So, how does this relate to using scrum?

In each sprint you have stories which need to be bid on. In scrum the product owner prioritizes the back log and then the team determines what effort the stories are going to take in order to complete. The team and the product owner work together to determine if the work goes into the sprint.

For example, if a story is going to take 5 points to complete, but based on past performance we know that the team can only handle another 3 points of work in the sprint they are planning, then the product owner may determine that another 3 point story has a higher priority and the team would then bring that into the sprint.

When the team has decided it has all the work it can handle for the sprint, then they start the sprint and begin working toward the sprint goal. Once the sprint has started the work the team performs is not supposed to change.

Ticket to Ride works very much the same way.

playing Ticket to Ride1

At the beginning of the game, each player draws three Route cards. These cars are the routes the player (team) is going to need to fulfill in order to win the game (the sprint goal). The player looks at the cars (which have a value assigned to them based on difficulty and/or complexity) and decides if they are going to try and fulfill them. They have to choose at least two cards. Then the game proceeds (the sprint begins).

Using Train Car Cards the player gradually creates a route from one city to another until a route is completed. For each segment of the route the team puts down, they get a certain number of points (burn up/task completion) until they complete the route.

At any point in the game the player can draw more route cards on their turn. When they do so, they draw three and must keep at least one of the Route cards. The challenge is that if the player does not complete the route, they are penalized the number of points on the route card instead of earning them, so you must be wise in when and what cards you choose.

Obviously there are differences between Ticket to Ride and scrum, but I’ve found that when explaining how a sprint works and how the Routes are like stories and how the work needed to be done in the sprint is inviolate, this seems to resonate. People who have played the the game can see why you want to be accurate in the beginning of the sprint and how the risk of adding more scope to the sprint can cause problems later on.

Plus it’s a great excuse to pull out the game and play.


  1. The image of people playing Ticket to Ride is used courtsey of a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license and was created by Matěj Baťha and can be found on the Ticket to Ride Wikipedia article

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