I didn’t get to go to GenCon this year – bummer. Instead, my wife and I went to visit some good friends in Champaign, IL, and had our own gaming weekend. We played some stuff I had been wanting to play, including their copy of Alvin & Dexter. So I wanted to drop a quick review (seeing as that’s my tradition here).
A brief recap of Alvin & Dexter: this is an expansion for the Ticket to Ride system, adding an alien (Alvin) and a dinosaur (Dexter) that are wreaking havoc in the cities on the map. You can’t build routes into or out of cities containing one of the two, must discard locomotive cards to move them, knock point off final routes, and can get points for using them the most. You can use Alvin & Dexter with any TTR product, but we used the base game for ours (as well as the 1910 expansion).
COMPONENTS: This is a small expansion, and only comes with two minis and a deck of square cards. The cards are nicely illustrated, and their shape makes them easily distinguishable from your other TTR cards. The minis are cute, though top-heavy – we kept knocking them over, which can really scatter your trains. But the components are just fine.
THEME: Much has been made over the theme of this expansion. It doesn’t bother me at all. It makes no sense, but it just adds a little fun, especially if you make the monster noises when you move them. It’s silly, but that’s OK – it breaks the tension. I think the outrage out there is entirely misplaced.
MECHANICS: You discard one or two locomotive cards to move Alvin or Dexter 3-6 cities away from their current position. You can do this IN ADDITION to your normal turn. I was unaware of this initially – I thought it was a fourth action option. Nobody bothered to tell me otherwise until I had moved Alvin a couple of times, and then someone else took their normal action with monster movement. This means you can draw a locomotive card and burn it immediately. The mechanics of the expansion are pretty basic and work well enough to add an extra layer of tension to the game.
STRATEGY VS. LUCK: Alvin and Dexter does add some strategy to TTR – which monster do you move? Where do you move it? Which routes should you block? But their usage is dependent on the locomotive cards you get. If the person in front of you is snatching them before you get a chance, you’re out of luck. So, yes, it adds strategy, but luck determines whether or not you can be strategic.
THE WIFE FACTOR: My wife doesn’t like Ticket to Ride in general, and did not play with us (she had gone to bed). Her biggest complaint is that there’s more she wants to do on a turn – draw cards AND play a route, for example. She keeps after me to do a house rule on that, which I almost always refuse to do because I think it would make the game REALLY long (she insists that it will be shorter), and that it will make everything even more frustrating. I doubt this expansion would make her like the system more. She like the cute miniatures, and I think she would be happy to have the opportunity to do two things on a turn. However, she doesn’t like confrontation, and this expansion is much more “take-that” than TTR games typically are.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Enh. It’s a fine expansion, one that no one really NEEDS. It adds another layer to gameplay, but I’m just fine with the game the way it is. I’d play A&D again…I’d be more interested in playing with 4 or 5 players, especially after playing with just 3. It may be more interesting then. But I don’t think this is one I’ll be picking up for myself. It doesn’t really add enough, and I don’t play the game often enough to justify it.