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Ticket To Ride (Core Implementation, No Network)

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This is an implementation of Ticket to Ride (the American version) in Elixir. It not only has the mechanics of the board game, but also manages player registration, session management and delegation of player actions to the correct game states.

NOTE: This is a work in progress and not all goals have been met yet. When this message disappears, then it'll be done. :)


There are so many implementations of Ticket To Ride. Why build another one? For me, it was about finding the limits of a new programming language with a familiar board game.

Board games, in general, are good candidates for implementations because their feature sets can really push the limits of a language's data structures, expressiveness and ability to model a domain in a hierarchy of code.

Most board games have the following features:

  • They have to mantain state.
  • They have physical domain which makes them easier to reason about.
  • They have rules.
  • They (usually) have more than 1 player.
  • They have secrets.
  • They have limited effects due to randomness.

But the real draw for me was to build a proof-of-concept game server that could manage the state of thousands of turn-based games on a single server without going to great lengths to configure the server.

The Erlang BEAM is supposed to be really good at solving this sort of problem and I wanted to leverage that strength. I wanted to do this without thinking about networking and transport-layer security, so I focused on state management and scaling the game to over 10k concurrent games.

What I Have Learned From This Project

My original implementation tried to do too much (core gameplay, state, networking and a terminal client), so I scaled it back to focus on the core gameplay and managing state.

I learned that:

  • Domain-Driven APIs are much easier to debug when you constrain yourself to contexts (see Phoenix Contexts)
  • typespecs will tell you how simple or insane your APIs are in Elixir. Write them for every public function.
  • Not all domains are physical. New ones will appear as you see consistent patterns on data manipulation.
  • Defining documentation on modules that are in the first-level of the domain is really important. It's even more important to actually render them using mix docs and expand the Functions drop-down for every top-level domain module. It reveals a lot about what you can do with a module. Verb-Noun structure (e.g. get_card/2) is simple and clear.
  • Good tests make a foundation not for correctness, but for identifying what effects your code changes will produce.
  • Not to return nil from functions. I won't do it. I will always try to return something unambiguous.


  • Only five top-level domains: Board, Cards, Games, Mechanics and Players
  • User registration (username and password)
  • Separation of player contexts vs complete state
  • Ownership is tied to the first player to join a new game. Will transfer to next player if first player leaves, etc.
  • Session management (provided concept for future implementations over a network to validate actions before hitting the core the API)
  • Can scale just over 10k concurrent games on a small virtual machine (1 cpu, 1 GB ram)
  • Single-time sliced timer for all turns (turns are limited to 60 seconds)
  • Randomly chooses which player goes first


  • No graphical UI
  • No persistent database
  • No network support
  • No transport-level security

These things belongs elsewhere.

Installation and Setup


  • You must have elixir >= 1.9 and erlang >= 22
  • You must have git installed
  • You must be running 64-bit linux or macos (>= high sierra)


git clone
cd ticket-to-ride-core
mix deps.get
mix compile

Then start it up:

iex -S mix


You can run the following in the IEx console. If you need more context, see the official rules for the game.

Make sure you alias first:

alias TtrCore.{

alias TtrCore.Board.Route
alias TtrCore.Mechanics.Context

Game Setup

{:ok, user_id_a} = Players.register("playerA", "p@ssw0rd!")
{:ok, user_id_b} = Players.register("playerB", "p@ssw0rd!")

# NOTE: `login/2` is also supported with sessions, but only makes sense in the context of a network.

{:ok, game_id, _pid} = Games.create(user_id_a)

:ok = Games.join(game_id, user_id_b)
:ok = Games.setup(game_id, user_id_a)

{:ok, %{tickets_buffer: tickets_a}} = Games.get_context(game_id, user_id_a)
:ok = Games.select_tickets(game_id, user_id_a, tickets_a)

{:ok, %{tickets_buffer: tickets_b}} = Games.get_context(game_id, user_id_b)
Games.select_tickets(game_id, user_id_b, tickets_b)

:ok = Games.begin(game_id, user_id_a)

Game Turns

Find out who goes first
{:ok, context_a} = Games.get_context(game_id, user_id_a)
{:ok, context_b} = Games.get_context(game_id, user_id_b)

starting_context = Enum.find([context_a, context_b], fn c ->
    c.current_player ==

Let's assume user_id_a gets to go first. Possible actions are detailed in the following sections.

Also, make sure you get the latest context after each operation:

{:ok, context_a} = Games.get_context(id, user_id_a)
Claim a route
contexts = [context_a, context_b]
claimed = Enum.flat_map(contexts, fn %{routes: routes} -> routes end)
routes = Board.get_claimable_routes(claimed)

# Take a look at your routes, then make sure selections

train = hd(context_a.trains)
route_to_claim = {Seattle, Vancouver, 1, :any}

:ok = Games.claim_route(game_id, user_id_a, route_to_claim, train)
Select trains from the display
# Find out what trains are on display

%Context{displayed_trains: displayed} = context_a
[first|_] = displayed

# Select the first train

:ok = Games.select_trains(game_id, user_id_a, [first])
Draw trains from the deck
%Context{train_deck: number_in_deck} = context_a

# Draw a train if there are trains in the deck (can draw up to 2)

if number_in_deck > 0 do
  :ok = Games.draw_trains(game_id, user_id_a, 1)
Draw tickets from the deck
:ok = Games.draw_tickets(game_id, user_id_a)
Select tickets that you have drawn
%Context{tickets_buffer: buffer} = context_a
:ok = Games.select_tickets(game_id, user_id_a, buffer)

Ending the Game

The game will automatically end when the context struct reports that the key :stage has a value of :finished. The keys winner_id will contain the user_id of the player who won the game.


This software is licensed under the MIT License.


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