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Railways may be disappearing quickly in the 21st century, but that won’t stop you from laying tons of track in the early 20th century. In Ticket to Ride—any of the incarnations!—the player who claims the longest and most effective train routes wins. If you want to know how to be the greatest Ticket to Ride train magnate the world has ever known, read on…
When you begin the game, you receive several Destination Tickets. You must keep at least two of these tickets, but that doesn’t mean you should keep all of them—if one train route doesn’t match with the others, chuck it so it doesn’t hinder you later.
The key to your success is generally to keep the biggest ticket route, the one that gives you the most points. That’s your anchor, from which you craft all other routes around it. If, for example, your big ticket route takes you up the northern face of the map, look for smaller routes to the north or with a matching station from which you can link out. Discard any routes to the south; you won’t have enough track to complete your big ticket route to the north and branch out to the south as well.
Keep as many routes as you feel are doable at the start. If you aren’t sure, count the track spaces between stations depicted on your Destination Tickets and compare to your stockpile; should the train spaces on the board tally more than trains in your stockpile, you don’t have enough and should drop the route that strays farthest from your big ticket route. Also remember that you’re competing with other players for station locations, and though another player won’t have the exact same big route as you, they may have smaller routes that cross through the train spaces you want to use. The farther you stray from the big ticket route, the greater the chance you’ll meet stiff competition for destination stations.
Draw, draw, draw! You want to draw as many cards as you can, especially early in the game as you plan out your routes. Before you place any track, draw for several rounds to see what color options are available to you. If you are ever unsure of what to do on your turn, draw cards as the default; unless time is short and the game is about to end, a handful of cards is always a good thing.
Study all your routes and determine which colors you need the most. If more than one route needs yellow, or a single route has two yellow paths, collect as many yellow train cards as you can. But don’t just focus on a single color—you always need more than one color and should diversify to give yourself a better chance of seeing those card colors on your turn. Also, try to gather colors for multiple sections of your track. You never know when an area will suddenly become hotly contested and you’ll need to drop a train route immediately to avoid being shut out of the area.
Pay attention to the colors that your opponents are drawing too; this determines your likelihood of drawing a certain color. The more cards of a certain color in opponents’ hands, the smaller chance that you will draw that color on your turn.
If you pay attention to what opponents’ are drawing, you must pay an equal amount of attention to what they are discarding. Once those color train cards come out of a person’s hand, they flood the deck after it runs out and gets reshuffled. You might not have planned on drawing red, but if you watch eight red cards get shuffled back into a new deck, you may want to collect red for your route, or, at the very least, to use on gray routes.
As tempting as it is to lay track in a row and branch out from one of your destination locations, it’s usually a bad idea. Experienced players will immediately know your route if you begin from one of the destination locations and seek to block you. It also makes it easier for players to determine who will have the Longest Continuous Path if they see trains all in a row. Balance when your play your trains: too early and you give away your route; too late and connecting routes may disappear. As with most things in Ticket to Ride, you must get a feel for when to act: anticipate what your opponents are going to do and make sure you claim train routes a turn or two before them.
It’s much wiser to build train tracks in the congested areas of the board first. Those are the danger spots that may disappear quickly. If you can set up tracks through the areas that get a lot of action, you ensure an uninterrupted route. It’s also a good idea to identify stations that have limited approaches and target those routes as well. If there’s only one route into a station without having to sweep around and waste 10 additional tracks getting there, make that direct route a priority before someone else gets there first. Also, you generally want to save up cards in your hand to play a few routes in a row. This way, when you reveal your preferred route in an area, you can drop one route after another and make it safely through a congested area before anyone can mount a strategy to block you.
Pay close attention to gray routes. Any colors can be placed on gray spaces, which means anyone can likely play on them and they will disappear quickly. If you need a gray route to navigate through an area, it must be your priority before someone else claims it.
Once you have the more difficult train spaces filled in, work to connect the rest. Again, pay close attention to what the other players are doing. If players’ routes encroach on a section of your potential route, build there immediately before the spaces fill up. It’s more important to ensure you have access to a station than to draw cards, so even if you want a particular color, lay track instead if there’s a chance that someone will grab the only spot open around a certain station. Conversely, if you can guess opponents’ routes, it’s worth spending a few extra trains to bottle up an area or cut off an opponent’s major route.
When the game is open and you aren’t in danger of losing stations, feel free to draw cards rather than place trains. Draw whenever there are two good cards available from the face-up cards, and place trains when there aren’t good train cards available for you. By placing trains on your turn and claiming a route, you allow all the other players to go and potentially pick up cards to reset the layout for your next turn.
Various versions of Ticket to Ride score trains slightly differently, but the same scoring progression holds true: longer routes give you more points. You should always grab the most strategic routes that connect your stations first, no matter their point values, but if you have a choice between routes or if you want to pick up extra points, save up similar colored train cards to claim four-space or better routes. If you consistently do this throughout the game, you’ll boost your score significantly.
Locomotives are wild cards. You want as many of these as possible to give you flexibility, and some versions of the game require locomotives to be played as part of the route. However, drawing one locomotive from the face-up cards ends your turn. So when do you draw a locomotive over two cards?
Rule of thumb: always draw two cards if they fit into your route scheme. Two cards are better than one. However, if you don’t want to claim a train route and need cards, and there aren’t any matching colors available from the face-up cards, draw a locomotive if it’s showing. Generally, it’s not a good idea to draw randomly off the top of the deck—because, well, you never know what you’re going to get—but you may get lucky and pull a locomotive card and another card this way. The exception to this rule is early in the game: If you don’t have particular colors in mind and just want to accumulate cards, then it’s best to draw randomly off the deck to stockpile color train cards and perhaps pull a couple of locomotives on the cheap.
DEALING WITH SPECIAL ROUTES
Some versions of Ticket to Ride include special routes, such as the Ferries and Tunnels in Ticket to Ride: Europe. When playing with these special rules, plan accordingly. On top of thinking about your colors and mapping out routes to stations, factor in the extra resources you’ll need to overcome special routes. If you plan on journeying via Ferry, grab one or two extra locomotives before you hop on board that Ferry. If you see a Tunnel in your future, make sure you have at least one extra train card in the Tunnel route color to overcome a possible disaster from not having enough train cards in the proper color. Know the special rules of your version of Ticket to Ride ahead of time so you won’t be surprised by a sudden strategy change.
There are two “trains” of thought on pulling more routes: do it very early or very late.
If you go with the early strategy, take one of your early turns to draw more tickets and see if you can match them to the same geographic area as your first batch of Destination Tickets. If you can, this significantly increases your potential for victory points by completing more routes.
If you go with the late-game strategy, think about pulling additional train routes as the game’s end nears. After you’ve completed your big train route, and finished off any smaller routes you may have kept, think about pulling another batch of Destination Tickets on your turn. It can be risky, because if you don’t complete the routes you will lose those points when the game ends. However, you can be rewarded with lots of extra victory points should you complete the new Destination Tickets.
If you decide to go for more Destination Tickets, keep in mind two important factors: time and trains. How many turns do you think are left in the game? Will you have enough time to complete the new route or two that you choose? If you believe there is enough time left, go for it; if it’s going to be close, then you probably want to hold off and just place your remaining trains for points without worrying about Destination Tickets. And how many trains do you have left? Think about how many trains smaller routes will likely need. Do you have enough trains to complete these routes? If you think you might run out of trains, then hold off on Destination Tickets and place your remaining trains for points instead.
The game ends when one player’s train stock gets down to two trains or less, triggering one final round for all players (including the player who has the fewest trains). If you believe you are in the lead, place your trains as quickly as possible to trigger the game’s end. If you feel you’re still chasing the leader, try to maximize your points by saving up for longer routes that give you more points or make one last desperation pull on Destination Tickets.
No matter where your victory points lie, plan for the game’s ending at least several turns in advance. Remember, you only get one final play after the game ending triggers, so don’t get stuck with two or three major things left to do. Make sure you complete your big route before this point, and hopefully you can snag one final train route for extra points. If you’re playing with a version like Ticket to Ride: Europe, your final action may be to drop one of your extra stations to use an opponent’s train route to connect one of your tickets that would have been lost without your last-second station play.
Frequently, it’s the player with the longest continuous route who wins. By claiming the Longest Continuous Path card, you earn an extra 10 points on everyone else just by having the most efficiently built train circuit. Near the end of the game, look to extend your train circuit beyond the Destination Ticket locations and try to avoid branching off too much or you’ll sacrifice the Longest Continuous Path bonus.
You can never know what someone else holds in their hand, but you’ll be in the running for a victory if you completed one big route, several smaller routes, and maximized your train plays by either earning the Longest Continuous Path card or scoring more points on bigger routes throughout the game. A savvy Ticket to Ride player will pull into that final station ahead of everyone else, and if he doesn’t, there’s always that next passenger car leaving for the coast…
Ticket to Ride fans like all the game maps and variant rules for the freshness and replayability that they add to the game. Here are some of the highlights from each game:
USA: The original. You get to play in North America, and gameplay tends to be a bit more cutthroat as you can cut other players off easily.
Europe: New game mechanics include: Double Routes, Ferries, Tunnels, and extra Stations. You get to play throughout Europe, and though the Double Routes, Ferries, and Tunnels make claiming individual routes more challenging, each player has extra Stations they can place to borrow another player’s route for the purpose of connecting a Destination Ticket route. Generally, this setup is more family friendly.
Marklin: New game mechanics include: Locomotive +4 Cards, Passenger Cards. If you want to enjoy the many cities of Germany, hop on board the Marklin version.
Nordic Countries: Includes similar rules to the Europe version, though your adventure takes you to the Scandinavian lands.