Ticket to Ride Strategy Primer

Ticket to Ride is a simple, but very fun gateway game to get some new gamers into some more complex euro games if they are more used to party games. You can teach it in a few minutes so new players can jump right in, but veteran players can also devise some complex strategies throughout the game to keep it interesting for them as well. Fortunately, there is a enough luck in the game that new players can compete with veterans, although there are plenty of tactics you can use to give yourself a significant edge. Check out the video version immediately following this paragraph or skip it to continue reading the text version.

To put it simply, you want to be efficient with your plays in Ticket to Ride. You want to maximize the points you get while minimizing the actions it takes to get there. For example, taking a wild instead of two non-wilds slows you down. I’m not saying don’t do it, because sometimes you really need a single color car card. Keep reading for more exmaples of increasing your efficiency.

Choosing Destination Tickets

This is the most important decision you will make in the game, so take your time. When choosing your destination tickets, use these three strategies:

  • Overlapping Routes – Overlap on the routes you will use to complete your tickets because there is no better way to get extra points than doing this. The hotspots for overlapping are down the center of the US map or on the east coast.
  • Longest Continuous Path – Go for tickets that you can combine to get the longest continuous path card for 10 points. For example, one that goes along the top of the Canadian border and then one down the West Coast.
  • Long Routes – You also want destination tickets that will make use of very long routes because those will earn you so many more points every time you place them. Also, every route, no matter the length, takes a turn to build, so you might as well spend these turns to get as many points as possible with fewer, long routes.

If you drew some overlapping, low-point, shorter route tickets, you’ll probably need more midway through the game, so go ahead and draw more as soon as you are very confident you will complete your existing ones and no one has less than 17 or so trains in their inventory. It is very risky to draw new destination tickets late in the game. Only do this if you expect you have no chance of winning the game in hopes of drawing a ticket that is already completed. Otherwise you should just save up for longer routes and get some extra points while eliminating the risk of drawing a ticket you cannot complete. I draw new destination tickets in fewer than 50% of my games, choosing to focus on getting longer for big points and to hopefully block my opponents.

Choosing Car Cards

Always keep in mind the primary car card colors you need. If you see them face up, take them. If not, draw from the face down deck. Early in the game, just grab cards left and right, usually face down from the deck in hopes of getting some wild cards. You will be able to find a use for anything later in the game so just stockpile as many as you can.

Never take face up wild cards. Pretty much. Once in awhile, and only late in the game, you urgently need a single car card before someone steals a route from you or you know most of that color are not in the deck anymore. So in an emergency, go ahead and take a face up wild. If you take a single card instead of two, you are losing card advantage to your opponents, so do this only very rarely. If there are no face up cards you need, draw two face down cards from the deck and you have a decent chance of drawing a wild anyway. You have a 20% chance of drawing any particular color card in a full deck. You have a slightly better chance of drawing a wild.

Completing Routes

If you can complete a route on your turn, but there are also face up cards that you need for other routes, take the face up cards instead of claiming your route. The exception to this is when you think someone will steal your route if you do not put it down immediately.

Clearly, you want to complete routes that are the shortest distance between points A and B so you can complete more destination tickets throughout the game. An exception to this rule is that longer routes get you more points right when you place them, so if you are not worried about completing a destination ticket, you may want to choose routes that are longer to get more instant points. Also, if you know an opponent is going for a specific route and you can use it in the path to your destination, do it!

General Tactics

Watch what people are drawing so you can figure out which routes they want to claim and what their destination tickets may be. This allows you to hate draft colors they need. You can also get a heads up when someone might be trying to claim a route that you need so you can get their first.

Preventing someone from completing a ticket near the end of the game will probably make them lose the game, so if you think someone is beating you, don’t be afraid to play aggressively and block them from completing tickets. If you see an obvious 2-3 route hole in a long path, you can really take them down by filling it up with your trains. On the flip side, do not leave obvious gaps in your paths to destinations.

Once you get down to 10-12 trains left, carefully plan out your final few turns. Going out first is a huge advantage because other players are scrambling to complete their tickets and going out a turn early may prevent that. Try to claim routes that will get you down to 2 or less and then place a final train or two. Even if you don’t absolutely need to complete some routes, just do it to go out sooner to leave your opponents short of finishing that last ticket.


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