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I just played my first game of Ticket to Ride and we loved it. Our only issue was making it a little faster. We had some small obvious ideas that wouldn't affect the gameplay much, like keep score on paper, play the game when each player has 4 less trains, start the game with 7 cards, and get a free route at the beginning. However I'm still curious about some more drastic boosts.

Here were a few other ideas that actually affect the game:

  • You draw 3 cards if you choose to draw train cards. Locomotives still cost 2 normal draws.
  • For each turn you draw 2 cards AND get the opportunity to claim a route.
  • You can substitute 3 cards of any one color for a locomotive when building. (stolen from the ferries in the other versions)
  • 7 cards stay face up instead of 5

What other affects will each of these have on the game? Are there any other good ways to speed things up? How can I decrease the time required to play while keeping as much of the original feel of the game as possible.

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Is it possible the game played slow just because this was your first time playing it? Were the other players familiar with the game? –  LittleBobbyTables Jan 10 '11 at 3:27
    
Funny how someone who has played just once is so interested in making changes. I guess patience is a lost art. –  Scott Biggs Apr 22 at 4:43

5 Answers 5

up vote 22 down vote accepted

It will speed up with a few additional plays. Honestly, I suggest starting with people getting more experience before modifying the game.

You asked about how your ideas will effect gameplay, so I'll tackle that, having been involved in balancing a lot of games. The game was playtested hundreds of times to reach the balance it's at now, so some things to consider:

keep score on paper

You'll lose the easy checking to see who's ahead and who's behind, which should affect your play. On paper you'd either have to do without or keep asking.

play the game when each player has 4 less trains

If I were playing I'd be much more likely to dump the long tickets because it's not at all uncommon that they're completed in the last couple of turns of the game, especially with 4 or 5 players.

start the game with 7 cards

Probably wouldn't cause any problems.

get a free route at the beginning

Tricky. They'd have to be the same length (or same maximum length), and if it's long it will help people with western tickets much more than eastern ones. It would also change the early game quite a bit, where people traditionally build up a pretty large hand of cards before laying down, so as to not give anything away to others about how they could block you. It will likely hurt ticket completion a bit.

You draw 3 cards if you choose to draw train cards. Locomotives still cost 2 normal draws.

I think this will help longer routes more than shorter ones, again with the western/eastern division. Each card draw will be slower (draw, fill, draw, fill, draw), but it would still likely be a speed-up. The bigger problem is that drawing cards will help your game much more than playing them, so it will again favor longer routes, making the already-somewhat-imbalanced longer routes much easier to complete, so the luck of the ticket draw will have an even stronger effect on what many consider an existing flaw (the 1910 ticket replacement add-on is designed to fix it).

For each turn you draw 2 cards AND get the opportunity to claim a route.

This won't speed the game up as much as you'd think: the cleverness in the current system is that after you draw cards you have the whole rest of the round to think about what you'll do with them. With this change after drawing players will have to think through what they'll lay down while everyone waits.

If they play first and draw second, they'll still need to weigh the cards on display with what route to claim, knowing they're about to draw from them. With the regular game there's no point in thinking about them because they'll likely be significantly changed before it comes around to you.

You can substitute 3 cards of any one color for a locomotive when building. (stolen from the ferries in the other versions)

This should have no negative effect, though I don't know that it will actually speed things up, since yes, you'll finish that route, but the train car to played card ratio will actually go down. More tickets will likely be completed, though.

7 cards stay face up instead of 5

This will also favor longer routes, exacerbating that problem. It will increase decision time a bit, but speed up route completion for everyone equally. You'll need to decide on a rule for how many locomotives have to be showing to wipe, likely 4 instead of 3.

Just to be clear, I'm not trying to knock all of your ideas. I just see rippling balance issues that are worth considering. If you implement any of them, I suggest getting a few more games under your belt first so you can more clearly see the consequences, if any.

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To speed up the game, and keep the mechanic of having a turn to think about what to do next, I find having turns have to take the order of 1) lay down trains, 2) drawn new cards (of both types) works quite well. –  jebyrnes Jan 12 '11 at 23:59
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One note about the draw-two-cards-and-claim-a-route rule: it will favor shorter routes. Someone going for three 6-train routes will only get that "bonus" turn (claiming a route) one turn in three, but someone going for nine 2-train routes can potentially get that "bonus" turn every time. Running a route up the eastern seaboard or the north-south midwest route will take about half as many turns as normally. This might help balance out the other suggestions that favor longer routes. –  Paul Marshall Oct 28 '13 at 17:23

I would say, just reduce the number of train cars in each players' pool. This would have an obvious, linear effect on the speed of the game without any dramatic side effects on the strategy and gameplay. The only thing you'd need to worry about is keeping enough trains in the pool that any cross-country route, if drawn, would still be playable - off the top of my head, I'd say that would be somewhere in the 20s, though it might be wise to add a few trains on top of that, to give wiggle room in the event of another player claiming a crucial route.

I have to say, I find it a tiny bit odd that you'd want to speed up Ticket to Ride - it never struck me as a particularly long game! If you're consistently finding that to be the case, I suggest you try the strategy of just playing out lots of random routes really fast (instead of trying to build based on your destination cards) to end the game early, hopefully before other players can reach all the ambitious destinations in their hand. After that, the rest of your group may not be quite so keen on house rules to make the game even shorter :D

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+1, my games typically reached the "wow, I'm surprised the game hasn't ended yet" moment when someone gets down to 6 or 7 trains. As that's the cue to start making a last gasp for points, subtracting 6 or 7 from each player's starting pile is probably a good starting point. –  Kristo Jan 10 '11 at 3:39
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There's no way you could take any of the long routes and win. Shorter routes will win out every time, so the western US should be avoided at all costs. Luck of the ticket draw will have an even stronger effect on deciding the winner. –  Matthew Frederick Jan 10 '11 at 15:27
    
Why do I want to speed it up? So we have time to play more. I'd much rather have the option to play a gently sped up game of Ticket to Ride than not be able to finish or not play at all. We often have an imbalance in player skill as well, and the more chances to start over makes for less time spent in last if you've got a bad initial draw or end up losing one crucial route. Handicaps usually make the less experienced feel even worse about themselves unless. –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 10 '11 at 18:25
    
@Crazy: fair enough! As I say, simply cutting down on the number of trains everyone gets will have a commensurate effect on the length of the game: taking away 1/4 of everyone's trains should take away 1/4 of the duration. It's only a shame there aren't smaller maps available to play on too... –  thesunneversets Jan 10 '11 at 18:56

Play more games

You said yourself that you've only played once. It'll go faster once you get a few games under your belt and everyone gets over the initial analysis paralysis.

I'm hesitant to recommend any of those proposed changes. I've played maybe a half dozen games and my gut feeling is your suggested house rules would all have a negative impact in some way (and not actually make the game play faster).

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I agree, really. It's a really quick game once you're used to it and everyone is picking up two cards and passing the turn at lightning speed. In our group, if anyone ever picks up new destination cards, it's always their turn again by the time they've finished choosing! –  thesunneversets Jan 10 '11 at 3:32
    
Could you elaborate on the effect the rules will have on the game and why? That's what I'm really curious about. :D –  Gordon Gustafson Jan 10 '11 at 18:14
    
@Crazy, it's really just a gut feeling on my part. I'll defer to Matthew's answer for details. –  Kristo Jan 10 '11 at 20:38

Thanks for the great suggestions! I've messed around with the game a bit and found the best way is just to give people more cards at the beginning. In the normal game, players often spend their first few turns drawing cards anyway to avoid revealing their plans, so this helps get things get rolling quickly. With every 2 you give out, you're approximately removing a whole round that would've been used drawing cards.

We've been giving each player 20 cards to start with, maybe only 18 with 5 players. It does add a little more luck, but this is easy overcome with skillful play, and it's little different from the luck found in the draws of the normal game. If this bothers you, just give people only 10 or 12 instead, or maybe remove the locomotives before dealing. More cards makes you look at alternate routes that work with the colors you've been dealt and adds of lot of interesting decisions.

We also just total scores at the end of the game instead of continuously keeping track. I've found this rarely influences the game-play or players decisions, and its easy enough to do your own quick estimate of a players score if need be.

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Does this not destabilise the early game, because people will immediately grab their key routes, rather than waiting to conceal where they're going? –  deworde Jun 5 '12 at 7:04
    
@deworde What do you mean by destabilize? Players have to take their routes eventually, but they still have the option to conceal them if they wish. –  Gordon Gustafson Jun 5 '12 at 23:32
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But normally the risk of leaving your key routes untaken is balanced because people don't have a good chance of taking them first. Now if you leave any route untaken, with 20 cards, someone could easily take it from under you. –  deworde Jun 6 '12 at 5:29
    
In my experience taking routes in the first couple turns usually doesn't happen very often in the unmodified version because you want to gather some cards first; all this modification does is cut down on those first few rounds where most players take cards. The risk of leaving a route untaken in the first round of this version is the same as leaving it untaken when everyone now has ~14 cards on the 5th or 6th round of the normal version. The risk of having a route stolen hasn't really changed much with this house rule in my experience. –  Gordon Gustafson Jun 6 '12 at 16:46
    
Fair enough, answers my concern –  deworde Jun 6 '12 at 18:32

We've noticed that a lot of the problem is people focusing on the board when it's not their turn (which is good!) to the extent that they don't realize quickly when their turn starts (which is bad). Things sped up a lot when we simply had each player announce "Done!" as they completed their turn.

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