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In a recent question we securely established that the "Longest Route" bonus in Ticket to Ride is earned by the largest number of train cars used to make the route, not the largest number of stops.

This confused at least one smart user here, who had assumed the opposite to be true. After all, any fool can build a direct train from New York to Los Angeles, but surely a train that makes a few stops along the way to accumulate passengers would be a much more valuable commodity!

I personally feel as if there could be a strong argument for switching the way that Longest Route works. After all, you already get lots of points for building the efficient 5- and 6-length routes that are the bread and butter of winning the Longest Route bonus. Wouldn't there be a more interesting tension in the game if building lots of inefficient, low-scoring routes was what lined you up for the bonus?

I'm going to take this opportunity to suggest another variant, that I brainstormed up a little while ago: Contracts. Under this variant, any player could spend a move to sign a contract on a route: this is represented by taking one of their trains and placing it over the route, at right-angles to normal train placement. This train can be later used to build the route in question, but cannot otherwise be picked up from the board. At the end of the game, any uncompleted contracts score negative points equal to the positive points normally gained for completion of a route of that length. "Contract" trains do not count as being in the player's supply, for the purposes of determining if the game is about to end.

What implications would adopting these variants have on Ticket to Ride strategy and gameplay? Are they terrible ideas?

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I wouldn't say they're terrible ideas. I REALLY like the first one as it would add another layer of depth to the game. The second I personally would leave out, just because racing to get the train cards you need is part of the fun. Being able to cut other players off too easily could change things. The penalty would need to be pretty hefty, because you could easily rob somebody of 20 points as they try to complete a long route.

There's usually a few routes that end up critical to certain people in the game, and I could see a mechanic of "find out what destinations you opponents are trying to get to and do everything you can to stop them," which could make it a competition to see who has the highest negative score since nobody could complete their destinations. When you have to claim routes normally, you are loosing the privilege and resources to do something that would benefit you, and you need to have the right cards at the right time. Unless you happen to have a lot of cards or have been gathering cards of the same color by chance, you can't block. With contracts you'd be able to stop anyone at any time during your turn at the expense of just a few points if you didn't follow through later.

In the original Ticket to Ride there's a powerful connection of short routes down the center of the country that link almost everything together. You could easily contract as many of these as possible in the beginning, work on your own destinations, then 'complete' your contracts at the end of the game since they're all short colorless routes.


I've found hardcore players have shot down almost many variations I've seen posted, such as drawing 3 cards per turn, having the option to build AND draw in a turn, having 7 cards face up the whole game, etc. See a list of those here. The game is very carefully balanced in the sense of East vs. West, long vs. short routes, and attack vs. defense. This doesn't mean variants are bad, and if you have any revisions or others I'd love to see them. It just means that there is a delicate balance you have to be careful not to destroy if you want the game to retain its original feel.

I haven't found many actual variants to the gameplay, but if you are able to print them and the additional cards there's a TON of fan created maps that give the game a new feel.

and there's always the catapult expansion...

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The catapult expansion raised a smile. I wonder if the Catapult expansion for Carcassonne would do the job? There's got to be room for a mashup of those two games - Ticket to Carcassonne? - in the world... –  thesunneversets Jan 16 '11 at 19:33

I personally feel as if there could be a strong argument for switching the way that Longest Route works. After all, you already get lots of points for building the efficient 5- and 6-length routes that are the bread and butter of winning the Longest Route bonus. Wouldn't there be a more interesting tension in the game if building lots of inefficient, low-scoring routes was what lined you up for the bonus?

This is precisely why all of the TtR versions after the first don't use the Longest Route mechanism, and at least two use exactly the method you describe.

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Ooh yeah, good point, I do own "Nordic Countries" so I did know about the "Most Routes" bonus. Which I guess isn't that different from "Most Routes Joined Together In A Line", when it comes down to it, and a lot less fiddly! –  thesunneversets Feb 9 '11 at 18:18

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