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I've played fewer than a dozen games but have noticed that I can now guess with about 75% accuracy whether I'll win or not just based on my initial 3 tickets drawn. If I have a long transcontinental route and a shorter one which partially overlaps it, I'll probably win (discard the 3rd card). Same if I have two medium routes that together make a long transcontinental route. On the other hand, if I have 3 very short routes, I'll probably lose. It's even worse if the 3 short routes don't come close to overlapping or stringing together.

What strategy can be used to overcome initial bad tickets? Any rule alteration suggestions for reducing this effect?

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6  
If you are interested in a semi-official house-rule you might import the change from the 1910 expansion. Draw 5/keep 3. When pulling a new Destination ticket, draw 4/keep 1. –  Pat Ludwig Jan 5 '12 at 15:45

5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

I have won games with a bad initial draw by simply forgoing tickets. This really works best when you have two tickets that are only worth 4 - 5 points.

  1. Keep the lowest value tickets, return the highest.
  2. Ignore the tickets completely
  3. Immediately aim for as many five and six train routes as possible.
  4. If you can hit the stretch of three six train routes across the top of the US or a the bottom, that might lead to the longest route bonus.
  5. Be willing to 'waste' a turn, perhaps two, per player breaking/blocking them using one, two if you must, train routes. Watch the San Francisco, Portland and Seattle section for easy opportunities to block; Houston works well as well here.
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Welcome to B&CG! –  Pat Ludwig Oct 3 '12 at 5:30
    
+1 for the reminder to block and frustrate your opponents once you see where they are going! –  gomad Oct 3 '12 at 18:20

In that situation, I would recommend getting rid of one of the three, and then drawing additional tickets immediately. These additional tickets will either give you your corresponding transcontinental route to put you in the situation you like, or give you a bunch more short routes, some of which likely correspond with the ones you already have. If none of them work, keep one, and then draw additional tickets again.

You want to do this early, because it is possible that you will end up needing to not go for one of your short routes at all. While it hurts to lose points from a ticket, it can be offset if you complete enough other ones, and it is better than just completing some disconnected short routes and then relying on a lucky ticket draw at the end of the game.

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I'm assuming American version. I have had this happen to me multiple times and by following this strategy I can usually win or come close. The worst it ever got was once I ended up with 8 Tickets none of which crossed the continent and I fulfilled 6 and managed to block enough people to pickup the win. It's doable just not easy. –  MaskedPlant Jan 5 '12 at 16:56
    
Drawing additional tickets early is a good suggestion, but I wouldn't recommend drawing them immediately. I'd suggest drawing a bunch of train cards before drawing more tickets. That way you know what colors you're strong in when deciding what routes to take. You could argue the reverse, i.e. get the routes first so you know what color cards to take, but I find that doesn't work as well. First, you may not get the colors you need. Second, you're going to tip off your opponents, because they'll see what you're taking. –  Todd Jan 6 '12 at 3:08

I've seen games won with as few as two total tickets, even if they're small and not near each other. In those cases, the strategy generally was to make one long transcontinental route (often through Canada or along the Gulf Coast, picking up many 6-train connections) that covers both tickets, getting many points from the connections and the longest continuous route bonus. This hinges on being able to do this quickly and somewhat clandestinely, but if you're able to visualize the ideal place for each of your trains at the beginning (with a contingency plan or two in case you get blocked) and draw your cards for the long term (i.e., taking colors you don't need right away if you'll need them for one of the routes you want later), this can be done.

If you and the people you're playing with don't object to blocking for the sake of blocking, some tactical play when you're low on trains can also go a long way to helping you by hurting your opponents.

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As for a strategy to overcome this, it seems like that you're using only one strategy which is based on completing a long route, with overlapping tickets, as the main method to gain points.

Something you may be missing is that if your tickets are only short routes, you can finish them easily and them spend the rest of the time doing two things:

  1. Claiming 6 train routes
  2. Preventing your opponents from completing tickets.

Something to try next time might be then to start on your hardest route, but watch for a clear destination from an opponent. Then spend some time blocking him. There are a few key routes that are not only worth points, but also are hard to go around. You will need to pay attention to which colors your opponents are collection as well as where they're building their trains, so it is a more difficult strategy to pull-off, but it can work well. I've seen several games where the only people to complete routes were people with small ones, and therefore the small routes tickets won.

Since you also asked for an alternate house-rule, one that adds fun is to draft the starting cards. Everyone draws three, picks one, passes the rest left, then people pick one of the remaining two and discards (face-down) the last one. You get to select from more cards (2 of 5) but you also get an inkling of what your opponent(s) may have.

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Very interesting idea passing discards - reminds me of the card game Hearts, where passing is by far the most interesting aspect of the game. –  Joe Golton Jan 5 '12 at 19:16
    
There's also "keep two very low scoring routes and ignore them, instead focussing on stopping your opponents" which is sometimes effective. In games where I've won doing this, I generally only draw face down cards. Then, watch the cards your opponents pick up to predict what their route might be. I've only done this in 2/3 player games where it's easier to block entry in to major cites like New York. –  Timothy Jones Oct 3 '12 at 7:52

There is a perfect route that takes up almost all the twelve point and up tickets. the only catch is you have to be willing to forgo going to Miami. The route is as so- CAL-VAN-SEA-PORT-SANFRAN-LA-PHO-SANTA-DEN-KC-STL-CHI-PIT-NY-MON with a divert to NAS-ATL. This route takes about 38 trains, give or take, and almost guarantees a completed route if you draw at games end.

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