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It has in the first 15 (mostly 2-3 player) games I've played so far but I'm wondering if this is true in general. Are we missing strategies? Is this less true in 4-5 player games?

Another way of asking the question is whether certain game winning ways (which are perhaps the majority of game winning strategies/tactics) tend to produce longest continuous path (and using up all of your cars) as a by-product. These ways include:

  • having many 4-6 car routes (requires fewer turns to deploy cars and earns more points)
  • achieving long path mid game (increases chance for new tickets to mostly overlap)
  • avoiding a hub-and-spoke network (which traverses less territory)
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2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Yes, obtaining longest continuous path of routes certainly does highly correlate with winning. It's pretty simple to see why:

  • Multiple routes that "cooperate" by overlapping are obviously more efficient than short routes in different parts of the board that have nothing to do with each other.
  • Longer routes are vastly more cost-effective than short routes. A 6-length route takes you one turn to put down and earns 15 points. 6 1-length routes would take you 6 turns to put down and earn a measly 6 points.
  • As if the inherent advantage of playing long, complementary routes wasn't obvious enough, you even get an additional endgame bonus for having the longest continuous path!

As I suggested in my comment though, you don't have to roll over and let other players build long, efficient routes at their leisure. In my group, sabotage tactics are very common, and if someone obviously has designs on a long, efficient chain of routes, then building obstructively, or just picking up the colours they have telegraphed they will be needing to collect, can really ruin their day.

I also mentioned what is possibly the strongest deterrent to building long, leisurely routes: the capacity for a player to speed up the end of the game by going out quickly. The lucrative Los-Angeles-to-New-York mega-route in your hand becomes a huge liability if your opponents block a few key connections in the midwest and then play to run themselves out of trains as quickly as possible.

As such, it's not always good to have a hand of long, valuable, complementary routes at the start of the game: a couple of seemingly unambitious short routes may be enough to win the game, if you play to go out as fast as possible and are the only one to have completed all the routes in your hand. Lumbering your opponents with big negative points can be just as good as working hard to score those points yourself: all's fair in love and trains...

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I'm inclined to disagree. I'm Yet to decide whether it's worth the effort to calculate this. I'd need a sample of about 200 games assuming we're working out the correlation based on two variables. But then I'm tempted to include other variables such as number of players and number of tickets, perhaps tickets completed. Then there is the question of the board. I don't know if I could stomach 200 games of the US board. Stay tuned. I would need about 9 months to a year. –  Mohamad Dec 6 '12 at 10:22
    
@Mohamad Quality of players would also make a difference. A players with a strong grasp of the mechanics of the game may not need the bonus (though they'll take it if it doesn't hurt them to do so). Weaker players may go for longest route when it's actually against their interests to do so. I maintain that, as longest route is basically an additional reward for doing all the things you want to do anyway in Ticket to Ride USA, I'd be amazed if there wasn't some significant correlation between getting it and doing well. –  thesunneversets Dec 6 '12 at 11:26
    
What you say makes sense, but my gut instinct tells me the correlation is not as high as we think. This strategy may be self-propagating; in that, most players choose their routes to win the longest route, whereas there exists other, more efficient routes to reach destinations. I started to think about this yesterday. This week I managed to win 8 games with having the longest route only once (different opponents, on the iPad). I usually calculate the shortest number of required steps and follow that pattern, making changes as they become necessary. I'm tempted to make this a side project. –  Mohamad Dec 6 '12 at 11:53
    
@Mohamad You could be right. It rather depends on the definition of "highly correlate" I expect! It would certainly be fascinating to discover if Longest Route is in fact a red herring, and usually prioritising completing shorter routes is a surer route to victory. My intuition is just that the best possible path to cashing in multiple shorter routes is to have a big central backbone that takes you efficiently to lots of places... i.e. a longest route. –  thesunneversets Dec 6 '12 at 12:24

As the accepted answer explains in detail, "Yes" for the basic set. However, with the 1910 expansion using the "Mega" variant, the ticket mix and incentives change so much that the answer is not so obvious.

The biggest change is the 15 point bonus card for completing the largest number of tickets. Many of the additional tickets are short and overlapping East Coast routes. And the initial ticket draw is keeping at least 3 of 5, with subsequent draws keeping at least 1 of 4. So drawing tickets is a much better bet.

In the dozen or so games I've played since acquiring 1910, no one strategy has emerged as dominant, though we've seen some very impressive victories by obtaining and completing over a dozen tickets on the East Coast.

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