Hey! A few of my friends have gotten into ticket to ride, and we've been trying to determine a few strategies - obviously there's the build long trains and ignore tickets, or just accumulate a lot of tickets. But what are some of your other favorite TTR strategies?
Finish your routes, prevent others from completing theirs
Ticket to Ride doesn't strike me as a strategy-heavy game. It's all about making good tactical decisions - completing your tickets in light of random card draws and other players' actions. Remember that unfinished tickets count for negative points at the end of the game. My basic gameplay goes like this:
Choose tickets I think I can finish. The big routes are much harder to complete in a 4- or 5-player game.
If possible, avoid telegraphing where my routes are going. Others can block you easily if they know you need a certain leg. That leads directly into...
Claim the critical legs first. If I need a one-train leg, get it as soon as I have the card.
If you can block, do it, but make it a good block. Spending your turn solely to block probably only scores you a few points. If that player then goes around your block, he scores more points and he still completes his route. Not worth it.
Once my routes are done, decide if a new route(s) is worth the risk. There's a chance you could pull all 20's, basically guaranteeing you won't win. With fewer trains remaining, I think the better play is to go for long links of opportunity. A six-train link is 15 points, even if it doesn't connect to anything else.
By your mention of "build long trains" I take it you're talking about the USA edition. (The Nordic Countries edition, for example, doesn't have a longest route bonus, but a "most routes" bonus instead.)
Ticket to Ride USA is a pretty simple game, but there is still a reasonable depth of strategy. One of my favourite tactics is: end the game early. Keep a careful eye on how many trains are left in your pool. Say you have 14 trains left: with the right cards you can play two 6-length routes, and that's the game ended. Hopefully your opponents don't see it coming, and have a mitt full of unfulfilled destination cards that will score them big negative points - not to mention all the trains in their pool they now don't have time to play!
So yeah, that's my number one strategy recommendation: keep an eye on how quickly you can bring about the end of the game. You certainly want to be in control of this if possible, rather than letting someone else dictate it!
You guys did a good job of pretty much everything, so I'll just add this:
Don't be afraid to draw destination cards early in the game. I almost always draw destinations in my first few turns. If you draw early you can plan routes that will let you easily access anywhere you need to get. Usually there's some redundant track between one of the new destinations and your current ones, and if you identify this early you can really slaughter by fulfilling lots of tickets that are super similar. Since you only have to keep one out of 3 you can usually get something useful.
When you already have a long route trough the center of the board, and you are waiting on cards of a certain color to finish a short route, it's often better to (temporary) give up on it and draw new routes. You waste a lot of turns drawing blind train cards, and can have quick wins on easily connected new routes.
In the Europe version, building a station "costs" you 4 points. This is usually worthwhile, since the cheapest route earns you 5 points.
It's better to pick the face-up locomotives, instead of lucky-drawing 2 face down cards when you are waiting for a color. The chance of drawing the color you need is lower then you might think, and you waste a lot of turns, which is fatal.
When playing 1 on 1, save up cards in your hand longer and build your track almost at once. Less chance of being blocked, and the other player is usually playing on another part of the map.
When picking routes at the start of the game, plan your routes trough the center of the map instead over the sides of the map. Further on in the game you have a higher chance of connecting new routes to your main line.
Follow the eyes of your opponent, and throw your opponent off by looking at a spot on the map that you have absolutely no interest in.
Keep some locomotives in your back pocket ;) ;)
There is a really interesting tactic that can be used on the last turn of the game. If you know you are losing and need a decent amount of points to catch up and you cannot build a track to give you those points you then draw 3 tickets.
The idea is by grabbing tickets hopefully you pull one that you have already completed. If so, you now gain a significant amount of points putting you closer or ahead of you opponent. If you don't get a card that you've already completed discard the two largest point amounts and take your loss in style. It doesn't matter much though because the only time you should ever do this is if you have fewer points and can catch up by no other means.
Concentrate your routes on the Main Cities
There are certain cities that appear in a lot of routes, so making sure you get at least two and preferable three of these will help you when you pull more objective cards, since you'll be able to match more routes, and there are a lot of routes to these cities that give big points. Even if you don't ever need to, you should plan your strategy ahead (based on the first cards you pull) to get three of the big four.
There is a very analytical article on rating the most valuable cities, here. Its focus is on the number of points associated with a given city, and the number of paths into that city (points/paths). It is good analysis, though I think there are more factors such as critical routes, blockability, helpful for longest train, etc.
Their breakdown for the 4-5 player Mega Game (USA) is as follows:
- Miami (30.67)
- Las Vegas (25.00)
- Los Angeles (21.67)
- Vancouver (19.67)
- New York (13.86)
I have always used these as my cities of preference:
- New York
- Los Angeles
Note: I will be doing more research on the numbers and will update this.