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This had never even crossed my mind as an issue before, but someone brought it up in a comment on another TTR-related question, and having checked the USA rulebook I'm no longer 100% sure:

When calculating who gets the "Longest Route" bonus card, do you go by number of train cars in the route, or number of links/cities in the route?

I suspect the official answer will be well-known to anyone who plays a lot of Ticket To Ride online, but for those of us who don't... what's the correct interpretation?

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The owner of the longest continuous number of train cars is the one who gets the Longest Path card. (It works just like Longest Road in Settlers of Catan.)

Here is an image provided by Matthew Frederick from his original edition of the game:

Longest Path card showing that it's calculated based on the number of train cars - black route consists of 11 cars, while blue route consists of 8, so black has the longest path

He also notes that the online versions provided by Days of Wonder work this way as well.

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    That's what I always assumed, I'd hate to have been playing the game wrong for all these years! The other way would create an interesting tension with the natural impulse to build longer routes (because they're worth more points in and off themselves) though. Jan 11 '11 at 18:14
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    It's definitely, absolutely, positively the number of train cars. The Longest Path card itself -- at least in the original edition that I own -- shows an example, noting that Black has 11 and Blue has 8, with the picture showing 11 and 8 train cars. It's also how the Days Of Wonder owned-and-operated online version works. Jan 13 '11 at 1:34
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    @TheChaz - it may be worth another question to more strictly define this. My interpretation would be that you could form a loop (and thus intersect), but the termination of the loop would be the endpoint of the whole chain.
    – Pat Ludwig
    Mar 8 '12 at 15:02
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    @TheChaz The path can indeed self-intersect; you simply cannot use any train car twice. Loops are fine, and the route need not terminate at the end of such a loop as long as, again, you do not count any train car twice. No interpretation is required as long as you follow that rule. FWIW this is both how the rule was explained to me by the game's designer, Alan Moon, and how it's scored in the official computerized versions, both on the publisher's website and on the iPad and iPhone apps. Mar 8 '12 at 21:25
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    @TheChaz For those of a more Wikipedian mindset who'd like a third-party reference, here's one of the publishers, Eric Hautemont, answering the question on BoardGameGeek: boardgamegeek.com/thread/19560/longest-path-questionj Mar 8 '12 at 21:54

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