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I'm struggling to find a good handicap for Ticket To Ride.

When I'm playing with newer, or less strategic players, I'm beating them by 50 points or so.

I don't like a simple points handicap, as that can seem patronizing. Instead, I prefer to have a personal handicap, that I don't tell the others about.

I've tried a 'Keep all three tickets to start, and then for first turn immediately draw another three' system, but that often backfires if I get a good bonanza get a massive score achieving them all.

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    I dislike anything like this done in secret. New players will often watch the skilled player, and emulate these handicaps interpreting them as strategy – Andrey Jan 22 '16 at 0:31
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Some actions you can take, in increasing order of difficulty it will impose:

  • Don't aim for the Longest Route.

  • Don't draw from the visible options. This will reduce the 'skill' you can exercise, making your plays more dependent on luck.

  • Don't use wild Cards to fill out a color set. Makes it harder to get the longer routes. Knowing that they may gather in your hand, you can still use them as a full set to claim a route.

  • Don't use wild cards at all.

  • Increase the number of trains you have to collect to claim the smaller routes. Instead of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, use 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 6. This will drastically slow your ability to claim routes. Don't actually play the extra card, just collect them.

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    These are great suggestions, thanks. – dwjohnston Jan 10 '16 at 1:09
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    For much of the game, I find I draw from the deck instead of the piles anyway. At the beginning, I can use almost any color, and I may draw a free locomotive. Of course, combining this with not being able to use wild cards definitely makes you a lot more luck-dependent. – Nuclear Wang Jan 12 '16 at 15:59
  • When I play an unranked game on Steam, I draw all my cards blindly. – Anton Sherwood Jan 8 '17 at 21:55
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Simply play a game with a fully open hand. All of your car cards, tickets are played face up. Pre anounce & explain your every move & intention openly to the novice player. This will not only serve as a handicap but will accelerate the rate at wich your novice players become seasoned players. This applies to all games you will teach to novices as I have done thousands of times to all ages & level of interest.

  • That's an interesting, but scary approach. I might give it a go sometime :) – dwjohnston Jan 13 '16 at 0:16
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In addition to the suggestions from Drunk Cynic I would suggest:

  1. Allowing a 50 point weaker player to draw 1 extra long route and 2 extra short routes at the start and allow them to keep up to 2 extra route cards. You can reduce this handicap as their play improves.

  2. Give them 2 or 3 or more free moves at the start of the game (again this handicap may be reduced as their play improves)

  3. Eliminate the tunnel penalty phase for them

  4. Let them pick 1 or 2 extra train cards at each draw (perhaps for the first 25 draws or some other limit that can be adjusted as their play improves)

  5. Let them use 1 to 4 free stations

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    While these are decent suggestions, @dwjohnston specifically asked for personal handicaps that he won't tell the other players about. – John Jan 11 '16 at 20:24
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    Also- this is for ticket to ride: USA - which doesn't have long routes or tunnels. – dwjohnston Jan 11 '16 at 21:38
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If you're looking for a subtle personal handicap that will enforce a minor disadvantage while still allowing you to play "intelligently," I've had luck with enforcing my own rules regarding the use of route cards. Any or all of the following have proven effective:

  • Do not draw route cards unless all previous routes are complete.
  • Do not keep more than two (at setup) or one (during subsequent draws) route cards from your drawn hand
  • Never take a "long route" (or only take route cards below a certain point value)
  • Don't build connections that will not be a part of your routes
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Another suggestion to the above is that you can take the routes that give you the least number of points.

For example, if you get the Los Angeles to New York card, take the following route.

LA to Phoenix Phoenix to El Paso El Paso to Santa Fe Santa Fe to Denver Denver to Omaha Omaha to Kansas City Kansas City to St Louis St Louis to Chicago Chicago to Pittsburgh Pittsburgh to New York

Instead of taking 6 turns to complete that route, it will take you 10 turns, giving your opponent 4 extra turns to make their own moves. In addition to that, each segment will give you fewer points, making your overall score lower.

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