What’s up designers, and welcome back to Rempton Games. Today we will be taking a look at the best tips, tricks and strategies for one of the most popular gateway games around – Ticket To Ride. I’ve divided these tips into four main categories – Planning your Routes, Placing Trains, Controlling information, and alternative strategies. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Planning Your Routes

The first big decision players have to make at the beginning of each game is deciding which tickets to keep from the three you are dealt. To maximize the points you earn from these tickets you should start by looking for one of the long routes that go from coast-to-coast, such as LA to New York or Portland to Nashville. In addition to being worth a lot of points these tickets allow you to control a lot of territory on the board, allow you to easily connect smaller routes along the way, and give you a better chance of earning the “Longest Route” bonus card.

If you have one of these long tickets, you should also look for smaller tickets that might share some of the same routes along the way – this reduces the total number of routes that you need to capture. For example, if your main route is LA to New York, it might be pretty easy to pick up Denver to Pittsburgh along the way. If you don’t have one of these longer coast-to-coast tickets, you might be able to simulate one by combining a few shorter routes together, such as combining a ticket from Chicago to Santa Fe with another from Santa Fe to Vancouver.

The most important thing is not to look at each ticket individually, but to pay attention to how the routes work together. If your third ticket works well with the first two, then by all means keep it. If it happens to be in a totally different part of the board, doesn’t share any routes, or seems like too big of an investment, then get rid of it. 

Of course, these initial tickets aren’t the only ones you will be completing throughout the game. You probably don’t want to draw additional tickets too early in the game – you’ll want to wait a few turns, to get a better idea where the major choke-points are on the board, what areas might be more open than others, etc. You might be able to see that the New England area of the board is getting a bit crowded, for example, and look for routes in the Southwest instead.

You may also want to draw new tickets towards the end of the game, once you have completed your major routes. If you have already established good horizontal control over the board, it’s likely that at least one of the tickets you draw will already be close to completed, and can be finished relatively easily. And if you happen to draw a ticket that’s already completely done, well that’s just free points!

Placing Trains

Now that we have our tickets and know our general plan, it’s time to start placing trains! Well, maybe. Depending on which tickets you’ve picked up, it’s possible that there are in fact some routes that you need to build upon right away. The earliest routes you should build are those that are vital for your tickets and are easily blocked. One great example is Houston to New Orleans. This is only two trains long, and it’s a grey route, which means trains of any color can be played on it. This combination makes it incredibly easy for another player to take the route and block you. Because it’s on the coast, there are limited alternative ways around it – the shortest detour requires 3 routes and a total of 6 trains, and most of those are also easily blocked. Therefore, it is very important to grab this route early if you need it to complete a ticket (or if you want to block one of your opponents)!

Also keep in mind that the number of players at the table can determine which routes are the most valuable.Some cities have multiple tracks between them, but in a two-player game you are only allowed to use one of them – this can make routes like Seattle-Portland or Dallas-Houston much more important to control in a two-player game. On the other hand, more players means a more crowded board in general, so there might be more competition for the same routes. Some more potential choke-points that can be important to pick up early include LA to Vegas, Nashville to Atlanta, and Seattle to Vancouver.

Once those early, vital routes have been claimed, you actually should wait before placing down your routes. Taking a few turns to collect trains will let you place your routes more efficiently, and allow you to more easily collect longer routes. Picking up longer routes is key, because you get much more bang for your buck. A single long route typically covers the same distance as 2 or 3 shorter routes, which reduces the number of turns required to complete your tickets. In addition, the number of points you earn per train goes up as the routes get longer. If you use 6 trains to complete 3 two train routes, you will only earn a total of 6 points. On the other hand, if you complete a single six train route you would earn 15 points instead – that’s 2 and a half times as many points with the same number of trains.

Another benefit of waiting to collect a bunch of trains before placing your routes is that you can place multiple routes on consecutive turns. By placing routes back-to-back, even if your opponents figure out where you are trying to build they won’t have enough time to react or stop you. If you instead built routes one at a time, with turns in-between, your opponents have more opportunity to try to block where you are trying to go. 

The final tip for placing trains is to not build in a linear path. This makes it too easy for other players to see where you are going and block you, and makes you less flexible if you are forced to take a detour. You also don’t want to build in “morse code”, leaving obvious gaps in your route that are easily blocked. Probably the most flexible way to build is to start somewhere in the middle of your route and build out from there. This increases your ability to create a long, continuous route, and makes you harder to block because your opponents don’t know where your destinations are, or what route you plan to take next.

Controlling Information

You may have noticed that the last few tips for placing your trains had to do with keeping your opponents guessing and not giving away information. This is because Ticket To Ride is all about controlling information – as much as possible you want to figure out what your opponents are trying to do, without giving away what your own plans are.

When it comes to gathering information from your opponents, there are lots of things to pay attention to. Which trains are they pulling from the face-up pile? Are they focusing on specific areas of the board? Are they reacting negatively when other players build certain routes? All of these things can be potential clues for where they want to build next, and can allow you to more easily thwart their plans (or adjust your own). Just remember – if your opponent performing a particular action can give you a clue, those same actions can reveal information to your opponents if you do them. 

One simple way to hide your own intentions is by drawing trains from the deck, rather than from the face-up cards. If you draw a face-up card, that reveals additional information about which routes you might be trying to complete, and it’s less efficient because you can only pick up one wildcard at a time. Sure, you might not get the exact trains you need at any given time, but if you are waiting to gather a lot of trains and build multiple routes in a row this should even out.

Another option is to try and intentionally throw your opponents off the scent. Choose a city or route that you don’t actually need, and pretend that it’s your goal. Spend some time looking around that area of the board, and sigh if somebody else builds a vital route connected to that city. Don’t be super obvious about it, but tip your hand just enough that it’s noticeable by the other players if they are paying attention. Then, flip the script on them by building in a completely different part of the board.

Two more vital pieces of information to keep an eye on are each player’s scores, and how many trains they have left. You don’t want to be caught off guard when somebody else ends the game by playing their last train while you are still working on your long tickets, so you should always know how many trains each player has left to play, and how close they are to ending the game. Similarly, if you can tell you have a strong lead, you may want to try and end the game as quickly as possible by playing on longer routes that might not even be connected to any tickets. The other players might think you’ve still got a ways to go because you still have 18 trains left, but if you quickly capture 3 six train routes 3 turns in a row, you can end the game before anybody else really has a chance to react to it.

Alternative Strategies

So far in this video we have been discussing the “traditional” or “standard” way of playing Ticket to Ride, with an emphasis on earning points by completing tickets. However, there is another way to play – one which basically ignores tickets entirely. The basic strategy goes like this – when you draw your initial tickets you keep only the two shortest. You try to complete your short tickets as quickly as possible to avoid losing points, then focus all of your efforts on collecting long routes. Through this strategy you can rack up a ton of points and end the game very quickly. You probably won’t win the “Longest Route” card, but most of your opponents will probably end up losing points because they weren’t able to complete all of their tickets.

An even more extreme version of this strategy is to ignore your tickets entirely, and focus only on collecting long routes. Sure, you’ll lose points at the end of the game, but so will everybody else, and since you’ve otherwise maximized your points per train you should come out on top.

These strategies are most effective when everybody else at the table is following the traditional strategy and trying to complete tickets to earn points. If you are the only one going for a quick-kill while everyone else is going for long coast-to-coast tickets, this strategy is basically a guaranteed win, although its effectiveness does decrease if multiple players are competing for the long routes. You also might be accused of not following the spirit of the game, but a win’s a win, and if winning wasn’t important to you you probably wouldn’t have gotten this far in this video.

That’s all I have for this week. If you found this video helpful make sure to give it a like, and subscribe so you are notified when I upload more strategy guides in the future. If you have additional Ticket to Ride tips, or suggestions for which game I should tackle next, let me know in the comments below. And join me next time for a guide on homebrewing spells in D&D. Until then, thank you so much for watching and I’ll see you next time.

Posted by:Caleb Compton

I am the Head Designer of Rempton Games, and primary writer for the Rempton games blog. I am currently a graduate student in computer science at Kansas State University, and work on game designs every spare moment that I can.

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