When we talk about entry level games, there are a few that come up regularly. Four in particular, games commonly referred to by most gamers as The Big Four, tend to adorn our shelves with monotonous regularity. Most gamers own at least one, some all four, but they tend to be the games to get most people hooked – Catan, Carcassonne, Agricola, and Ticket to Ride. Those are four games that hold a warm place in our hearts, and ones that still make it out on a regular basis.
Out of the above four, the games we play most often are Catan (as I have written about quite a lot on this blog – here, here, and here) and Ticket to Ride. The latter is what we are going to be talking about today as we explore a few notions of Ticket to Ride strategy, as well as tips and tricks for beating even the best of players. For this I have asked around and observed a few gamers who play Ticket to Ride in order to create the best possible list of strategic tips I can physically do. With that in mind, let’s talk Ticket to Ride strategy.
Ticket To Ride Strategy Tips
Stockpile resources near the start of the game –
The first few times we played ticket to ride as a group of five, four of us rushed out to start playing journeys and one player just kept stockpiling resources. Turn after turn he would just collect, unphased by what we were doing. Soon he has control of the board and half the engines in his hand. He was the king of that game, and we were just peasants running around, looking busy.
If there is one piece of advice for a Ticket to Ride strategy that you take away from this article please make sure it is this – stockpiling resources is a good way of getting ahead in the game. The more cards you have, the more cards you control, the more likely it is that you can (a) play whatever routes you like and (b) control the majority of the engines in the game. It creates your own private goldmine of points, allowing for you to take six and eight point journeys with ease. Since there is no hand limit, and if you are that kind of Ticket to Ride player, it is also a way to remove a colour from the game, making it much harder for everyone else to complete their tickets. Tricksy, but still good.
Sometimes indirect journeys (for longer routes) can be better –
Upon getting the big ticket (the one worth the most points), it can be tempting to rush to complete it. Thus, it can seem logical to run out and try to complete the ticket through the most direct means, no matter how many two or three train length journeys it takes to complete.
Sometimes, however, it is worth taking a bit of a detour. If you find that it is possible to throw a six or eight carriage journey into the mix, just by going out of your way a little bit, then it is more than worth doing. Six and eight carriage journeys are worth so many points that they are completely worth going for if possible. Not to mention, the majority aren’t colour specific, meaning it is possible to spend those colours you are stockpiling (see previous point) to your advantage.
Try to avoid hubs –
Although not always physically possible, it is an idea to try and avoid hubs wherever you can. Hubs are places a lot of people want to go through (in the original game, Paris is a hub), as in a game where there are a lot of players they can get incredibly crowded. Eventually, someone has to use a station and, if they were going for longest track/journey, this can be enough to knock someone out of the race.
Instead, it is an idea to keep a back up plan in mind. Always have a way around to where you want to go. Either that, of try and take over a hub first. If you need Paris, for instance, then place your Parisian train first before any other players get to. Otherwise you end up with something that looks a little bit like this:
Think of stations as negative points –
At the end of the game, stations are worth points to whoever has them left and so can be thought of as additional points at the end of the game; however, since the majority of players don’t use their stations then it can be beneficial to shift your thinking about them. Rather than think of stations as positive points at the end of the game, think of them as negative points when you use them.
Having all of your stations left standing at the end of the game gives a certain number of points (twelve – four each), and so if the majority of other players don’t tend to use their stations then you are deducting points from yourself every time you want to use them. Pace your station usage on the other players, and don’t have a disappointing end game.
Go for more than one small ticket and try to incorporate them into your longest ticket –
This is one of the hardest things to do, however, it is always a good idea to try and incorporate your shorter tickets (the ones you choose at the start of the game) into your longest ticket. For instance, if your longest route goes left to right, roughly in the middle of the board, then try to pick tickets that are along that route (or can be incorporated with some ease).
This, when you think about it, makes complete sense. Having to go from Edinburgh to Madrid, when you primary ticket is from Paris to Smolensk, is poor train management. If your trains can all line up in a single route, then you can go for longest route as well, and that is two birds with one stone.
Also, tickets are worth so many points that it is worth trying to go for as many as possible straight out of the gate. Don’t pick ones that make you go too far out of your way, but two of the three you get given to choose from is a good number. Three, if they all line up, is even better. You get the idea.
Don’t pick up tickets if the game is about to end –
Unless you are really into gambling, picking up tickets on the last, or last-but-one, turn is a really dumb strategy unless you want to go out with a bang. Yes, it is possible that you will get a route you have already completed, but unless you have still a load of stockpiled engines then it is simply not a risk worth taking. Remember, if you don’t complete a ticket then you get that many negative points at the end of the game, so gambling is not always a good idea.
With strategies, especially with these core games, there are so many options that everyone has their own rules they like to work to. Each gaming group has its own dynamic, and that means each group has a their own strategies that work or don’t work. If you have Ticket to Ride strategy tips, please let me know them in the comments below. I would love to hear what you do.