When I hear Ticket to Ride, I can’t help but start humming the old Beatles song. “She’s got a Ticket to Ri-ide”. Now that that is sufficiently stuck in your head, we are ready to figure out the strategy for the game.
Ticket to Ride is an excellent game. It is fun to play even if you don’t win. It feels like you are accomplishing things as you go along, and the game play is fast enough that you aren’t waiting for ‘that guy’ to finish his turn. There are a few different strategies that work, but there are few things that have to happen if you are going to win. Here is the strategy.
- Start with one long cross country route
- Plan your routes to take advantage of 6 train placements and path redundancies
- Usually take cards that you need instead of taking a wild.
- Watch carefully and keep track of what others are drawing
- Play trains when there aren’t any cards you need
- Focus on paths that are critical for your route
- After completing routes, draw additional routes routes that will connect to your system of trains
- Always be aware of remaining trains
- End the game happy
Starting the game-Longer is better
In the original USA version of the game, you can’t really win without having a long >19 point route. Not only do you miss out on the high points from the route, but you also miss out on the 6 point paths when you don’t go cross country.
The game isn’t really about completing a bunch of different routes. It is about creating a network of connected routes that utilize the same paths. This is how you rack up the points and still have enough trains to finish all your routes
Six train paths
The Six train paths are worth 15 points! These are way better than most of the smaller routes. So if you can choose the path, go for the six trains.
If something comes up that you need, even if it isn’t in your top of mind path; pick it up. It is almost always better to take two cards than to take a wild card. Also, you don’t need to play trains unless there is danger of losing a path. (Only take a wild if you have to play trains next turn or risk losing position.)
People are often single minded. Therefore, you can see from their eagerness and by what they draw, how much they need a color. If you are going for a six red route, and someone else keeps taking all the reds, be careful. You either need to move quickly and steal the route first, or you need to figure out a different way around that path quickly.
My two year old often comes up to me and says “Play Trains?” The answer is yes.
When there isn’t anything that you want to draw visible, it is a great time to play trains. It doesn’t waste a turn drawing cards you don’t want, and can set you up for success. When you play, choose paths that are critical first. A critical path is one that you must have to get into your city. Crowded cities are LA, New York and sometimes Seattle. Get good placement into these cities early on.
Drawing new routes
Don’t be afraid to draw new routes. When you do, take advantage of what you have already created on the field by only keeping routes that don’t take much effort to capture. This isn’t foolproof because sometimes you have to keep something you don’t want. Don’t despair. Act like you are doing well, and it will force other people to draw more routes to compete, even if they aren’t ready to do so.
Side note: don’t draw routes just because other people are doing so. You are playing your own game.
One of the worst things that I see people do is taking routes that look easy, but then they run out of trains, or someone, (me!!) ends the game before they get to complete them. Keep an eye on the trains. If someone else is almost done, it may not be worth it to draw new routes.
If you planned your routes carefully, you should be almost out of trains when they are all completed. This gives you the power to end the game. If you can, end it quickly. This blindsides everyone, and can give you just the advantage you need.
Don’t play mean. If you are playing with more than 2 people, playing on a path that you don’t need may hurt someone, but will actually hurt you as well. You are going to need all your trains for your routes. In a two player game, you can actually play aggressively and end up winning, albeit with low points, but you may not get another game with your opponent.
Comment below if you have any additional strategies that have worked well for you.