Ticket to Ride

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.

  1. Start with one long cross country route
  2. Plan your routes to take advantage of 6 train placements and path redundancies
  3. Usually take cards that you need instead of taking a wild.
  4. Watch carefully and keep track of what others are drawing
  5. Play trains when there aren’t any cards you need
  6. Focus on paths that are critical for your route
  7. After completing routes, draw additional routes routes that will connect to your system of trains
  8. Always be aware of remaining trains
  9. 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.

Drawing cards

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.)

Watch people

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.

Play trains

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.

End 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.


Additional thoughts

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.



4 thoughts on “Ticket to Ride

  1. Just played Ticket to Ride for the first time after a long hiatus, and after a rough initial draw of two central routes and a single coastal route I thought I’d try something new. I doubled down on the North/South central routes and just kept drawing destination routes keeping as many through that nasty onesie twosie corridor as I could find. I think I drew destination cards for the first three turns, and surprisingly enough not once did I get a draw without anything through that region. I ended up completing 8 routes, and got a little greedy and took a final route at the end which didn’t end well, but only because another player cut the game short fully intending stick it to me.

    My strategy was to keep to the outskirts touching the local desintations together, then draw additional destinations to see if it was more beneficial to head to the middle or stay on the outskirts depending on what cities popped up on the draw. Towards the end, none of my routes were actually connected in the North to South direction, but I wasn’t more then a two piece grey route away from that connection for the bulk of the game, again with the idea of leaving my options open for additional destinations.

    It was a three person round, and I ended with a respectable but not overwhelming score of approximately 120. It was fun to try something new and it kept it interesting until the end.

    I like the blog so keep it up. Also, I’m not sure if this comment made any sense, I’ve never written about gaming strategy before, so sorry if it’s jibberish.


    • Thanks for the alternate strategy. I like the idea of trying something new, even if you aren’t sure how it is going to turn out.

      I am a big fan of drawing extra routes at the beginning to try to create a nice flowing system instead of random routes at the end.


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