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Subject: Ticket to Ride (online) – Think Again! rss

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Scott Morefield
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Tennessee
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From many of the reviews I have read, Ticket to Ride, at least in this country, is seen as a ‘starter game’, light fare that, while enjoyable, is merely a gateway to deeper things. Their complaint is often that it seems like each player is doing their own thing, that players are little more than 'ships passing in the night'. This seems to be a general consensus among many reviewers and gamers, especially Americans. Perhaps this can be true of the multi-player version among inexperienced players, although I don't play multi-player enough to give a proper analysis. What I do play, and enjoy as much or more than any other game, is the 2 player version online, and this is the version I want to write about here.

If you like intense, unadulterated, no holds barred, mano-o-mano railroad combat arrrh where you win or lose based on your wits alone (and sometimes a little luck) you will LOVE the 2-player online version of Ticket to Ride – USA. What makes the online version so great is that it allows you to play the best players from all over the world, and each game only takes a few minutes to play since the computer shuffles the cards and lays track for you!

There are many strategies and decisions that come into play every game, and no game is ever the same. When top players meet, each game becomes almost like a chess match, with each player desperately vying for crucial positions in order to build the best route incorporating his/her tickets while at the same time thwarting or at least disrupting the other player as much as possible.

There are many commonly held perceptions about TTR that are just plain wrong:

Think just because you are lucky and draw van-mont and sea-ny, the classic 'perfect' ticket combination, that you are going to win? Think again. If you play me and I'm on my game I'll block you to the negatives by the time the match is over devil , unless you disguise your routes really well, have perfect timing, and yes, perhaps a little luck with the right colors and a few wilds (my lack of those things vs your preponderance of). And if you make your route and win, kudos to you, you beat me fair and square.

Think big tickets are the key? Think again, unless you enjoy losing with a score of less than 50. When playing top players I pass up big tickets all the time in favor of smaller ones close to each other that allow me more flexibility in my route. Against a medium level player, however, big tickets are often easy to make and win with although even then you have to be careful. Like any game, a lot of strategy depends on the level of your competition.

There is some advantage to having all West coast tickets over East coast, and also to having tickets of at least a moderate value in close proximity to each other, but even without these factors it's very possible to win against a good opponent if you lay right, pay attention to your opponent, and get longest route.

Think the person with the most completed tickets will win? Think again. Most of the time it only takes 2 tickets, the initial 2, and a great route to win the day. Often games between top players come down to who can get longest route, and sometimes it takes 45 trains, yes ALL of your trains, in the same route to win. I've lost games because I didn’t plan well enough and had a 44 route vs my opponent’s 45! cry

Planning, planning, planning, way, way ahead is crucial. And then you have to have not only a plan A, but a plan B and a plan C as well, because you are NOT just '2 ships passing in the night.' There is an opponent on the other end often as cut-throat (good-naturedly of course) as you who would like nothing more than to pin a -28 score on you for that game, then brag about it in the lobby.

Think going for the highest possible score will result in a high win percentage? Think again. Most of the average scores for top players are between 110 and 120. Most high ranked players laugh at their ‘newb’ days when they tried to score 180-200 in a game.

Think the best ranked players get there by playing multi-player? Think again. Only about 10% of the top 100 players (and usually none in the top 20) play multi-player ranked games regularly. There is more luck and unintended consequences in the multi-player variant to be able to play that regularly and be ranked high.

Think you can play Europe and win consistently? Think again. To my knowledge very few if any of the top 100 players play Europe regularly. There is simply too much luck involved with the Europe map and rules, although Europe is a GREAT multi-player game to play 'just for fun' with a group.

The subject of luck has come up several times here. Yes, there is some luck to this game, but not nearly as much as one would initially think. A commonly held view among top players who know the game well is that the game is about 10% luck. This is probably true. If luck were a bigger factor, the rankings would be more volatile. Month after month, the same players are at or near the top, and the rankings have remained relatively stable over time.

TTR has an awesome online 'community', with over 6000 'registered' players playing reguarly or at least semi-regularly, and several thousand more 'guests'. There is always somebody to play, and an average game takes less than 10 minutes!! There is also an active ‘competitive’ forum, where tactics, strategy, and tournaments are discussed, as well as various and sundry tidbits and trash-talk to make things interesting. surprise

http://www.ticket2ridegame.com

If you have bought a DoW game, the corresponding webcard gives you free online access for 6 months. Instead of being a 'guest', you can see your score and are ranked based on your performance in your games. You can also view your (and anyone else's) games played history. Before you can play as a player or as a guest, you have to register first.

Last year the online community played a 'Nation's Cup' from September - November. Players from Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, the United States, Austria, Finland, Canada, and even the Days of Wonder staff formed teams and competed, 4 players playing 'best of 5' matches against a different team/country every week. I was privileged to be able to recruit and captain the USA team. We had some good players, but really not enough. Out of 11 teams we finished 7th. Only 5 or 6 American players are ranked in the top 100 at any given time. A team from France won the inaugural 'Nation's Cup'. We hope to do better next year, and part of that involves getting more American players interested in playing 2-player TTR-online, refining their game, and becoming active in the TTR online community!



SKMorefield
 
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mike clark
United States
Danville
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SKMorefield,

I have just started playing the online version about a month ago. Look for me online as clarkism.

It can be hard to complete routes in a 2-3 Player games.
 
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Bruce Jones
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Blocking has become so bad that people will set up games that have "NO BLOCKERS" in the description. It is very, very cutthroat. Another problem is that the bots (bleh) will do some very...unconventional things during the gaem, usually having the effect of seeing a [bip] in the chat box. Especially that stupid Longbot (bleh), who eill do nothing but (surprise) take all the long routes at the expense of his tickets.

In the actual computer game version, which shares players/lobbies with their site, has a new Swiss map with some additional strategy and is very competitive, since many of the routes have only one good way in or out. I was very surprised at the difference in game weight between the online game and the real one.
meeple
 
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Scott Morefield
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Storm King Zero wrote:
Blocking has become so bad that people will set up games that have "NO BLOCKERS" in the description. It is very, very cutthroat. Another problem is that the bots (bleh) will do some very...unconventional things during the gaem, usually having the effect of seeing a [bip] in the chat box. Especially that stupid Longbot (bleh), who eill do nothing but (surprise) take all the long routes at the expense of his tickets.

In the actual computer game version, which shares players/lobbies with their site, has a new Swiss map with some additional strategy and is very competitive, since many of the routes have only one good way in or out. I was very surprised at the difference in game weight between the online game and the real one.
meeple



Hi Bruce,

As far as you and others considering blocking 'bad' or a 'problem', one of the points I was trying to make in the article was that this comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the game dynamics. I think if you were to ask the designer, Alan Moon, he would concur that blocking is not only a valid strategy, but sometimes the only possible way to win. Otherwise, it DOES become a 'luck' game. If you have van-mon and sea-ny, and I have kc-hous and den-el, tell me, is there any possible way I can win this game without blocking? Unless my opponent is totally inept, probably not.

This misunderstanding is pretty common among newer players. That is why the online ELO system doesn't reward a top player playing (and crushing) a newb and obviously greatly penalizes losing to them. You get a percentage of a point for winning, and the small luck factor would keep you from moving up in the ranks at all because you still probably lose 1 out of 10 (and thus lose 8 pts).

When I first started using blocking as a strategy I wished I had a dime for all the times I got cussed out in German, but as I began playing better players this stopped becoming an issue. There is an 'understanding' among top players that it is part of the game, and these games can be exciting and fascinating to play or watch. Many Germans at the top now remember the days when they got upset at blocking. It's something most players go through.

I agree about the bots, but rarely is this a problem for me. DoW is developing bots better than they used to, and anyway if disconnects are a problem for you you can usually make an understanding with your opponent to leave the game if you are replaced, then you can both rejoin.

I have played Switzerland online also. What I don't like about it (this isn't a flaw, just a preference) is that anytime a game of TTR comes down to what tickets you draw, the luck factor goes up. Switzerland is a 'ticket fiend' game, same as Europe, IMHO. Great for gathering with friends, but not great for competitive play, which is why there are very few if any Switzerland players in the top 100.

Thanks for the comments on this thread so far. I hope to meet you all online sometime!


Best,
Scott
 
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