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Ticket to Ride: Europe» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Ruminations on Strategy rss

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Matt Thrower
United Kingdom
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Hi,

I've played five sessions of this so far. It's gone down as a big hit in my informal, occasional gaming group. In every single game I've played, I've come second. It's starting to get really annoying and I'm beginning to wonder whether I've grasped the game strategy properly or whether (as repeated runner-up would indicate) I've got most of it right, but I'm missing something.

I thought it might be interesting to post a few of my observations of strategy and see whether people think I'm right or not, and you can tell me if I'm getting things wrong.

Firstly, tickets. I've concluded that it's usually a good idea to keep your long route, unless the other three starting routes dovetail nicely. The points of a long route a so huge that it's worth using a station to complete them if need be. I also think it's only worth drawing more tickets during the game and that this is best done when your existing routes are nearly or fully in the bag. I like to finish the game with 3-5 tickets. Drawing more than this seems a really risky strategy - one of our group likes to draw a lot of tickets and he seems to either win big or loose big.

It strikes me that the tickets you draw are the biggest luck factor in the game. If you draw complementary tickets then you're laughing. If they're disparate ones then you're in trouble.

The euro express bonus is worthless. I've never seen it to be decisive in a game. It's far better to try and collect disparate tickets than link all your trains together, especially given the board congestion around central Europe.

Spending time blocking is also pointless. There's a lot of tickets in the game and it seems very hard to spot what people are planning for. It's easier to spot with the long routes but they're so important that people will use stations anyway. You often end up engaging in accidental blocking anyway.

Tunnels are generally too risky unless you've got at least two extra cards in your hand. The way the game is played means colours tend to accumulate in the deck and people don't tend to bother doing the proper full on shuffle that's needed to really randomise the deck so colours tend to clump. Loosing a turn is just too much to gamble.

The best pickup strategy is usually one from face-up stack and one from the top of the deck, although there's obvious exceptions when you need lots of a certain colour, or indeed absolutely have to have a locomotive.

In the end game after you've completed most (or all) of your tickets it's worth planning to get a few extra points by claiming four or (if you've got the cards) six long routes for the bonus points. There's a surprising number of four-long gray routes on the board which are ideal for this purpose.

The player who runs low on trains first, causing the game to end, is often the winner. It plans to be aware of this and to stop collecting cards and start offloading trains once someone else is running low. I should add that I'm terrible at doing this - I've often got a stack of carriages left. I'm obviously struggling to balance the collection and active play aspects but I'm not sure how best to improve things.

Thoughts?
 
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Tootsie Roll
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3-5 tickets is almost never enough in our group. The winner in 2-4 players almost always has at least 6-7 tickets and sometimes as many as 10 or more. But, as you said, that comes with the luck of drawing corresponding tickets. I have seen some win with 2 tickets, but they got all of the long routes (both 6's and the 8), finished the game quickly, and won by 2 points in a low scoring game (just over 100 points). But like you said, don't draw tickets until the ones you have are almost complete. But waiting until they are actually done is too long. Draw new tickets when there are 2-3 connections left to finish what's already in your hand. The new ticekts allow you to look for a greater cvariety of cards and expand your useful choices. You can afford to hold more cards in your hand than in the original Ticket to Ride because of the train stations.

As a result of needing so many tickets to win, the luck factor in our games also tends to be quite high. Ticket draws often decide who will win, with the people who can keep 2 or more tickets on one or more draws winning the game. Also, we have noticed the advantage of getting tickets that are worth 9-12 rather than 5-8. The 5 point tickets are almost worthless. They take too many turns to complete that could be spent finishing other routes. Also, don't be afraid to use stations to finish routes. You have three of them, and 10 points for a route is much better than 4 for a station.

As you can tell, we go through a lot of tickets. With 4-5 players, we often run out of the ticket stack. They are all taken or discarded except the last one. And that still gets taken sometimes.

While there is no point in actively pursuing the longest route, it often decides the game. In planning to finish the tickets in your hand, if you are in the running for the longest train, keep tickets that will extend your train, and sometimes it is worth taking the long route to get there.

It is hard to plan for tunnels, but they have to happen. We often try with one extra if there is a race for a certain area, but it is a good idea to have more than that. Also, avoid Switzerland if at all possible. The area is full of short routes that often require extra cards, and thickets through that area tend to be short. Just not worth it.

Blocking can be worth it in a five player game becuase people often have to use 2-3 stations to complete their tickets. However, if you block someone, you will often get boxed out of the region you are trying to go. As a result, we almost always stick to the inceidental blocking that yu mentioned. It is still not worth it.

As for drawing, we almost never draw the face up locomotives. We can often get enough from the face down stack. The exception is if you are going through lots of ferries down around Italy and Greece. Other than that, draw what you need.

You are not going to win unless you are almost out of trains at the end. If you have ten or more trains left, you have a) not completed enough tickets, b) not gotten enough points from completing connections, and c) failed to get the longest route. You have to build to get points, and if you have too many trains in hand when the game ends, you have not built. Our winners generally have 110-120 points (5 player) to 125-150 points (2 player). 3-4 players fall somewhere in between. We have seen people win with more than that, but almost never with less. They also tend to have 3-8 cards in their hand at the end, meaning they didn't waste turns drawing cards they didn't need or adjusted their plans to accomodate the cards they drew. Always look for alternate routes to get to where you need to go.

Remember, if you are not scoring at least 2 points for each train you point on the board, it is probably not worth it. Those points can come from the connections, tickets, or the longest train. You have 45 trains, and at 2.5 points per train, that gets you 112.5 points. Sometimes enough to win a 5 player game, but that won't cut it if someone is up in the higher ranges. 2 points per train minimum.
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Maksim Smelchak
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Hi Guys,

I bought a copy of TTR:E amd I love it. I finally found a game that my younger nephews can grasp and play well.

TTR:E does take time to learn strategies. Most people lose big the first few games. You do need to have a plan and grasp the limits of the game.

- When I play, I keep all the tickets that can reasonably link to each other... this usually means I keep 3 to 4 tickets with the long one almost always being a keeper. I try to keep my tickets concentrated along one route and around one area.

- I don't draw more tickets until I'm done with all of them or all but one. And when I draw additional tickets, I only keep ones that work off of my existing tracks. And, yes, there is a huge random factor involved in drawing complementary tickets.

- I have found that the Euro Express (longest route) bonus to be very helpful when playing with skilled players. An extra ten points can be a livesaver.

- Like others, I avoid Central Europe when possible... too many tunnels. And whoever said Switzerland is a nightmare... IS RIGHT!

- A winning strategy for many players is to finish their initial routes and then rush to place down enough routes to expend their trains quickly and use up their trains. I've seen this strategy win a number of times. Simply beat everyone down... you can usually have all of the other players penalized with unfinished tickets. You can also use a semi-blocking strategy with this one to really hose them.

- Once your tickets are finished, extend your routes to get Euro Express or simply put down routes for points.

- Another huge gain is the 21 point, eight-train route to Sankt Petersburg from Scandinavia. That one route is a huge bonus. I often finish my tickets and build that piece to give me a big bonus.

- Point counts tend to be slightly higher in smaller games and lower in games with more players. I've found that around 110-140 points seems to be what winners pull in. I've seen a number of losers pull in as few as forty or less points.

- Don't intentionally block other players unless the route benefits you.

- I often rush to get down the cheap routes that I'll need to complete tickets. They're the ones that most often get built first.

- Mostly TTR:E is about rushing to finish tickets and keeping an eye on the other players. When someone else gets low, start laying down routes. You'll need the points. I also avoid putting down the stations unless I need to complete a ticket near the end of the game or I want to piggyback off of a long route that is hard-to-build such as a six or eight-long train route.

Good luck! I didn't start winning until after I played a number of games and started getting the hang of making a plan and sticking to it.

Shalom,
Maksim-Smelchak.
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Craig Macbride
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jentinma wrote:
As a result of needing so many tickets to win, the luck factor in our games also tends to be quite high.
... Also, don't be afraid to use stations to finish routes.
... While there is no point in actively pursuing the longest route, it often decides the game.
... It is hard to plan for tunnels, but they have to happen.
... As for drawing, we almost never draw the face up locomotives.
... They also tend to have 3-8 cards in their hand at the end, meaning they didn't waste turns drawing cards they didn't need or adjusted their plans to accomodate(sic) the cards they drew.


This sounds like a totally different game to the TtRE I'm used to. I disagree strongly with all of the above. There's no need to draw lots of tickets. Indeed, it's very high risk. I've won most of my TtRE games and I've never drawn extra tickets, ever. Anything which wastes turns is bad. That includes building stations. Pursuing longest route is definitely worthwhile. (Surely that's a given if it often decides the game?!) It's easy to plan for tunnels by just leaving them until you have enough extra cards in that colour or locomotives. Again, you want to be as efficient as possible, so drawing face-up locomotives is a vastly better choice, esp. late in the game, than taking 2 random cards off the deck that might be useless and waste a whole turn. 8 cards in hand at the end means you wasted 4 whole turns drawing useless cards. That's enough to allow other players to draw more tickets and complete them.

The one major point I'll agree with is that you are not going to win unless you are almost out of trains at the end. But drawing extra tickets and playing stations are two of the best ways to burn turns and ensure that you're not playing enough trains.

In the last game I played (5 player), other players were starting to pick up new tickets when we had about 20 train pieces left. At that time, I had 15 cards in hand, which could build the next 4 trains I needed. In the next 7 turns, I drew cards twice and played 5 trains, having 1 piece and 1 card left, triggering the game end. Because of the time wasted picking up extra tickets, other players hadn't played as many trains and mostly hadn't completed all their tickets. I ended with 120 points, while 2nd place barely scraped over 100.
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Winston Wan
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Generally speaking, I believe that there are two major strategies to this game: East or West.

1) East: The east and south part of the board have all the long lines, which means you can score a huge number of points through playing trains. The idea behind this strategy is to play the most productive point per train routes, which means you get rid of all your trains faster. This in turn causes the game to end before the players playing short routes can finish all their destinations. I think that the eastern strategy is inferior to the western strategy unless you are lucky enough to recieve no competition in that area and/or draw one of the eastern long destinations (like Moscow-Palmero). Getting the 10 points for longest total trains is also one of your goals.

2) West: Western Europe has a lot of cities and a lot of short routes. When playing here, you must expect to make a lot of destinations (tickets). You must build the "highway" (the arch of double routes from Spain to Poland) to act as a spine for your connections. Then you build little ribs out into northern Italy, Western France, Belgium, etc., as you need them for your tickets. If you play this strategy, you should expect to have at least 6 tickets, if not 8-10. This way of playing also depends on some luck in drawing tickets, but you always have the choice of 3 and you can always choose a low point value one to fail. Though I have won with both strategies, I feel that this way is much safer and allows more room for error. The only thing you need to be afraid of with this strategy is that someone else will end the game before you can get a chance to draw a lot of tickets.

Basically, the East way is a rush to end the game because you scored so many points off the bat with the long lines. The West, on the other hand, scores very little on the board (trains), and only picks up after 2 or 3 ticket draws. When it does pick up, it can score about 8 points every 2-3 turns, which is huge.

Other strategic considerations that apply to any strategy:
--Stations make a big difference in scoring. Don't use them unless you absolutely have to. They are not a quick easy way to finish a destination by borrowing someone else's line.
--I like to take a lot of train cards in the beginning. This means being the last one to put anything on the board. This way, you can constantly draw 2 from the top of the deck and get a lot of locomotives at no disadvantage. Also, you need not worry about getting some of every color because you can always use them and you will be drawing so many cards that you can match everything. When I see two of the same color on the board, I might consider taking them.
--As the game approaches the end, taking two from the top gets worse and worse.
--Always keep your long destination(ticket). (Unless you have an eastern long ticket and the rest are short western tickets.)
--Don't forget to have fun! This is TTR:E after all. If you're going to think this much about a game, go play PR or Caylus.
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