Hello my fellow geeks,
Many strategy articles I've read take the "do this, don't do that; X is good, Y is bad" approach. This requires the reader to take a leap of faith based on the credentials of the writer, and it doesn't always help him or her to truly understand why some moves may be more advantageous than others. Worse, since it doesn't increase your true understanding of the game, it often fails to improve your appreciation and enjoyment of the game as well.
Should you draw lots of tickets? Should you race to build Stockholm-to-Petrograd as soon as you can? Hoard cards? Take a face-up locomotive? Are stations more evil than Hasbro? I won't take a stand on any of these issues! In fact, I believe the game has an amazing sense of balance, which allows quite a variety of strategies to be viable.
Instead, my goal with this series is to help you to form a "mental model" of how the game works, so that you can evaluate on your own which specific strategies you want to pursue.
TICKET TO RIDE: EUROPE
Like many great Eurogames, when distilled down to its essence Ticket to Ride: Europe is a game of resource management. Your goal is to maximize your return from allocating a finite, tightly-constrained pool of resources.
What are these resources? Believe it or not, you have only two essential types of resources at your disposal:
1. train cars.
(what? that's it?? see the end of this section.)
The game will end when YOU run out of one or both of these resources.
Of train cars you have a known quantity: 45, plain and simple. But how many turns will you have to spend? It's an unknown quantity, which is dictated entirely by your opponents' choices. You could theoretically (though this is incredibly unlikely) have as few as 29, but if your opponents like to hoard train cards, take lots of destination tickets, claim two-car routes, and build stations, you could easily have twice this many. I'm guessing that 45-50 should be about average.
If an opponent's route claim triggers the game end, this means that your supply of turns (#2) has run out first. It's no longer an unknown quantity: it's quite simply how many turns you've already spent, plus one. Now you might have a number of leftover trains -- squandered resources you never got a chance to invest.
If, on the other hand, your own claim triggers the game end, then it's your supply of train-cars (#1) which has run out -- well, plus or minus those final two. If each of your opponents has plenty of train cars left, you've just ended the game with an extra supply of _turns_ left unspent. Uh oh! These also represent wasted resources you never invested! But, in fact, this is much less of a problem than wasted train cars, for two reasons:
- one, those extra turns are denied to all players, not just yourself, and
- two, the use of a turn does not guarantee any extra points, as the use of a train car does.
For this reason, conservation of turns is even more important than conservation of train cars, and it's preferable to run out of train cars first before running out of turns. In fact, the notion that you want to end the game with as few trains remaining as possible should be fairly intuitive (I hope).
Now, why didn't I list train cards as the third type of constrained resource? Quite simply because they are not constrained at all! They can be purchased at any time, for the price of one turn. And why not list the train stations? These are indeed constrained; however, if you've spent your three and you'd actually consider building a fourth, you're probably suffering enough already from all the turns you've been spending, and I could hardly imagine that fourth station being a game-winner for you anyway. In any case, even if a counterargument is offered here, I think we can all agree that careful management of your stations is a marginal concern compared to that of train cars and turns.
Train cars are tangible, turns are intangible. It may help you to imagine turns as being little wooden tokens that you hold in a box, which you have to pull out and spend one of each time the game comes around to you again. Is that route you want to claim, locomotive you want to take, etc. worth your precious token? You never know exactly how many are left until it's too late.
Tune in for Chapter 2: Spending Train Cars Wisely, and Chapter 3: Spending Turns Wisely!
- Last edited Sun Aug 6, 2006 10:42 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Sun Aug 6, 2006 10:00 pm
I like your thinking. I would put forth for consideration that there may be one other constrained resource; Train routes.
I recognize that train routes act differently than turns and cars, but they are definitely a limited resource that can "run out" on you prior to turns and cars. The stations make this much less painful than it used to be in TTR, but it is a resource which gets consumed over the course of the game... much like cars and turns. Perhaps that is semantics and train routes can be thought of in other ways.. but I thought I would throw it out there. Thanks.