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Subject: Ticket drafting rss

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Travis Hall
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The other night, a friend of mine suggested a method of reducing the "I've got excellent tickets, you've got crappy tickets, I win" problem. (Yeah, yeah, I know some say, "Just block the guy with the good tickets," but too often I've found that one person trying to block another just means both lose, at best. It's not a win for the blocker, and it often isn't worth it for other players to jump in and help. And I've found myself doing things like joining Los Angeles to New York without having the ticket for it because it was the best play for my tickets, but it still lost and would have won had I drawn the Los Angeles-New York ticket. And I'm yet to see anyone come close to beating a player who has drawn the Seattle-New York/Vancouver-Montreal combo.)

Instead of dealing everyone three tickets at the start of the game, everyone is deal a number of tickets equal to the number of players in the game. Then, everyone picks one ticket and passes the rest to the left. Repeat, until eventually everyone is passed a single ticket. Then, discard until you have two or three tickets (at the player's choice). It's exactly like some forms of CCG draft. (Who says CCGs aren't good for anything? Occassionally, they at least give us a mechanic we can lift for another type of game. )

Doing this, ridiculous combos like Seattle-New York/Vancouver-Montreal will be much rarer, because players won't generally be foolish enough to pass on the cards needed to get those combos. Also, players are given limited knowledge of other players' tickets, which facilitates blocking.

We tried this the other night with three players, but it didn't have much effect since we were only dealt low- to mid-range tickets. (Lowest value 5, highest value 12, I think.) It did give me a chance to block one of my opponents and know that I was achieving something, but I already knew that that player was out of the running anyway so I didn't waste my play on it. The game was largely decided on track value anyway. But we may be trying it with five players tonight.
 
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Matthew M
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Re:Ticket drafting
Wraith (#49487),

This sounds like an interesting little wrinkle.

Why increase the number of initially drawn tickets, though? This variant can accomplish what it needs to and take less time by starting with the usual three and having only two rounds of passing.

-MMM
 
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Travis Hall
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Re:Ticket drafting
Octavian (#49492),
Two reasons. Firstly, by having every player end up with five tickets and discard down to three at most, it makes it a bit harder to block the person on your immediate left than it would otherwise be. Remember, every player has seen all cards held by the player on their left except one. If you've seen two cards out of three, rather than four out of five, you've got a lot of information about the tickets which are held.

Secondly, it means that everybody has seen at least one card held by every other player immediately after the draft, thus giving at least a little info about the guy to your right.
 
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Travis Hall
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Re:Ticket drafting
You're right, though, you could get largely the same effect with an initial deal of only three cards each. You just have to be careful about the other effects being introduced into the game.
 
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Matthew M
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Re:Ticket drafting
Wraith wrote:
You're right, though, you could get largely the same effect with an initial deal of only three cards each. You just have to be careful about the other effects being introduced into the game.


I saw those differences as well, but I think they are minor at best. In a five player game you know your right-hand-opponent has one of the first four tickets you passed, and you don't know if he kept it or not. Not knowing anything about the tickets he holds is about as good.

With only three tickets and two rounds of passing and then possibly discarding down to two you have a chance to know one or two of your left hand opponent's tickets. Certainly a better idea than if four rounds of card passing took place.

Also receiving more cards to start increases your chances of getting a meaty ticket in the first draw. Having five cards to choose from when all is said and done increases your chances of getting routes that synch up.

All in all, with the middleweight status of TtR I'd probably opt for the quicker option just to keep things moving.

-MMM
 
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Travis Hall
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Re:Ticket drafting
Octavian wrote:

I saw those differences as well, but I think they are minor at best. In a five player game you know your right-hand-opponent has one of the first four tickets you passed, and you don't know if he kept it or not. Not knowing anything about the tickets he holds is about as good.


That is undoubtedly the more minor of the two effects, yes.

With only three tickets and two rounds of passing and then possibly discarding down to two you have a chance to know one or two of your left hand opponent's tickets. Certainly a better idea than if four rounds of card passing took place.

Suppose only three cards are dealt and passed around. Your left-hand opponent will end up with one card you haven't seen, one card you know he has, and his choice of two cards which you have seen. Suppose he keeps all three cards. You then know one of his tickets for sure, and you know that another is one of two tickets. I'm not sure that this doesn't make blocking far too easy.

If the initial deal is five tickets and your left-hand opponent keeps three, you know that he has selected three tickets out of five (ten combinations), and that those five tickets are made up of one card you know, one from two that you know, one from three that you know, one from four that you know, and one out of fifteen that you know by process of elimination (360 combinations). I can't be bothered to work out just how many combinations of tickets that comes out to (because after throwing away, the possibilities come down from 3600), but it's certainly a more sizable number than the 48 you get by drafting from three (and most of the variation there coming from the card you have never seen).

Also receiving more cards to start increases your chances of getting a meaty ticket in the first draw. Having five cards to choose from when all is said and done increases your chances of getting routes that synch up.

I don't think getting a big ticket by itself is necessarily much of a problem, though. It's the combination of two large tickets, or one large ticket and two matching medium tickets, which are the real problems. Seattle-New York/Vancouver-Montreal wins. Los Angeles-Miami/Los Angeles-New York/Miami-Boston wins. (If you have two players doing these, I don't know which one wins, but one of them certainly does.) But Seattle-New York in it's own, that's beatable.

And yes, with a larger selection of tickets, you have more of a chance of getting a good match-up, but your left-hand opponent can counter that to an extent by not passing you too good a combination.

In the end, it might be that another drafting approach would work better - drafting from four to get a middle ground, or drafting using a non-circular pattern to spread knowledge about opponents' hands more evenly.

All in all, with the middleweight status of TtR I'd probably opt for the quicker option just to keep things moving.

We tried this last night, drafting from five cards. Good thing we did draft, too, because the second and third ticket dealt to me were Seattle-New York and Vancouver-Montreal, and that would have been a run-away win for me. I kept Seattle-New York, and passed on Vancouver-Montreal, figuring that I would have a card-drafting advantage over my left hand opponent if we were warring over the long routes at the top. From another draft, I held Montreal-Atlanta, just to stop it combining with Vancouver-Montreal. I wound up with my three kept tickets being Seattle-New York, Portland-Nashville and Sault St. Marie-Nashville (and I was surprised that my right hand opponent passed me two Nashville tickets, though I suppose he didn't know I hand the third side of the triangle to go with it). I drove straight for the Calgary-Winnipeg and Winnipeg-Sault St. Marie connections (taking the last with six pinks, which I could have switched to Toronto-Duluth if I had to). I didn't know until the end of the game that I was only racing myself, because Vancouver-Montreal had been discarded! Frankly, I wish my opposition had been stronger, because I won by about thirty points. One opponent completed Los Angeles-Miami and Los Angeles-New York, but didn't hold those tickets and didn't have time to draw the tickets before the end of the game!

Anyway, the draft moved pretty quickly. Most of us had largely completed our drafts in under two minutes, except my wife (with poor spatial abilities and having to read the map upside-down) took longer for her first pick than I took for all of mine, which resulted in the other three players having to wait for her to draft. I think it's worth us exploring further.

It certainly pulls a larger number of cards out into the pool, though, and I wouldn't mind making up a large deck of tickets (which would also solve a second concern I have about the game, which is that the number of tickets is small enough that after repeated plays I am finding that it is becoming predictable).
 
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Alex Rockwell
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Re:Ticket drafting
Wraith (#49662),


I think this sounds like a VERY good variant. I would propose it if people I play with ever suggested TTR...


 
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James Stuart
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Re:Ticket drafting
Alexfrog (#49763),

Having played with it twice last night, with all inexperienced players, I have mixed feelings on it.

Most notably: coast to coast routes skyrocket in value. With a draft of 5, you're almost guaranteed to get routes which will make sense with a long route. Both games were won by someone who acquired multiple coast to coast routes. The danger of these routes go down dramatically, because you'll almost never be stuck with a mismatching ticket to go with it. Given the advantage these routes already have (in that you can use more long links to make up your travels than central and eastern routes), it makes them dominant.

The metagame may adjust (if too many people try to go coast-to-coast), but I can't see any reason to ever pass along any coast-to-coast route: they're just too dangerous to hand along.
 
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James Stuart
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Re:Ticket drafting
anonystu (#49989),


I also think part of the problem is that you can often draft 3 viable routes with a coast-to-coast easily, while if you're going for shorter routes, you can still only get 3 routes. For the short ticket strategy to be viable in this environment, the person drafting should be able to keep as many of his tickets as he likes: if he gets five short routes, then good for him.

I'm still unsold as this as a fix for the vancouver-montreal/seattle-new york problem. I think the better fix is just to take one of those cards out of the game: the north is still good playing territory, because of its preponderance of high-length routes (especially that gray 15 pointer), but now it's not enough to win by itself.

As to the New York-Seattle-Los Angeles, I think that's a significantly more difficult task to do, and the benefit to blocking that should be apparent.
 
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Travis Hall
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Re:Ticket drafting
anonystu wrote:
Alexfrog (#49763),

Having played with it twice last night, with all inexperienced players, I have mixed feelings on it.

Most notably: coast to coast routes skyrocket in value. With a draft of 5, you're almost guaranteed to get routes which will make sense with a long route.


After a few dozen plays now, I'm yet to see a game in which it didn't make sense to keep a long route. Nothing goes with a long route so badly that it's not worth keeping that and the best route to go with it, except for another long route. (I once attempted Los Angeles-Miami/Seattle-New York, and that was foolish.) When playing with a single long route, I have only ever once failed to complete it. So I'm not sure that this aspect of the game is really changed.

The metagame may adjust (if too many people try to go coast-to-coast), but I can't see any reason to ever pass along any coast-to-coast route: they're just too dangerous to hand along.

That's precisely the point. Players should be holding the long routes in their first draft pick. Even if they don't want to attempt the long route in the end, they should be taking a big ticket just to prevent anybody else from attempting it. If a player really wants to attempt a short-route strategy (foolishly, I would maintain, because such a strategy rarely wins as long as long routes are in play, even in the regular game), they should be removing the long route from play so that it cannot be used against them. (Or, alternatively, passing it along so as to trick their LHO into keeping it and then deliberately blocking to take that player out of the running, as you have an advantage when blocking left. But not only is that a bit mean, it probably only results in you beating that one player, not everyone else.)

Playing the draft, the only time a player should wind up with multiple long routes is when they draw one and their RHO draws two.

It seems to me that in the case of your group, player inexperience may be the big factor. Inexperienced players don't understand how valuable a big ticket is. I've seen it many times here. Inexperienced players get scared by the high value of a big ticket and throw it away, out of fear that it won't be completed. They are then out of the running because somebody else does have a big ticket. However, with a draft that thrown-away ticket is going to somebody else, so they wind up helping someone else as well as destroying their own chances. Possibly what you need to do is tell the inexperienced players, "If you pass on a big ticket, the guy who gets it will most likely win. Don't do it. Hold it and use your chance to toss it away after the draft."

Of maybe you should simply play the basic game with inexperienced players. Inexperienced players haven't seen Seattle-New York/Vancouver-Montreal blow away short-ticket hands game after game, and be bored by the prospect of watching it happen again. Introduce the option once the killer combos start to annoy.

I also think part of the problem is that you can often draft 3 viable routes with a coast-to-coast easily, while if you're going for shorter routes, you can still only get 3 routes. For the short ticket strategy to be viable in this environment, the person drafting should be able to keep as many of his tickets as he likes: if he gets five short routes, then good for him.

Maybe that's another variation that should be considered. Maybe this suggestion will finally make a short-ticket strategy viable. Frankly, it isn't so in the standard game, and the form of draft I suggested wasn't intended to bolster short-ticket play (just redress good draw/bad draw inequities).

I'm still unsold as this as a fix for the vancouver-montreal/seattle-new york problem. I think the better fix is just to take one of those cards out of the game: the north is still good playing territory, because of its preponderance of high-length routes (especially that gray 15 pointer), but now it's not enough to win by itself.

As to the New York-Seattle-Los Angeles, I think that's a significantly more difficult task to do, and the benefit to blocking that should be apparent.


I haven't found New York-Seattle-Los Angeles to be particularly difficult - trickier than the double-north, but I'd certainly bet on it over a short-ticket hand.

And anyway, what about Los Angeles-Miami/Los Angeles-New York? (Or worse, the Los Angeles-Miami/Los Angeles-New York/Miami-Boston triangle?) What about Vancouver-Montreal/Portland-Nashville? Certainly, eliminating one of the long tickets across the top does reduce the probability of getting one of the killer northern combos, but there are plenty of other combos which are also killers, and especially since every blue-chip combo you eliminate increases the probability that a second-line strong combo is the strongest. With no double-20-pointer combo in play, 20+16 is a killer, and 4+5+6 still loses.

What we were hoping to achieve with a draft was an environment in which games were not readily decided by lucky ticket draws alone, but in which player decisions are a factor. If a player in the draft environment wins with Vancouver-Montreal/Seattle-New York, you look at the player to his right and ask, "Why the hell did you pass him that?" (And on rare occasions, he'll say, "Because otherwise I had to pass him Los Angeles-New York, and how was I to know which one matched his hand?" But that's rarer than before.) And if a player does pass on something potentially dangerous, he should have some idea where it is and thus be more able to block it. It's not about killing any particular combo, but about giving everyone a chance at a decent hand combined with spreading knowledge around the table to make decent hand a little harder.
 
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Travis Hall
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Re:Ticket drafting
The suggestion of keeping five tickets... That might be worth another look. Another alternate starting-ticket rule occurs to me. What about this...

Deal one ticket to each player. Each player may then choose to remain in the ticket deal, or drop out. Deal another ticket to all players who remain in the deal, and then everyone has a second chance to drop out. And so on until everybody has dropped out of the deal, or until too few tickets remain to deal to everyone who remains in.

At the end of this process, each player may discard one ticket.

This would bolster short-ticket strategies because the player could keep drawing until he has so many short tickets that he can match the value of the big ticket hands. The potential problems I see with it are, ticket values could add up enough that basic play points don't mean enough any more, and games could well come down to whether the most daring player's hand is turned into a killer before it is completely destroyed by a poor draw (thus often effectively deciding the game before any trains are played).
 
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Rich Beck
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Re:Ticket drafting
Here is another idea for ticket drafting that I think addresses many of the issues raised.

Deal everyone 6 cards. Each player then keeps one, discards one and begining with the player on your left deals out the remaining cards to the other players. This is done by all players at the same time (i.e., no looking at the cards you are getting until you have dealt yours out). The questions arises should this dealing be random or can you choose who gets which card. Either should work fine, but personally I prefer to choose who gets which card.
Each player then looks at the 4 cards just given to them by the other player(s), keeps one and discards the rest.
Finally, deal each player a third card from the deck. They can choose to either keep it or discard it, but must keep the first 2 cards.

It should be a fairly quick process and can work for any number of players. It also reduces the number of cards other players know are in your hand. You still start with either 2 or 3 cards, but this gives you a greater number of options when selecting your cards. Therefore, reducing some of the randomness of the draw and requiring some (minimal) advance planning when selecting your first card. The ability to choose a card to discard and who gets which card when passing them out involves more strategy.
 
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Joon Pahk
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Re:Ticket drafting
the variant sounds interesting, but i'd just like to point out that the combination of van-mon + sea-NY is far from unstoppable. in a recent game i picked up these two to start with and thought i was going to clean up. i drew a huge hand of cards and then started to lay down the trans-canadian railway starting from the west... but by the time i got to sault st-marie, the other players basically went nuts trying to block me off. by the time i got to montreal, all routes into or out of new york were blocked (this was in a 3-player game, so the double-routes were not actually double). ouch. so i scored up 20 for van-mon, but lost 22 for the sea-NY ticket. in retrospect, it may have been better to start from new york and work my way west.

the funny thing is that i still snuck out a win on the last turn of the game--the others had given me up for dead because they could tell i had a -22 in my hand, so they didn't block me when i went from salt lake to vegas to LA (the worst stretch of track in the game, because it's obvious where you're going and so easy for people to block you) to phoenix, thus a) completing my calgary-phoenix and helena-LA tickets, and b) edging out somebody for longest route on the game's last turn.
 
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