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Subject: Mega-game: Jokers galore and then tickets, tickets, tickets rss

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Brad N
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On my lunch hour today, I played Ticket to Ride (Mega game) with two co-workers. I've played several different games with one of them and the other had played other games such as Settlers of Catan. I had played one 3 player game before, but we didn't play with the rule where only one of the 2 track segments can get used; this time we played by the proper rules. I gave a quick run-through of the rules and we were off.

I was dealt a blue and three jokers for my train cards - that's a good sign. For my tickets, I kept Seattle to New York, Denver to Chicago and Denver to Pittsburgh (or something like that). All three players were in Salt Lake City, but I was able to get through there without being blocked. As the game progressed, I could see that 3 players with just one of the double routes available was a much better (and tougher) game.

I completed my three tickets with a nice, long train through the middle of the board and then proceeded to pick up tickets for several turns in a row. I added big tickets like Salt Lake City to Pittsburgh (done), Kansas City to Boston (needed just one more 2 train segment), Portland to Chicago (done), Boston to Nashville (needed a short connection)... this was getting ridiculous. I was picking up ticket after ticket that was complete or practically complete and I was just raking in the points. Plus, it looked like I was going to get longest train and most completed tickets.

They both enjoyed the game, but my score in tickets alone was higher than one player's final score. And, other than making my train through the middle of the board (which I know is a good thing), I really didn't do too much work to get the points. I felt like they got a weak experience from a great game because I was lucky. They both seemed to really enjoy it... I just hope what happened does cause them to shy away from this great game in the future.

I don't recall the final scores, but they were something like 197, 118 and 94. I have seen bigger margins in 4 and 5 player games, but not usually. Ticket to Ride usually creates a close finish for at least 2 players and often everyone (if there isn't too much blocking going on).
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Tom Dickson
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The "ticket drawing" in Mega Game is basically broken. What you did is doable almost all the time, and you'll usually win.
 
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Bob Shurig
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I played the Mega Game a couple of hundred times or so and, yes it is a "broken game" due to the huge luck factor in drawing destinations later in the game. If you get lucky, you win. If you're unlucky, you lose. My wife and another couple will play only one game, TtR, and only one way - the Mega Game. They let me try a variation once whereby three destinations were dealt instead of four, and the player had to select one destination only. This tactic definetly cut down on the luck factor, making it a closer and more competitive game. Of course, they didn't like that. I tried to tell them that when one player gets lucky, only one player is happy and three players are not happy. They didn't like that truism either. As I mentioned earlier, they play only one game, and play it only one way. If I want to keep playing with them, it's gonna have to be the "luck of the draw", or nothing at all. Sad but true!
 
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Brad N
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I guess I haven't played the Mega game enough to realize that it was broken like this. Yesterday's experience was certainly a good example of it though. I've seen that kind of thing happen once or twice before, but not usually. Maybe it was even more pronounced in a 3 player game (usually I play with 4 players).

We do have one house rule where we split the tickets into big (11 pts and up) and small (10 pts and down) tickets and you get 3 from the big stack and 2 from the small stack at the start. Then, when you draw 4 during the game, you get 2 and 2. This seems to help the luck of the draw with regard to getting all big or all small tickets. Still, I can see how the luck of the draw for tickets that fit into your network still exists.

Won't that always be a potential problem no matter which game you are playing? Is it just worse with the Mega game because of the quantity of cards?

So, which game do people play? The original or big cities or something else? Next time I play, I want to try something different to balance it out a bit. Thanks.
 
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Chad
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Though we toy around with Europe and Marklin, my gaming group will usually do either the Mega game or pull out the Swiss map.

However, we do also break out the "Ironman" variation as well on any of the various maps. This is played either as "You must keep all of your opening tickets" or "You must keep all tickets you touch". Luck is still a factor in tickets drawn, but because everyone must do everything, the chances that one person only gets tickets that fit their "plan" are remote.
 
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Carl Brousseau
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bnordeng wrote:
We do have one house rule where we split the tickets into big (11 pts and up) and small (10 pts and down) tickets and you get 3 from the big stack and 2 from the small stack at the start. Then, when you draw 4 during the game, you get 2 and 2. This seems to help the luck of the draw with regard to getting all big or all small tickets. Still, I can see how the luck of the draw for tickets that fit into your network still exists.

Won't that always be a potential problem no matter which game you are playing? Is it just worse with the Mega game because of the quantity of cards?

So, which game do people play? The original or big cities or something else? Next time I play, I want to try something different to balance it out a bit. Thanks.



$.02:

1) The 'overlapping long ticket' problem

Splitting between long and short may even things out a little but probably not much -- the luck factor is still strong there if you've completed LA-ATL and then draw SF-ATL and LA-MIA (as opposed to drawing, say VAN-MTL and SF-SSM). What's more, the 11+/10- cutoff is probably too low for the same reason -- you can still get lucky by being offered 2 (potentially overlapping) 18-point tickets while someone else may get two unrelated 12-pt tickets.

DOW tried to solve the 'long ticket problem' in TTR: Europe by having players draw just one long ticket at the beginning of the game, with no hope of getting another ticket worth more than 13 points later. The problem there is it's easy to memorize those tickets and see what others are trying to accomplish. Not so with the Mega Game. So here's what I'd suggest (haven't tested it in any way but I sure will next time we play Mega Game):

At the beginning of the game, shuffle all 15+ point tickets together (in the Mega Game, that's 15 of them), deal 1 to each player, throw away the rest. Then deal three other tickets (from the 14 and under stack). Each player has to keep 2, regardless of whether he/she keeps the long one. That way the luck factor only comes in with the 14 and under pile, so by definition it's not as rewarding to go to the draw stack instead of ending the game faster, unless you've opted for a north/south track in the eastern half of the board, which suddenly may become a winning strategy at last.

(I got this idea from playing TTR: Europe with David Journeault's middle/long tickets, which complicates the "guessing the others' long tickets" part.)

2) Is obsessive ticket drawing always a problem?

By construction you can never remove the 'luck of the draw' element from TTR but some versions are better at weakening this than others. In Nordic Countries and Europe (and from my limited experience Marklin), the problem is not as present. With Switzerland it's much worse: see the 'strategy' subforum of TTR: Switzerland. With the base game it's not as bad as Mega Game, but on the other hand everyone gets to know all the tickets rather quickly, which created the need for the 1910 expansion in the first place.

That said, because the overlapping tickets problem adds to the luck element (as opposed to the skill element) doesn't mean that the game is 'broken'; it may just be a design choice. When I play with my family (my dad even insists in keeping double routes open for 2p games), people seem to have more fun scoring big (150+) than winning or getting close. People just HATE to be blocked out of New York, but somehow feel good when they draw PHX-BOS after laying LA-NY through PHX. That's just how it goes.

So the answer to your last question, 'What games do people play?', probably depends on who you play TTR with. True gamers may want to limit the luck element with some 'long ticket covenant', or make it very competitive by playing a 4-5p Big Cities game (which is a great 2-3p game but would probably be chaos with 4-5p), or make a change by just keeping the 1910 tickets in (not the original ones).

(Edited because a huge part of my original message didn't show up)
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Travis Hall
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bnordeng wrote:
Is it just worse with the Mega game because of the quantity of cards?

Luck of the draw is an element of every form of TTR. However, it is a significantly stronger element of the Mega game, for two reasons.

Firstly, there is the obvious fact that drawing four tickets when drawing tickets makes the probability of drawing no good tickets considerably lower.

Secondly, the larger number of tickets means that each ticket you hold for cities to which you are already connected reduces the available connected tickets by less. To explain, say there are ten tickets for New York in a deck of 70 cards. (I don't remember the actual distribution off the top of my head, so just say...) If you hold two New York tickets in a five-card hand, that leaves 8 New York tickets in 62 cards you don't hold. In the standard game, there are 5 New York tickets out of 35. (Again, just say, because I don't remember the distribution again.) Holding 2 in a hand of 5 means there are 3 out of 30 remaining to be drawn. So, that's about 1 card in 3.75 for the Mega game, and 1 card in 10 for the standard game.

Obviously the maths is actually far more complex than that, but the general effect is pretty much that. You create a network to match cards you already have, but the fact that you have those cards reduces the probability of drawing more cards that match the network well. The Mega game reduces this effect, making it easier to just keep drawing cards that fit your existing network.

These effects make drawing a much more worthwhile option, so much so that I find it is rare to be able to win without drawing more tickets, and once players are going back to the draw deck so much more often, with more confidence in getting what they want (and rightly so), it is those draws that usually determine the winner.

Quote:
So, which game do people play? The original or big cities or something else? Next time I play, I want to try something different to balance it out a bit. Thanks.

Using the sets you have already mentioned, I prefer straight 1910. I think the tickets in that set have been designed better. The long tickets tend to be harder to get, as some of them take you to more fiddly places, and the areas of the board with lots of short tracks have more tickets going there, so those who have to head into those areas can make up points by drawing more tickets (with a higher probability of getting something useful).

I haven't had the chance to play a whole lot of Big Cities, though. I just think 1910 is designed better than original, and I know I don't like the draw-fest of the Mega game.

My favourite form is Marklin, though. The passengers and freight make the strategy of the game much deeper, adding a whole new dimension to the game.
 
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François V.
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I've been playing quite a lot and even created a number of maps (see www.donjon-facile.com/rail). The issue with the "drawing destinations" luck should be delt with this way (as some of you pointed out before):

- Build or use a game with enough long and short tickets so that people don't end up knowing them by heart (i. e. Meta Game kind of number of tickets.
- Split long and short tickets in three decks. One for long route on one axis (e. g. north-south), one for long on the other axis (e. g; east-west). Something like 15 being the good limit between long and short routes on most maps. For some maps (like basic USA?) that are more rectangular than squared be clever on the split of long routes (e. g. NW-SE vs NE-SW for example).
- Initial deal: only ONE long route from one long axis deck, ONE route from the other long axis deck, and TWO short. Players must keep TWO or THREE tickets (no more no less). Usually players will keep the long on the axis that match the best the two short routes and keep three altogether. This means that it is usually quite fair between players.
- Initial deal: long routes discarded are removed from the game, short routes discarded are put on the bottom of the short routes deck.
- After the initial deal, the short route deck is reduced to a reasonable amount (5 or 6 per player) and the rest of the short routes are removed (but stay hidden) from the game.
- During the game, no one can draw tickets on two consecutive turns.
- During the game, when you draw tickets, you draw a total of 3 tickets (see below) and must keep ONE exactly (no more).

Then we have two variants
A) You draw only short routes during the game!
All long routes are removed from the game after the initial deal.
Short routes discarded (two each time) are put on the bottom of the short routes deck.

B) Once initial deal is done, each of the two long routes deck is reduced (at random, cards hidden) to a number of card equal to the number of player.
When a player draw tickets, he draws a total of three cards from the three decks (long axis 1, long axis 2, short) but cannot take 2 long roads from the same deck.
Long routes discarded are removed from the game.
Short routes discarded are put on the bottom of the short routes deck.

We discovered that this pretty much makes everyone happy

Now a mitigation level also comes from the combination of:
- the size of the map
- the number of players
- the number of cars given to each player
Depending on those factors we may change a little our rules, but the basics are kept as explained above.



 
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Maaike Fest
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Perhaps randomly removing a number of tickets before the game could help?
 
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François V.
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Agreed, as stated in my previous post:

- After the initial deal, the short route deck is reduced to a reasonable amount (5 or 6 per player) and the rest of the short routes are removed (but stay hidden) from the game.

 
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