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November 2005
TTR Guide, USA Map, 3-5 Players Wed, 04 July 2007 17:46
1) TTR Overall Introduction, Gameplay, Etiquette
2) USA Map, 2 Players
3) USA Map, 3-5 Players
4) Europe Map - 2 - 5 Players

A) Introduction
While the rules for playing the USA map are almost the same in multi as in single player, the strategies are quite different.

While this guide discusses 3, 4 and 5 player games, note that there are significant differences in strategies, depending on the exact player count.

B) Rules
The only true rules difference in multi play is that, for 4 and 5 player games (but NOT for 2 and 3 player games), the second 'half' of each route is opened. i.e. When there is a double route between two cities (say, L.A. and San Francisco), each half may be played (though not by the same player). This has two main effects:
i) More 'open' feel in general - it's harder to get boxed out of certain key cities.
ii) Intentional blocking is more difficult.

C) Comparison to 2 Player USA
If you've played primarily 2 player USA, note the following general strategy differences:

i) Longest is less important. In 2 player, this +10 point bonus is hugely important - it's rather difficult to win the game without it. But the more players you have, the less critical a +10 point advantage for any one player becomes. Moreover, in 2 player, the one who gets longest usually also gets the most 6 routes, compounding the advantage. In multi, the opposite is often true. Because the northern 6 routes are usually grabbed by different players early on, it is difficult to string together several continuous 6s. Often, the player who gets longest ends up taking more short routes to connect in a continuous route, and has to forego 6s that don't fit into that route.

ii) Games last longer. In two player, it is common for a player to 'play out' and end the game in 9 or 10 moves, plus the number of color draws it takes to reach 44 cards. But that is done by grabbing perhaps 4 6s and a few 4s and 5s. The more players there are, the fewer 6s any one player is likely to get. With fewer 6s, and often a need to take slightly longer routes around congested areas, it is common for multi-player games to last a few turns longer.

Which means...

iii) Drawing tickets mid-game is more important. In 2 player, the best strategy is usually to try to complete your 2 starting tickets, grab 4 or so 6s, and grab longest. In a 4 player game, you're unlikely to get 4 6s (4 players competing for only 9 6s means most players will get 2 or so), and you only have a 1 in 4 chance of getting longest versus a 1 in 2 chance. So, with less chance of racking up points that way, you're oftten better off drawing for additional tickets. You will likely have more time to complete them, and your opponents are less likely to go out of their way blocking you (as they might in 2 player).

D) 3 versus 4 versus 5
In 3 player games, the open routes are the same as in 2 player (i.e. only one half of a double route can be played). This means you have 3 players playing ~44 cards each (~132 colors played total) into the same number of routes that are normally filled by 2 players (~88 colors played). The board gets more crowded, and key routes (into NY, LA, etc.) can go fast. Three player plays like a hybrid of 'true' multiplayer (4/5) and traditional 2 player. Longest is still quite important in 3 player, blocks happen, etc.

Four player games are the most common multis, and perhaps the most fun. Most of the descriptions in this guide are tailored to 4 player games.

Five player games may seem chaotic and slow, but I enjoy them. With good players, they move fast, and they're not as random as they might seem. The board fills up fast. Often, the best strategy is to complete a fairly basic pair of tickets, then grab as many 6s and 5s on the board as you can, even though they don't connect to your route. You'll get the points for those 6s and 5s, and interfere with the other players.

E) Drawing tickets
It's already been noted that drawing tickets mid-game can be a good strategy. But there's another facet to this - timing.

One can draw tickets immediately, or as the first set of draws through the deck winds down (when you have around 20 color cards), or later.

If my starting tickets are poor (totaling less than 20 points and/or they don't fit well together), I like to draw early. Usually I draw colors once or twice - this gives me time to see if my opponents grab any key short routes (Atl-Nash, Hou-NO), so that when I choose tickets I can assess them in light of this (an Atl ticket is less attractive if Atl-Nash is already taken). But after a round or two, I draw. If I get, say, an LA ticket, I want to know early, so I can adjust my strategy accordingly (drawing blacks face up, or playing LA-Pho to be safe). I may add 2 or 3 short east coast tickets on top of a starting pair of east coast tickets (in this case, I can afford to burn colors on an unneeded 6, as my main set of tickets will be relatively easy to complete). But if I draw and keep a long ticket, I know I need to focus on completing that.

The second best time to draw tickets is after the deck has been exhausted. Usually all the color cards will be drawn, and the deck may be especially rich in locos after it is shuffled the first time. I wait until it's been through that loco-rich cycle, then draw tickets. Usually, by this time several 6s have been taken, so it becomes harder (but not impossible) to complete long tickets.

The last good time to draw tickets is after I have completed all my original tickets (or perhaps when I have one or two very simple, safe connections left). If my main route runs roughly from LA to NY, diagonally up and across the middle, then I can usually complete that route with plenty of time left, and there are a LOT of additional good tickets that can be drawn along this route.

[Updated on: Thu, 11 October 2007 01:32]

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