Ticket to Ride is a modern classic board game about trains published by Days of Wonder. Each game feels unique because the ticket cards you draw are different which influences your objectives. With so many routes to victory, what is the best Ticket to Ride strategy and how can you win Ticket to Ride every time you play?
The best way to win is knowing multiple tips and tricks and using the ones that best fit your game! In this article, I’ll share all the strategies I use to win Ticket to Ride most of the time!
There are three actions you can take in the game.
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- Drawing tickets
- Drawing train cards
- Placing trains
My 19 Ticket to Ride strategy tips look at how you can make the most of each of these actions, how your strategy might change depending on the number of players, and I offer some more general tips on how to win!
All the tips in this article are based on my experience of playing the original version of Ticket to Ride with the USA map. However, the tips suggested here can be used to win any Ticket to Ride game!
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There’s no limit to the number of destination cards you can have in your hand in Ticket to Ride.
But that doesn’t mean you want to pick them up every chance you have! It’s a fine balance with drawing tickets. You want enough tickets so that you’ve got something to aim towards to earn the points you need to win, but not have too many that you can’t complete them all.
For each incomplete Destination Ticket you’re left with at the end of the game, the points on that ticket are deducted from your final score!
1. Draw additional tickets a few turns in
You start with 3 tickets to complete. You must keep at least 2 of them. Hopefully, two of them work reasonably well together!
Unless the third ticket I start with is a terrible match, I usually keep all three. I’m going to want more tickets to complete at some point anyway!
You can either draw more tickets in your first couple of turns, or wait until a few turns into the game. I recommend waiting until a few turns into the game so you can see which color trains you’ve picked up and which routes other players seem to be going for.
Then when you pick up your three new tickets and are deciding which ones to keep, you can make a more informed decision.
2. Get routes that work well together
The dream hand of tickets is the one where all of your routes work really well together! If connecting two cities on one route also helps you to complete another ticket, it’s an amazing way to maximize the efficiency of your turns and points per train!
Instead of a route only giving you points for one ticket, it’s now giving you points for two tickets, or even more.
3. Know the high point routes
There are 30 tickets in Ticket to Ride. That may seem like a lot of tickets to remember. However, when you’ve played Ticket to Ride several times, you do start to remember some of the tickets. Especially the longer ones!
That’s good because these longer ones are worth the most points! When you know which routes score the most points, you can keep a lookout for other players who are trying to complete these routes and block them!
The highest scoring routes in Ticket to Ride are:
- Seattle – New York (22 points)
- Los Angeles – New York (21 points)
- Los Angeles – Miami (20 points)
- Vancouver – Montreal (20 points)
- Portland – Nashville (17 points)
- San Francisco – Atlanta (17 points)
- Los Angeles – Chicago (16 points)
Pay attention if someone claims routes leading into Los Angeles or New York because both of these have multiple high-scoring tickets which start or end there!
4. Complete at least one high-value Destination Ticket
The long routes are worth the most points so are a really great way to boost your final score!
It’ll take many more small tickets to match just one high-value ticket so you may as well go for it! The other advantage of the long routes is that they pass through lots of different cities along the way making it much easier to create branches for any shorter tickets you pick up!
It also stands you in good stead for creating the longest path in the game and winning an extra 10 points!
5. Longer route sections give you more points per train
Per train, the 6 train sections represent the best value you can get from each train you play.
For example, a train on a 1 or 2 train route is only worth 1 point. However, each train on a 6 train route is worth 2.5 points. Plus you’ll get extra points for those trains if they help you to complete a ticket.
Even without a ticket, a 6 train route will still earn you 15 points. That’s more points than you’ll earn by completing 23 of the 30 tickets in the game!
6. Grab more tickets near the end of the game
A 6 train route is worth 15 points, but that same 6 train route when it’s also part of a ticket is worth a whole lot more!
If you’ve played well, by the time it’s nearing the end of the game, you’ve completed all the tickets you had, you’ve got a stockpile of train cards, and you’re not actively building any huge routes. At this point, one technique that usually helps me to win is to spend a few turns grabbing more tickets.
Of the three tickets I draw, I’ve usually completed one of them and I’m only a route or two away from completing another one. It’s a nice way to collect bonus points for the trains I’ve already played!
The worst-case scenario? You pick up three long, high-point tickets. But even in that case, you only need to keep one of them and you’ll likely have some routes that will help you get it anyway!
Of all the strategies in this article, this one tip alone can hugely advance your score and help you to win Ticket to Ride! It’s especially helpful if you know you’re in last place. You might as well gamble on having completed some tickets if you’re going to lose anyway, right?
Drawing train cards
It may seem like there’s not much strategy involved in picking up the train cards. You’re just picking up the ones that match your tickets, right? Well, yes. But there are some strategies to bear in mind to help you win.
7. Pick up lots of train colors early in the game
In the first few turns, gather as many train cards as you can. There’s no hand limit in Ticket to Ride, so you can have as many train cards as you like!
To maximize your efficiency at collecting train cards, it makes sense to draw these cards from the face-down stack rather than the face-up cards. It’s likely too soon to know which colored trains you want to pick up, plus you might get lucky and pick up a rainbow train wild card.
If you draw a wild card from the face-up selection, you can only draw that one card because it counts as two cards. But if you happen to draw a wild card and a colored card from the face-down stack, you get a wild card plus a colored card! Bonus! Occasionally, you might even get super lucky and draw two wild cards!
After you’ve drawn train cards over a few turns, you’ll have a better idea of which colors you’re beginning to collect and which ticket routes they align with. Plus, you’ll also be able to lay down several 6 train routes in quick succession gaining you control over the board!
8. Color hog
Slight warning for this next tactic! It won’t make you very popular with your fellow gamers, if they figure out what you’re doing! But it is a tried and tested way to stop them from getting the routes they want.
Choose a train color that’s important to you for completing your tickets. Anytime that color appears in the face-up cards, pick it up. Even if there’s another color available that you could also use.
The aim here is be a color hog! Grab all the blue train cards for example, and there’s none left for when other players want them! This means they have to take a chance on picking one up from the face-down draw pile instead.
The color hog strategy is more effective in a 2 or 3 player game because there are fewer players taking turns in between each of yours. This means that there are fewer opportunities for the face-up cards to be replenished and potentially reveal more cards of the color you are hogging!
9. Draw from the facedown pile wherever possible
When you draw from the facedown pile not only do you stand a chance of getting a wild card as well as a colored train card, but you’re also hiding your plans from the other players.
They have no idea which colors you’ve just drawn and which colors you’re collecting! It’s much harder for them to know where you going to play trains and block you!
10. Track the number of colored train cards
There are 110 colored train car cards in Ticket to Ride. 12 each for: pink, white, blue, yellow, orange, black, red, and green, plus 14 wild cards.
That’s actually not that many when you think about all the routes and players competing for them!
If you can, try to get a sense of how many of each color you’ve seen in the face-up cards. It’ll help you to figure out your chances of a particular train color coming through for you.
You’ve saved up your train cards, you know which tickets you want to complete, and now it’s time for the fun bit, playing the trains! But playing trains is also the action which can really make or break your strategy!
10. Get the one route connections early
No matter the number of players in your game, it’s important to grab your key routes early before they are taken by someone else!
The last thing you want is to build a route from Seattle to New York only to have the final leg blocked by other players taking Calgary-Seattle, Helena-Seattle, or Seattle-Portland!
The good news is that these key routes are often small so are generally quite easy to get! But that’s also what makes it super important that you grab them early. It doesn’t cost many train cards for someone to swoop in and grab a key route when they’ve figured out which tickets you’re trying to complete!
11. Get cities with only two connections early
Different cities on the Ticket to Ride board have different numbers of connections coming into them. Denver, for example, has 7 routes coming into it, 2 of which are double routes. While Las Vegas, for example, only has 2 routes coming into it, both of which are single routes.
So if you have a Las Vegas ticket you really need to grab one of those routes early before all the routes into Las Vegas are taken by other players!
12. Play trains several turns in a row
If you’re playing against some challenging opponents, they’ll be watching you to see which routes you’re going for, just as you’re watching them!
The trick here is to stop them from figuring out which routes you’re going for until it’s too late for them to do anything about it!
One way to reduce the chances of other players coming in and claiming your routes, is to play trains several turns in a row. By doing so you’re not giving them much opportunity to collect the trains needed to block you!
13. Play trains in different areas
If you claim a route on one side of the board, and then one on the other side, you make it difficult for other players to know which routes you’re going for!
Don’t play each train route in geographical order, otherwise you may reveal your plans!
14. Grab start and end destinations for long routes early
Of course, it’s important to get the start and end cities for every Destination Ticket otherwise you’ll lose the points for the ticket at the end of the game. But, losing 4 points for the Denver – El Paso route is not going to have the same impact on your final score as losing 22 points for Seattle – New York!
Grab routes connected to your long route start and end cities nice and early. This comes with an additional advantage that if you play a route on one side of the board, and then a route on the other side, most other players won’t figure out that you’re going for a long route!
15. Grab the short grey routes
If there’s a short grey route that’s important for you, claim it quickly! They are prime targets for other players to take once they see which routes you’re going for!
Be on the lookout for other players building routes near the short grey ones too! You can often easily block them with very few trains!
16. Figure out other players’ tickets (and don’t give away yours!)
There are some things to look out for that can help you figure out which routes other players want.
- Players talking about particular cities
- Which color train cards other players are picking up
- Players look frustrated when you play trains on a particular route
- Which areas of the board players are looking at
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re not giving away any of these tells either!
You can also use the inverse of these tells to divert attention away from your real strategy. If you start talking about New York, regularly look at that area of the board and back to your hand, and sigh, shuffle or look annoyed when other players claim routes near there, other players will be bound to think that you want trains near New York!
2-3 Player strategy tips
17. Grab the key routes early
In 2 or 3 player game, the rules say that for each double route, only one of the double routes can be used.
That makes it even more important to get the key routes while they’re available!
4-5 Player strategy tips
18. Zig zag across the map
With more players, the Ticket to Ride map can get crowded pretty quickly! To disrupt as many players as possible, while also making things easier for you to win, create a zig-zagging route across the map from east to west.
Your wiggly route will get in the way of the straight lines the other players are creating and will put you in a great place to get those points for the longest route of the game!
It’ll also be easier for you to create short additional routes at the end of the game when you pick up extra Destination Tickets because you’ll have trains all over the board!
19. Don’t choose too many long route tickets
In a 4-5 player game, it becomes even more difficult to complete long routes. With more people, there are more tickets being completed at any one time which means there’s more competition for the routes that you want.
So make sure that you don’t pick up too many long route tickets because you’re unlikely to complete them all!
Monitor the number of trains each player has
In Ticket to Ride, the game ends when a player has 2 or fewer trains left at the end of their turn. At which point, every player (including them) gets one final turn.
Each player starts with 45 trains. Keep an eye on how many trains people have remaining so you always know how close you are to the end of the game.
This will help you to decide whether to pick up more destination cards, collect more trains or attempt to complete more routes. The last thing you want is for your grand plan to be scuppered by someone ending the game when you least expect it!
Ending the game
If you’re obviously in the lead, it can be a fantastic idea to cause the end of the game and secure your win. Play your remaining trains as quickly as you can and declare the end of the game.
You’ll make it difficult for the other players to catch up with only one turn left!
Conclusion – Ticket to Ride Strategy Tips – How to Win!
I hope you’ve found these Ticket to Ride strategy tips interesting and you’ve got some fresh ideas to take into your next game! May they lay the winning route for you in your next game of Ticket to Ride!
Because we play Ticket to Ride so often, we bought an extra train set in another color! I have a set of purple trains which look exactly like the Ticket to Ride trains from Etsy. I love purple and really enjoy seeing them on the board!
For more Ticket to Ride upgrades, see my post, 17 Epic Ticket to Ride Accessories, Upgrades & Gifts!
If you love Ticket to Ride and want to play more board games like it, check out the game ideas in 12 Fun Board Games Like Ticket to Ride!