Ticket to Ride (TTR) is a card-playing set-matching game. If you are able to lay down matching cards, you can claim a train route and lay your trains down on the board – connecting one city to another city. Adding complexity to this gameplay are destination tickets. These are tickets that involve longer train routes that connect one part of the map to another part. These tickets come with point bonuses that are tallied at the end of the game; if you fail to complete your tickets then they count against your score at game end.
Often these tickets are the framework for where you are going to place your trains on the map, and serve as the focus for your strategy. If you are foiled early by an opponent laying down trains and blocking your overall route then you have to plan to either go around them or draw more tickets and hope for the best. There are many boards to choose from when playing TTR; this column will be discussing The Heart of Africa (which is map expansion #3).
Previous Losing Strategies
Here are two ways I’ve lost on this board in the past:
- I didn’t correctly count how many trains I would need to complete a destination ticket, and missed completing my biggest ticket by three trains.
- I completed an east coast route and a west coast route. I was blocked off at the very northeast corner of the map, and was unable to complete my east coast destination ticket. I tried to balance this by completing a route across the middle and connecting my east route with my west route. This was an unmitigated disaster and led to me losing the game by north of 70 points.
My strategy from the outset of this game was to play conservatively and complete a few initial destination tickets. The Africa board is notoriously difficult for “ticket-diving” (the practice of adding destination tickets to your hand at the end of the game in order to gain additional points for routes you have already completed) so completing these early destination tickets is an essential step. There are no tunnels on this map and few ferry routes. Terrain cards are the new addition to this map, and they are set up next to the train cards in the playing area. You have the choice to either draw train cards or terrain cards on your turn, or you can draw one of each. Terrain cards can double the value of a route when played at the same time the route is completed.
An additional note:
We don’t play with stations unless we are playing a 5-player game. Stations are for people who can’t handle conflict.
I had learned from my prior mistakes, and went after 3 destination tickets early, and 3 additional tickets in the mid-game. I counted my trains and made sure I had enough to complete the routes. I counted the Political Mastermind’s trains. She was running approximately 10 trains behind me, so I had the time to complete my routes.
I had an east-west route crossing the top of the map and an east route going all the way to the southernmost part of the map. These routes weren’t connected. All I needed to do was connect them, and I would secure 31 points in destination tickets.
The Political Mastermind immediately dropped a set of trains down on the exact route that I needed, and then said
“you better start taking some notes, because you are about to lose at a board game”.
Since I now needed work around the Political Mastermind’s mean-spirited roadblock, I needed to play 5 green cars in order to secure an alternate link between my routes.
I started drawing. And then kept drawing. I ended up with only 4 green cards, and the Political Mastermind played her last train. I had to play my 4 cards on a last ditch route, and kiss those 31 points goodbye. I lost 157-101.