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Ticket To Ride – Learn to Play Ticket to Ride

Updated on January 29, 2010
Ticket To Ride - What's In The Box?
Ticket To Ride - What's In The Box?

How To Win


The premise of this game is simple. Ticket to Ride is a train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points you earn. You gain additional points by fulfilling your Destination Tickets by connecting two cities, and building the longest continuous railway. Underneath this simplicity, however, is some serious strategy and resource management.

Ticket to Ride Game Board
Ticket to Ride Game Board
Ticket to Ride Route Scoring Chart
Ticket to Ride Route Scoring Chart

The Game Board

The board is wonderfully illustrated to have the feel of a 1900s piece of art. It is a map of the United States with about 50 cities identified and connected by colored rectangles (which are your routes). If you look closely at the board, you will even find the Jules Verne Nautilus in the Gulf of Mexico. There is a path of numbers along the outside of the board that goes from 0 to 100. This is where you keep score. You will also find a handy scoring chart on the board, as well.

Starting the Game

The game is designed for up to five players. Each player has 45 trains with which to work. These are your "scarce resources". Once you run out of trains, you are done. The game ends when all players are out of trains. I have played this game both with two players and with as many as four players. Let me tell you...this is a tough game with more players.

Each player starts the game with four cards. These cards represent train pieces. The remaining cards are placed in a stack off to the side and five cards are turned over next to the stack.

Lastly, each player receives three destination cards. You must keep at least two of the three. Keep them based on distance apart and quantity of points you receive for completing the required routes that connect the destinations. You have the opportunity to get more destination cards throughout the game.

Three Train Cards = Route
Three Train Cards = Route
Two Trains + Locomotive = Route
Two Trains + Locomotive = Route
Double Routes - You Can Use One of the Routes in 2-3 Player Game
Double Routes - You Can Use One of the Routes in 2-3 Player Game

Train Cards and Routes

There are eight different colored train cards. These cards relate to routes. Routes are connections between any two cities on the board. So, if you want to connect Phoenix to Denver, for example, you need to collect five white train cards. Another example might be connecting Miami to Charleston. This requires four purple train cards. It's really not much more complicated than that. There is an extra card that is the train engine - it is essentially a wild card and can be any color you choose. So, let's go back to Miami. If you wanted to connect it to Charleston, you could choose to use three purple train cards and a train engine card.

The good news is you can have as many cards in your hand as you want.

On the board, you will also find two other interesting things. There are gray routes, but you won't find any gray train cards. These routes can be played with any set of color-matched cards. If the route is two gray spaces, you can play two red, two green, two yellow, etc.

You will also find routes that are double routes, two sets of spaces next to each other. This is for if there are more than three players in the game. In a two-three player game, you may only choose one of the routes - then the other is out of the game. For example, between Kansas City and Saint Louis, there are two sets of routes, two blue spaces and two purple spaces. Once one is taken, the other is out of the game.

Destination - Denver to El Paso = 8 Points
Destination - Denver to El Paso = 8 Points

Destination Cards

This is where the underlying strategy of the game comes in. A destination is a series of routes put together. Your goal is not to just randomly claim routes on the board. You start the game with two or three (depending on your original choice) destination cards.

These cards might indicate something like:

  • Denver - El Paso - 4 points
  • Kansas City - Houston - 5 points
  • Montreal - New Orleans - 13 points

There is a pattern here you can take advantage of - longer routes generate more points. So, you can stock up on short routes and get lots of them or go after the longer routes and knock out a few good ones.

To illustrate my point, Kansas City to Houston is actually three short routes of two train spaces each. So, your total for this destination is 5 points for the destination and 6 points for the three routes (2 points each). This totals 11 points. The other destination, Montreal to New Orleans, is more complicated and could be as much as six routes of varying lengths. A sample set of points for this is 13 points for the destination, and approximately 23 points for the various routes. This totals 36 points, three times more than the Kansas City to Houston destination. Depending on when you choose your route, this may be a complicated gamble.

Here is the kicker to destination cards - you can seriously damage your chance to win if you try to play too many without the cards, enough trains, or opportunities to support it. If, at the end of the game, you still have unfinished destination cards in your hand, you lose that amount of points. So, if you gambled on Montreal to New Orleans destination card, you could potentially lose 13 points if you did not complete the destination.

Playing a Turn

Remember, there is a stack of train cards and five face-up cards from which you may pick.

You can do one of three things on your turn:

  • Draw Train Car Cards
  • Claim a Route
  • Draw more Destination Tickets

If you want to draw more train cards, you may draw two cards from the deck, pick one from the face-up set and one from the deck, or two from the face-up set. If you pull from the face-up set, you need to replace the cards with new ones from the stack (otherwise someone will tap the table and clear their throat at you.)

If you want to claim routes, you may show the cards in your hand allowing you to claim the route - they must be the same color and quantity. Once you do this, you place your train pieces on the route and advance your scoring token the appropriate number of points. The longer the route, the more points you get.

If you choose to draw destination cards, you may draw three and keep at least one. These cards are kept secret from the other players. If the other players identify where you are trying to go, they may try to block you by taking your routes. By the way, it is just not a good idea to keep long destinations after the middle of the game because of large card requirements or lack of train pieces to support your goal.

The Long Train

This would not be a solid family European board game if it did not have some end-game twist that can change the outcome of the game. There is a card, like the Longest Road in Settlers of Catan, that gives you 10 points if you have the longest path. This is a continuous path from one city to the furthest city on the other side of the board. If it is a close game, this could be a game turner for you.

My wife gets me all the time with this. She starts innocently at both sides of the map and gradually and silently moves her routes inward to eventually become unstoppable. If your spouse likes puzzles, I warn you of the silent killer that is the longest path.

And, It Comes With Online Play

I hear it now..."I don't have anyone willing to try this with me..." Days of Wonder have you covered. They have an online gaming area for you. On the back of the rule book, there is an online code so you can play with others over the internet. This is something they do with many of their other games also.

By the way, if you have an Xbox 360, I have seen rumors online that Ticket to Ride is one of the next games to come to the Live Arcade - Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Lost Cities are already there. So, you can truly try before you buy.

Hopefully, we will see you somewhere on the rails!

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