Now that you are familiar with the game it is time to discuss the optimal way to play. First, let's look at the way the game awards you points. Like you probably know already you can score points in three ways: placing trains, completing tickets, and win the bonus.
How to maximise chances before starting the game?
You have the option to be the first player to start. You should always go first. There is not a single achievement where you benefit from not going first so use this to your advantage. Also, at the start of the game, you will have to draw destination tickets. If the tickets are on completely different routes you can simply restart the game until you draw very favourable tickets. This strategy(exploit) is recommended to use for every achievement. You don’t always need the perfect tickets but I generally recommend restarting until you draw a set of tickets you know you can comfortably all complete without too much luck. This is by far the most optimal way to play and is the best tip I can give you. I will assume you do this during every game that you are playing!
How important are long routes?
The number of points that are awarded to you for building routes are linked to the length of each individual route. The longer the length of each route, the more relative amount of points that will be awarded to you:
1 cart route = 1 point
2 cart route = 2 points
3 cart route = 4 points
4 cart route = 7 points
5 cart route = 10 points
6 cart route = 15 points
So you might be thinking, won’t it be best if I just only claim all the six cart routes to maximise the number of points I get? As a main strategy, this will not get you very far in most cases. This is because completing additional destination tickets will be far more lucrative.
However, you should always keep in consideration when the game is close to ending, it might be better to start claiming long routes instead of drawing new destination tickets. Drawing new tickets will always have the risk of not having enough trains/turns/cards to complete it, so points will be deducted from your score. Alternatively, you might be able to claim an open long route and score 10/15 points in just 2/3 turns for that slight edge which can win you the game.
What AI should I play against?
Unless I specifically mention otherwise, you should always play against a single AI. There is some debate on which AI is the easiest to play against and I can’t give you a 100% clear answer on that. In my experience, Marg Loughbot is the easiest AI to exploit as it seemed that once I would block one of her routes she had no clue what to do next. However, your results may vary. For the hardest achievement, I recommend playing against Jane Stanbot and it seems that C. Huntingbot prefers to claim short routes. Choosing the right AI really comes down to your personal preference and for most achievements, it should not matter as long as you know what you are doing.
How many destination tickets should I complete?
If you complete more than two tickets in a match then your chances of winning the game are well over 80%. However, in some cases, you don’t have the luxury to draw extra tickets, and even though you met the requirements of the achievement you also need to win the match for it to unlock. In most cases, your best bet will be to draw one round of additional tickets and complete them so you will most likely win the match. This heavily depends on how your opponent is doing of course. If your opponent suddenly starts drawing new destination tickets while you haven't blocked any of their routes then you can be almost certain that they have completed all their tickets. If this happens you will also have to draw extra tickets and hope for the best.
How important are the bonus points at the end of the game?
In the normal USA map (base game) the player with the longest continuous route will be awarded 10 bonus points. Other maps have different or no bonuses like “connect the most cities” or “complete the most destination tickets”. In my own experience, I’d mostly ignore these bonuses. Yes, it can be very frustrating that you lost by five points because you didn’t get the bonus. However, for many achievements, you can’t spare the trains or turns to focus on the bonus.
My advice is to largely ignore the bonuses. You will have a high chance to complete them even though you didn’t focus on them due to the AI being useless at winning. Yes in some cases you will be screwed over at the end but in the long run, it is just not worth the hassle.
Value of locomotives and what color should I prioritise?
If you choose to draw cards during your turn you must either draw any two coloured cards or pick one locomotive as it counts for two draws. Locomotives can be used as a substitute card for any color. If you decide to draw from the pile instead and pull a locomotive then it will only count as one draw allowing you to draw another card and potentially even pull a second locomotive.
Now, at the start of the game, you should already have a decent idea of what coloured cards you are going to need based on either which achievement you are trying to unlock or what destination tickets you drew. Count the number of cards needed for each color and be on alert for them. If your route is going to need many more blue cards compared to the other colours then I would recommend to always pick these when they appear in the visible group of five cards. This should be your top priority unless you are paranoid about the opponent going to block your route on their next turn.
Now that you know what cards to look out for and are ready to start the game my general approach is to always draw from the pile(unless a high priority card is lying face up, then take that one instead). Drawing from the pile maximises your chance of getting locomotives which always come in handy while there is virtually no downside to it at the start of the game since all cards you receive will be useful. As the game progresses your priority of certain color trains will diminish gradually and drawing from the pile will be less useful.
Now when you only need around 3 colours to finish your routes I would start to also consider picking any face-up locomotives. Yes, you only get one card instead of two but a single useful card is 100% more effective at building routes than two cards of a color you don’t need. It might be useful to know that there is a finite amount of each coloured card available in the game so the more cards you hold of one color the lower the chance of drawing the same color. However, I consider this a very small factor in what coloured card you will draw so I wouldn’t advise you to waste too much time keeping track of this.
- Play on Win10 PC to play faster games.
- Play against one AI bot unless stated otherwise.
- Restart the game until you draw destination tickets that are in line with the secondary goal you will need to complete.
- Keep on the lookout for high priority face up train cards and pick these when you can.
- The value of locomotives goes up as the game progresses.
- Only pick up extra destination tickets if our opponent did the same and is playing well.
- Bonuses can largely be ignored.
- Claiming a random long route can give you a final push at the end of the game.
Like I mentioned earlier. I will always assume that you are using this strategy unless I can provide additional tips for certain achievements. Using this playstyle should win you the majority of the games. However, since this game has an element of luck involved you can always find yourself in a scenario where you will need to be creative and adapt on the fly. I cannot help you in these situations as every scenario is unique and different from any other game you might have played before. Sometimes you just need to get lucky so keep that in mind. If you are having trouble winning you should read this chapter again as you might have overlooked something.
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