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How to Play: Ticket to Ride

How to Play Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game by Days of Wonder. The aim of the game is to score the highest number of points, which you do by claiming routes between the beautiful cities of the USA. Then you complete a continuous route between two cities, indicated on your destination cards. You also get bonus points at the end of the game if you manage the feat of the longest train!

Ticket to Ride is a gorgeous game and is a lot of fun. It is a great game to get people into the board gaming hobby and is a great game to play with people of all ages.

So, let’s take a closer look at how this gem is played.

Ticket to Ride Set-Up

The board for Ticket to Ride is a gorgeous map of the USA. Place this in the middle of your table. Every player takes a coloured marker token and the matching set of 45 coloured trains. Everyone places their marker at the start of the scoring track that runs around the edge of the board. The game contains 110 train cards, is made up of 12 of each train car type, and 14 locomotive cards. Shuffle the cards and deal four train cards to each player.

Place the remaining cards face down at the side of the board. Turn over the top five cards and lay them out next to the deck so that everyone can see them.

There are 30 destination cards in the game. Shuffle these and deal three to each player. All cards should be kept secret so other players don't know where you're heading.

You must look at your destination cards before you begin your first turn, to decide which you are going to keep and which you are going to discard. You must keep at least two, and you can keep all three if you would like to. Any discarded cards must be returned to the bottom of the destination card deck. Each destination card has a number of points assigned to it, which you can earn by completing the route. However, the points are deducted from your score if you fail to complete that route during the game.

So, let’s play!

Ticket to Ride Gameplay

A game of Ticket to Ride begins with the player who is the most experienced traveller, continuing clockwise around the board. During your turn you must complete one of the following actions:

Draw Train Cards

Take two cards from the top of the deck, or from the five face-up cards from the table. If you take a card from the face-up selection you must immediately replace it with a card from the deck. You may then take another card from the face-up selection, or you can take the top card from the deck.

If you take a locomotive card from the face-up cards then you may only take the one. If you draw a locomotive from the deck, you are very lucky and can still take a second card! The rule only applies to the face-up cards. If there are three locomotive cards in the five face-up cards, you must discard all of these cards and turn over a fresh set of five.

There are eight different types of train cards. As you look at the board you will notice that there are different coloured routes running between the various cities. These match with the train cards in the deck - Red, Orange, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue, White, and Purple. In the deck, there are also locomotive cards. These are multi-coloured wild cards and can be used as any one of the colours needed to complete a route. Once you have gone through the deck, shuffle your discard pile. This becomes your new deck.

Claim a Route

You can claim a route on the board by playing a set of train cards that match the colour and length of the desired route. You then place your coloured trains on that route and move your marker accordingly along the scoring track.

In order to claim a route, you must have the correct number of train cards that match the route you are going for. For example, if you wanted to go from Miami to New Orleans you would need to play six red train cards. Once you have played the cards needed, you may then place your coloured trains over that route.

There are also some grey routes on the board. These can be claimed using any colour train card, as long as you play the right amount. For example, you can claim a grey route three trains long with three red train cards, or three green train cards.

Once you have used your cards to claim a route they must be placed in the discard pile. You can claim any open route on the board, so any route that has not been claimed by anyone else. You do not have to claim your routes in any particular order and you do not need to connect them to any of your previously claimed routes. You can keep an air of mystery to what you are doing and keep the other players guessing where you are heading.

You just need to be aware that if cities are connected by a double route, you cannot claim both routes! If you are playing with only two or three players, the double routes don't count. Once one of the routes of any colour has been claimed then the other route cannot be used.

The route scoring table is on the game board. There are also some cards in the game that show you how many points you score for each route length. These should be recorded by moving your scoring marker each time you claim a route.

Draw Destination Cards

If you wish to you can draw more destination cards. You take the top three from the deck and must keep at least one. Any discarded cards must be placed at the bottom of the deck. As I mentioned earlier, if you do not make the route then you lose the points indicated on the card.

When taking extra destination cards you also need to consider where you are in the game. If you or one of your opponents are getting down to your last few trains then it might not be worth you taking extra destination cards, because the game will likely end in the next couple of turns. So timing is important with taking destination cards. Destination cards are kept secret until the end of the game and there is no limit to how many destination cards you can draw - just remember that you get points deducted for any that are unfinished!

Game End

When one player gets down to two or fewer trains left at the end of their turn, each player, including that player, gets one final turn. The game then ends and it is time to see who has won!

Players should, in turn, reveal their destination cards and add or subtract the points indicated according to whether or not that route was made. Then it is time to see who has made the longest continuous path, which is worth an additional 10 points.

When looking at who has the longest continuous path, you should look at each colour in turn. Trains can pass through the same city more than once, but each train can only be counted once. If two (or more) players are tied for the longest train, then they each score 10 points.

The player with the most points wins the game. In the unlikely event that two or more players are tied for first place, the player who has completed the most destination tickets is the winner. If this doesn’t break the tie, then it is the player with the longest continuous path.

And that’s how you play the wonderful Ticket to Ride! It is a great game for people exploring the board gaming hobby and one that we love getting out to play with family and friends.

Don't forget to read our review for this game and to see the full range of the Ticket to Ride series.

Editors note: This blog was originally published on May 8th, 2018. Updated on January 18th, 2022 to improve the information available.