Most Valuable Cities in “Ticket To Ride”

Update 2016-08-14: This article was translated to Japanese by the team at Big Cats Game Blog.

Ticket To Ride is a great board game where the premise is that you’re a railroad baron at the start of the 20th Century. Along the way you collect “Destination Tickets” and you need to need to connect up two specific cities to score extra points.

Not all cities are created equal, however.  Some cities are represented on “Destination Tickets” more frequently, and some cities only have a few pathways into and out of the city.

We calculated the Most Valuable Cities in Ticket To Ride through a simple formula.  Add up the number of points that you get with a given city, and divide it by the number of paths connecting up that city.

For example, New York City has 57 points associated with it, but there are four paths into the city in a 2 or 3 player game, and seven paths in a 4 or 5 player game.  Compare that to Miami, which is worth 50 points but only has three paths regardless of how many people are playing.  This make Miami and much more “valuable” city to connect up with.

Essentially, the more “valuable” a city, the sooner you need to establish a train line into it.  If not, you run the risk of being cut off from any current points you have in your hand, and any future bonus points from already having a connection there.

We’ve crunched the numbers for the US Map and for all four versions of the game (Original, 1910, Big Cities, and Mega Game) and produced a PDF for your reference to use while you’re playing.

“Ticket To Ride” Most Valuable Cities downloadable PDF

And since we’re a site all about graphs, we offer some key information in graph form.

Original Game Most Valuable Cities 

2 or 3 Players:

1. Los Angeles (18.00)
2. Miami (17.00)
3. New York (16.75)
4. Vancouver (16.50)
5. Montreal (10.50)

4 or 5 Players:

1. Miami (17.00)
2. Los Angeles (14.40)
3. Vancouver (11.00)
4. New York (9.57)
5. Montreal (8.40)

When playing the original game, the most important cities to grab are in the four corners of the board (New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Vancouver).  If you’re in the north already, it’s probably also worth it to go for Portland and Montreal.

1910 Game Most Valuable Cities 

2 or 3 Players:

1. Las Vegas (25.00)
2. Boston (18.50)
3. San Francisco (18.33)
4. Miami (13.67)
5. Vancouver (12.00)

4 or 5 Players:

1. Las Vegas (25.00)
2. Miami (13.67)
3. Boston (9.25)
4. San Francisco (9.17)
5. Vancouver (8.00)

When playing the 1910 game, the cities you need to go after are much different.  You better set your sights on Vegas because there are two high-value cross-country cards, and only two paths to get there.  Miami is still important, but you should also be looking at Boston, San Francisco.

Big Cities Game Most Valuable Cities 

2 or 3 Players:

1. Miami (30.67)
2. Los Angeles (27.00)
3. Las Vegas (25.00)
4. New York (24.25)
5. Houston (17.00)

4 or 5 Players:

1. Miami (30.67)
3. Las Vegas (25.00)
2. Los Angeles (21.67)
4. New York (13.86)
5. Houston (12.75)

The Big Cities game forces you to concentrate on a few key cities.  When playing this game, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are two “valuable” cities that are right next to each other, and it’s worth making a play right away to connect them up.  Miami, of course, is still very high because of the lack of paths heading into and out of that city.

Mega Game Most Valuable Cities 

2 or 3 Players:

1. Miami (30.67)
2. Vancouver (29.50)
3. Los Angeles (27.00)
4. Boston (26.50)
5. Las Vegas (25.00)

4 or 5 Players:

1. Miami (30.67)
2. Las Vegas (25.00)
3. Los Angeles (21.67)
4. Vancouver (19.67)
5. New York (13.86)

In the Mega Game, once again the four corners are important (New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Vancouver).  In the Northeast connecting New York, Vancouver, and Boston can be very lucrative, as is connecting Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Takeaways:

  • In the Original, Big Cities, and Mega Game, going after cross-country routes connecting up the four corners will prove the most lucrative.  In the 1910 game, you still need to make cross-country routes but the target cities are slightly different.
  • From a graphing perspective, the use of bar charts with color highlighting point our right away the target cities plus giving a good visual measurement of magnitude in difference between a high-scoring city and a low-scoring one.

5 Replies to “Most Valuable Cities in “Ticket To Ride””

  1. Interesting analysis Corey. It is perhaps of most relevance to the Mega game, where drawing extra tickets is a normal part of the strategy (in the original game, especially with 2-3 players, drawing extra tickets is normally a bad move).

    It is no surprise to see Miami, Los Angeles and New York in your top five for “valuable cities” as often players will look to connect these three. I was more surprised about Vancouver and Las Vegas – these two come up purely because they have few routes in, rather than vast numbers of tickets. This is where I have a problem with your hypothesis that points divided by routes in = how valuable a city is. Yes, a route into Las Vegas is very important if you have a Las Vegas card, but there are only three of those.

    By contast, Nashville/Atlanta don’t score very highly because they have quite a lot of routes in and mostly low scoring tickets. However, if you grap the one route between them, this means you have made a connection which gives access to 10 tickets. Connecting up cities with lots of tickets makes it much more likely that if you draw extra tickets you will have completed one, helping you to the 15 point bonus.

    The Nashville/Atlanta example shows the importance of grabbing direct routes between cities that you have to visit as diversions around these direct routes can be time consuming. So make sure you get the three yellow/ three pink between San Francisco-Los Angeles if you need to connect the Californian hubs.

    Perhaps a further analysis could look at the issue of routes between “valuable” cities?

  2. It is an interesting analysis. I can relate to Peter’s comment. I was playing a game recently where I had two tickets with Atlanta as a destination, but my opponent ended up blocking me out of there while I was claiming routes elsewhere. There was a route into the city, but it was too long for the train cars I had left at the time. Fortunately, it didn’t cost me the game.

    I think route analysis would be great as success in the game is heavily dependent on good route selection. Failure to claim a critical route can criple one’s chances to win. However, I think route analysis would be much more complicated than valuable city analysis since route analysis would depend on which cities one is trying to connect.

    Thanks Corey for the analysis and Peter for the response. I love the game and I was looking for discussion on game strategy and tactics.

  3. I happened to add the number of connections for all cities and found I got odd numbers. When checking the invidual cities I found the error. Oklahoma City has for some reason got one single line to much. 🙂

  4. I think that in the Mega variant, 444 points is the highest possible total based on sets w/ 48 cars (doesn’t include potential longest route or most routes bonuses). The route is as follows:

    Vancouver – LA
    LA – Salt Lake City
    Salt Lake City – St Louis
    St Louis – Miami
    St Louis – Chicago – Pitt – NY -Boston – Montreal
    KC – Houston

    Typically, if I can get at least 1 or 2 West coast – East coast routes, I try to go through the middle of the map and branch out. It will usually give best options going forward. For reference, I usually play a 4 player game, whether live or online.

    Also, based on personal experience, it seems that the Atlanta-Nasville, Portland-Seattle, and New Orleans-Houston connections are potentially routes to get very early on, depending on the initial route cards you draw.

    Thanks Corey for putting the graph together, it does give some helpful analysis.

  5. I think the data is wrong.
    There should only be 4 New York tickets, not 5. And the point valu you have associated with it is wrong.

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