A simple roll and write, so what strategies could I offer to this? Here’s the thoughts from my side…
During the Game:
Dice Distribution; The dice distribution is probably the most advanced tactics / approach you can develop. Three of the dice are just the combination of the first six sides – the dice that offer a corner / straight / junction of the individual routes. Then the last dice offers two sides of the last three – that’s the ones with stations or cross-over that combines rail and road. This helps then to know what can come – in turns 6 and 7 there are only so many things that can be rolled and only so many combinations you can hope for. Keep these in mind to ensure that you aren’t seeking something that isn’t possible. Over time you might even be able to predict the most likely outcomes.
Taking Consistent Risks; Don’t take risks early in the game only to shy away from the risks if they don’t come off. Equally if you play cautiously, then you will need to think about whether the game has offered chances to those who were more aggressive and if you need to take more aggressive risks in the late turns. All that said, changing strategy through the game is tricky and usually not beneficial – I prefer to either player conservatively or aggressively throughout. Putting yourself in a position to maximise the value of the dice roles.
Using Specials; The specials are large complex junctions – joining the different networks. Using them to connect sprawling branches will help you achieve long routes and to get a single global network. Given they connect multiple ways, you will also likely want to use these near the middle of the board and late in the game. Don’t wait too long though, you can only do one special per turn – so you will likely be using one for each of the last three turns (or may be one slightly earlier!).
Building Out; To connect all the networks (or at least about 10 of them) you will need to build out from the networks at the edges and pull it all in to the middle. You will need to use the dice rolls early in the game to build into the centre of the map and then use the special junctions to join these disparate networks together to create a single large network with long routes.
Centre Ground; It seems so meaningless, but c.7 of the 9 squares in the centre being filled, is 7 points. That’s 7 points that will probably be 12%-15% of your total score – that’s pretty worthwhile! Always try to make the most of it during the game.
Open Ends; Don’t be too afraid of the open ends, it’s likely that you will score between 4-6 negative points at the end of the game from open ended rails or roads. You will lose these points, but the risks allow you to create the large network, the long routes and the centre scoring tiles. Ultimately these will be worth more.