If you haven’t played Franchise, then check out my review for why I think this is such a rich and interesting intro plus game. However, if you are looking for tips on play styles, then here is my current thinking:
During the Game:
Lose Cities to Win States; Points matter, and when you go into the small towns around the big cities, you are not just using the cheap roads, blocking other players, but you are also preparing to win the state. Don’t fight for the cities only to have another player walk away with as many points from the state bonus tile. You need to get income in the cities, points in selected locations and win the key states. Especially important to lose some cities to make sure your opponent is invested in that state scoring (because not all of them will be scored)!
Score in Many States; Coming second in every state works, as long as the player in first in those states is different. So be balanced with your expansion and capture points by just laying down one or two franchises in a state your opponent has over invested into and will carry through to scoring without any more help.
Rush to the Finish; This seems like a game that will play slowly to the close, but there is a real acceleration in the second half of the game and you will rush to score the states you have invested in and which could offer you the win. Watch out for opponents blocking your score not by countering your efforts in a state, but by scoring the smaller and easier states!
Early Income; Everything in this game needs money and you will need to try to build your income strategically. Perhaps a big city that no one can easily get to in the West, or go for a couple of mid sized cities. Don’t over expand in your own cities in the early game because whilst this will block other players, it can also allow them to collapse your income quickly and cheaply by causing you to over invest to protect – very much a sunk cost symptom that roots itself in the game.
Fight for Control; The states with 4 spaces are the most interesting, two early spaces mean that you will score this city regardless and now its a cash cow. Try to earn these positions where players can only play for the draw and then hold a controlled city for income for as long as you can.
Bonus Expansion; Early game this strategy on the token can give you the mechanic to get to a gold mine such as New York, or to invade a neighbour via a small town. Use these to build up the income early game and benefit throughout.
Bonus Franchise; The addition of another franchise in the same city in the same turn can be the ultimate way of tipping a disputed city to a scored city in your favour. When an opponent mounts a challenge you can use this to shut the city down – watch out though, because if you don’t do it immediately then they can do the same in their turn!
Active Player Points; The active player scoring the state gains extra points. Yes you are coming second in this state, but those active points and the fact that the other player wont get the income could mean that it is better for you to score the state than wait and let them do it!
2 Point Towns; These offer great starting grabs. It’s only a small income but no one will want to enter the city to not even get a turn of points. These are good early fortresses but you will have to close them down later in the game – be ready for this.
Key Movement; Find the routes across the board that give you the highways or curving roads that loop into Chicago and other major cities. These are the key areas to control on the map and watching who can move through them is important!