Board Game Review: Ticket to Ride First Journey

Ticket to Ride holds something of a cult status in our household, solely down to my 4 year old and his love for all things train related. But with both of our existing versions (Europe and Rails & Sails) we tend to simplify the rules heavily to suit his ability, meaning the only time we played those games to their full is with an older group of players. It always seemed a shame that a game which could be enjoyed by kids of almost all ages never had a version specifically for the younger gamers out there; this is until First Journey arrived, and provided us with a game that we could play with its full intended set of rules without needing to simplify it for the little ones. There’s something else interesting about this too: it works equally well with an exclusively adult audience too, something I absolutely didn’t expect.

Heading back to America for the map, the changes are immediately obvious. Stations are fewer in number, and have large text with bold images next to each one. That’s great for kids not able to fully read the city names, and means you can form a route between “the big bridge and the dinosaur” instead of having to read San Francisco and Denver for example. The number of cards needed between each station has dropped too, meaning there’s more routes you can easily make without needing to hoard cards for half the game, something very handy when trying to keep kids engaged throughout. We certainly found that regular achievements throughout the game was a sure fire way of keeping everyone interested from start to finish.

Things are also trimmed down a little by only having three route cards at once, with each completed route simply being worth a single point and the winner being whoever can fill 6 routes first. There’s little need to prioritise or decide which routes are most important, you just take them however you choose. For the first few games we simplified things even further by just having one route card at a time, but then as we played more we upped it to two and then up to the full quota as everyone got to grips with the strategy of deciding which route to complete. It’s nice to be able to just abandon routes without fear of being penalised later down the line, and is another example of just how well this game has been adapted for a new audience. There’s still the decision of whether to nab a quick route or take some more cards on your turn which might lead to more direct journeys, but that’s the very core of the Ticket to Ride gameplay, and to take that out would probably over simplify things.

The playing pieces are bigger too, with chunky train carriages being far easier for smaller hands to grab hold of and position effectively, and combined with the more spaced out board certainly means there’s very little help needed in terms of handling the components and moving things about. But as I mentioned earlier this isn’t going to solely appeal to just kids; one criticism I had of Rails and Sails was that the games took ages, and weren’t suitable for casual gamers. First Journey takes that criticism and smacks it out the park, to the point that it also makes a brilliant quick game for a few adults or older kids to enjoy without having to worry about time. You can easily play a game of this in 20-30 minutes, and therefore serves nicely as a quick end of evening game or an introduction to the main games for those who are interested in finding out without an epic learning session.

So the summary is an easy one – if you’ve got younger gamers, or non-gamers, or just people who want a quick game of something fun, slightly strategic but easy enough for a 4 year old to understand, then Ticket to Ride First Journey is perfect. A fantastic new direction for a hugely popular series of games.

Ticket to Ride: First Journey
Available Now, RRP £25.99
Find your local stockist here

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