We’ve got a Ticket to Ride
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Ticket to Ride has become the “go to” family board game of recent times. Partly because it’s simple, but largely because it’s a genuinely good game.
However, for some reason a lot of games companies don’t seem to publish games aimed solely at children. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Haba Games for example make some fantastic games aimed solely at children (and any adult who has played Super Rhino, I challenge you to tell me it’s rubbish) but they’re definitely in the minority.
Mainstream publishers and games have been adapted for children before, and I have even reviewed one of them (the really small-gamer friendly My First Stone Age) but now it is finally time for Ticket to Ride to do join the fray. Enter Ticket to Ride: First Journey.
First Journey is squarely aimed at the gap in the demographic for Ticket to Ride. Kids aged between I’d say 6 and 10 will likely struggle with Ticket to Ride. Either down to how fiddly the cards are to keep hold of once you have a bunch (honestly, I have pretty big hands but even I struggle with a handful of Ticket to Ride cards), or purely because it’s too complicated. I appreciate this won’t be the case for everyone, but as a gross generalisation, I’m not far off of the mark. However, First Journey looks to address both of those issues in one fell swoop.
Eddie’s First Journey
Please bear in mind, that to test the theory of how well aimed at children First Journey was, I got my 7 year old son to open it and check over the components, so I can confirm first and foremost that it is definitely child friendly, and just as exciting to open as any adult board game.
First things first, once you have opened the box, the first thing you see is the rule sheet- and I mean sheet. The game is so simple to pick up, it doesn’t take up any more than a single page. That is child aimed genius at work!
Next thing we found was the board. I have seen several iterations of the Ticket to Ride board (including the really ugly one in Rails and Sails), but the one for First Journey just looks friendly. It isn’t daunting, it’s not too noisy like the original can be; it’s big and bold and interesting to look at.
I really loved the fact that whilst all of the cities were named, they were also given oversized pictures to identify them too, and these were also shown on the tickets to help little minds work out their own strategies.
As far as the other components go, I was also suitably impressed with what came out of the box. The trains which come with First Journey are really child friendly. They’re roughly double the size of the trains from its predecessor meaning that children won’t struggle to pick them up and place them. The cards have also been made of a really sturdy stock because Days of Wonder clearly knew that they would be man (well, child) handled. Because of this, they don’t bend too easily and don’t feel like they’d be too easy to rip either.
Please indulge me for a moment with the rules for first journey. If you have read any of my previous reviews then you’ll know that I don’t like explaining rules, but since there are so little of them in First Journey, and the fact that it shows how Days of Wonder have aimed it at a younger audience, that I feel it’s really worth a mention this time.
*For those who have not played the original Ticket to Ride, there’s a link to those rules right here. Mind you, it would probably prove better to follow the next link and go and buy a copy as it’s a fantastic game and I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed! BUY ME*
So, here we go, the rules for First Journey:
- All players have 20 trains to start with
- You draw 2 tickets to start and have to keep them
- You draw 4 train cards at the start too
- On your turn you can gain some train cards or claim a route
- If taking more cards, take 2 from the top of the deck (there’s no “market”)
- You have to play the same amount of colour cards for the route you want to claim
- The winner is the first person to claim 6 tickets, or whoever has the most complete tickets when the last train is placed by someone.
I’m pretty sure that I could teach someone’s pet dog to play First Journey in around 10 minutes. In fact, my 7 year old was able to teach it to his Grandma in 5 minutes too, which shows how accessible it is.
One interesting point I need to raise is the play time. Each game of First Journey I have played has levelled out to be around 20 minutes. I think it could swing 5 minutes either way depending on how easy or hard the tickets your draw are, but 20 minutes seems to be about it. It seems to hit a pretty good sweet spot in keeping kids’ attention and making sure they’re invested enough to enjoy it.
There is an additional card in the box for any player which managed to make a train journey from Coast to Coast, but as opposed to having a bonus, it seems to just be for bragging rights. I suppose it’s also good training for when they grow a little and try Ticket to Ride and start aiming for the lofty heights of the longest route.
Chuff or Chaff?
Before I go into my own thoughts on First Journey, I figured that I’d give you an insight in to what my son thought of it, especially since he’s the one who wanted to play it. So, I asked my son to chime in his opinion and give it a little review of his own like he did for My First Stone Age. Firstly, he agreed and then decided that he couldn’t because he’d not written his review for Squirrel Rush (I honestly couldn’t make this up). So, the only quote I managed to get was “I love First Journey, it’s fun to play and I managed to beat my Daddy without cheating.” – Eddie Dunnings, reviewer in training.
For me personally, I’m not going to beat around the bush. I think First Journey is a great game for little people. It captures a lot of the great parts of Ticket to Ride and just makes them more accessible to a younger generation. It teaches Children a good level of strategy, but as well as that it teaches them fair play and social skills that some other games will not.
Coupled with this, I also think that it made Eddie feel like he was playing an adult game (he did actually ask to play Rails and Sails straight away afterwards though) without the inherent challenges of doing so. I have to admit that although My First Stone Age was good, it didn’t have much longevity and both of my children grew out of it quite quickly, but I can’t see the same thing happening with First Journey. I think it will do both of them well enough until they’re ready to play Ticket to Ride, and I’m horrified by the thought of how good they’re going to be at it by then.
Left at the Station?
As strange as it feels to mention, I don’t think I have anything negative to say about First Journey. Alright, it’s hardly taxing for my jaded old noggin, but it wasn’t aimed at me in the first place. And despite being a kids’ game, I have still found a lot of fun in playing it myself. It’s a game that I don’t mind playing again and again as sometimes can happen when children get obsessive about things.
For me, First Journey ticks all of the right boxes. It is complicated enough that it still has the basic feel of Ticket to Ride, but it’s easy enough that it can be grasped by kids. Point in fact, the first game that I played with Eddie, he actually managed to manufacture a win by claiming a ticket to put him in front, and then placed his last train on the next turn to finish the game. I was so proud! A sneak tactic that I’d have been proud of.
But perhaps more important than it’s complexity, it’s the feeling of empowerment that it gives little players; like they’re part of the board gaming generation and are carving their path through it too.
I’m a great lover of Ticket to Ride, and am thinking of purchasing another one soon, but First Journey is the best game for kids that I have ever seen. It’s more complex than 5 minute small box affairs which most kids games end up being, but equally as fun, and that’s not something that can be said about a lot of games.
Overall, I give First Journey a route claiming, opponent smashing 8 out of 10. And Eddie gives it a solid 5 stars.
If you’d like to pick up your own copy of first journey for your gamer-in-training (and I’d recommend doing so) then you can find it right here, and it won’t hurt your wallet too much either:
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I am just a regular guy that fell into board gaming. That's why I am no longer allowed in my local Toys R Us. I'm a huge fan of deckbuilding games and games with unusual themes or mechanics. OK, maybe I'm not that regular after all.