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Dennis Leung
United States
Half Moon Bay
California
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Our little guy is starting to grow up (he's 4 and a half now), so we've been looking for more and more children's games that we can play with him. Go Away Monster! and First Orchard were hits with him when he turned 3 years old. Later, we added Richard Scarry's Busytown: Busy, Busy Airport Game and Robot Turtles. While these games served their purpose and I happily played them with him, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't looking forward to, well, better games. Yes, I'll willingly play The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game, but hopefully as an investment for the future. But how do we take that next step?

In the other direction of "gamer games", the Ticket to Ride series has been almost universally acclaimed as one of the most successful gateway games in the hobby. In fact, Ticket to Ride: Europe was one of the first games that we played years ago when we were first starting out. The series tends to combine relatively straightforward rules with deeper decisions than may first appear. No, it isn't Agricola, but decisions on when and which routes to claim, when to draw new tickets, how to network your route optimally, controlling the tempo the game, and others are meaningful and competitive decisions. Basically, we still enjoy playing this game and it's significantly enjoyable than most of the children's games we've tried so far.

That being said, despite the simple rule set, these decisions make the game a little more difficult for young children to play. That's what had us so excited about Ticket to Ride: First Journey. As soon as we saw that there was a children's version of Ticket to Ride, we immediately went out of our way to get it. Luckily we had some Target gift cards that we could use (since currently the game is a Target-exclusive).

The game comes with the trademark great children-friendly Days of Wonder art. The insert has large wells to hold all of the components with enough space for little fingers to get everything out.



The train pieces are nice and easy to hold. They are significantly larger than the pieces for the original. The cards are full size and display nice bright colors with clearly differentiated symbols on them. I do want to give Days of Wonder a shout out here---the components are great. For example, compared to Richard Scarry's Busytown: Busy, Busy Airport Game (which is a great kid's pick-up-and-delivery game, by the way), those pieces have tiny, tiny cardboard chits and tiny, tiny cards that are a pain to play with and put away. Don't underestimate the ease of playing with these pieces. The board itself is nice and large and in a nice touch, each city now has a clear symbol to help identify them.




The game has a recommended age of 6+. That's probably about right---the rule set has been streamlined from the original Ticket to Ride even further. The math for counting up points has been taken out and the win condition is now successfully completing 6 tickets (or the most tickets when one player has used up all of their trains). Most of the tickets are fairly easy to complete and the city symbols on the cards really helps to identify them on the map (particularly for kids who can't read as well). On your turn, generally you decide to either claim route by playing cards of that color or by drawing new cards. This time, you only draw two cards blind from the pile rather than deciding between face up cards. There is also a bonus for completing a coast-to-coast route. That being said, the core Ticket to Ride gameplay is still there. Claiming routes before other players. Making the most efficient network of trains---in fact, this is almost more important here since you only get 20 trains, so efficiently distributing them between your six tickets can actually be a challenge.

As I mentioned, the recommended age for the game is 6+. Our little guy is only 4 and half years old, but I was still eager to try it with him. One thing working in our favor is that he loves maps and directions. In fact, the first time he saw the board, he flipped out finding Seattle and San Francisco (where our families live). He also loves learning directions (his favorite thing might be listening to the GPS in the car or playing with Google Maps). And, of course, he loves trains, so the theme was like hitting the jackpot. We broke it out for a few games, but changed it so that we only passed out one destination ticket at a time. He's probably too young to be able to efficiently plan his routes, so this allowed him to focus on one route at a time but still learn the core gameplay.

How did it go? It worked quite well! What's great about this game is that the initial decisions are very easy---do you have the right colors to claim a route? If not, draw more cards! Especially in this case since we were only working on one ticket at a time, it was easier for him to plan his route. But that's what's great---we can start with this even more simplified version and teach him how to play the game. This is really the first game that has introduced the concept of resources (cards) and future planning, plus adding in the concepts of networking. This isn't just roll some dice or turn a spinner and see what happens. There are actual decisions that he has to plan for! It's no longer about just playing your immediate turn---he now actually has to start thinking several turns in the future. What other people do now can have an impact on what you do. We can now start slowly teaching him actual strategy concepts. This is a HUGE step forward. Later, we can start adding in more of the game such as the effect of working on multiple tickets at the same time as well as working on the coast-to-coast bonus. Unlike other children's games that kind of get tossed to the side after being learned, we can actually grow with the game over time and add in more concepts. And probably least importantly, this is also a game that I can genuinely enjoy playing with him.

That being said, to be fair, he did say that this was the "hardest" game that he's played so far and I have had to help him out (just a little) on some of the route planning. But I didn't expect him to be an expert right away, and I do feel that it's good to start challenging him in these areas. Despite that, he still enjoys playing the game. He's only 4 and a half years old, so I do feel that by the time he turns 6, he should have a good grasp on the complete game.



Everything is packaged so nicely---big, colorful pieces with a fun train theme that can start teaching kids about resources and planning and strategy. So, thank you Alan Moon, for creating a great new kid's game and rescuing me from those sneaky, snacky squirrels!

Thanks to W. Eric Martin and crotalusman for a couple of the pictures.
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Jon Browne
United Kingdom
Loughborough
Leicestershire
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Awesome review.

Imagine if there was a continent of 750 million people across the pond that were also pretty fond of boardgames...
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Alan R. Moon
United States
Unspecified
New York
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Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the review and the many kind words. It's great to see your son enjoying FIRST JOURNEY and I hope it will lead him to play a lot more games as he grows up.

The final rules gloss over one of my favorite parts of the game. During the first playtest, I completed the first ticket. I banged it down on the table and loudly proclaimed "ticket" as a joke and to annoy my friends a little in a fun way. But that became the standard way to proclaim a ticket. It's especially fun when you complete one ticket, yell out "ticket", then draw another ticket that you can complete and get to yell out "ticket" immediately again. It reminds me of an episode of the Carol Burnett Show when they were all playing SORRY and yelling out "sorry" in ever growing intensity. I hope you'll give it a try. I think your son will love it.

Thanks again,
Alan
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Andrew Schlueter
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Ridgecrest
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We just got it and played with my four year old son - it's a hit! He's already asked to play it again, and there's enough game there that we don't mind obliging him. A great design for the little ones that manages to stay interesting for the adults. That's quite an achievement, and I look forward to many more plays!
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Jon Browne
United Kingdom
Loughborough
Leicestershire
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Am I the only one that's annoyed that this game is having an artificially limited release?

I find it very hard to believe that a Target exclusive was the only way an Asmodee owned Days of Wonder could publish a kids version of their highly popular title that's also arguably one of the biggest selling designer board games of all time

Wouldn't this be making a killing right now if it had a simultaneous worldwide release?

Will it ever be made available to the periphery regions of the world such as those small European countries with tiny board game markets such as the UK and Germany? If so how long is the wait?
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Peter Schott
United States
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Texas
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You're not the only one annoyed, but I get the feeling Target put up enough money to help get the game published that it was hard for DoW to say no. Alan Moon indicated elsewhere that it wouldn't have been published for some time w/out that help.

I think they've underestimated the market for a good kid's game as well, but that's not my call.
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The Soot Sprite
Australia
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A wonderful, enjoyable review! Great to see your son enjoying the game so much.

I hope the game gets wider distribution, too!
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Mike Bialecki
United States
Costa Mesa
California
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leungd wrote:
This is really the first game that has introduced the concept of resources (cards) and future planning, plus adding in the concepts of networking. This isn't just roll some dice or turn a spinner and see what happens. There are actual decisions that he has to plan for! It's no longer about just playing your immediate turn---he now actually has to start thinking several turns in the future. What other people do now can have an impact on what you do. We can now start slowly teaching him actual strategy concepts. This is a HUGE step forward. Later, we can start adding in more of the game such as the effect of working on multiple tickets at the same time as well as working on the coast-to-coast bonus. Unlike other children's games that kind of get tossed to the side after being learned, we can actually grow with the game over time and add in more concepts. And probably least importantly, this is also a game that I can genuinely enjoy playing with him.

That being said, to be fair, he did say that this was the "hardest" game that he's played so far and I have had to help him out (just a little) on some of the route planning.


I was going to write my own review of this game, but you already hit the points that I would have, so I'll just piggy-back off yours and stress a few things.

My daughter is 5. She'll start kindergarten in the fall. She's been playing board games since she could understand the concept of turns. Many of her favorites are these "Gateway games to Gateway games" like Catan Junior, Kids of Carcassonne, and My First Stone Age. She can play each of these games with very little help and even wins some of the time, because there's still a fair amount of luck involved.

TtR: First Journey, however, seems to be a level up from these other games. She can still play it with very little help, but just enough luck has been removed from the game relative to other kids games that mom or dad wins every time. It is a fact she has easily noticed and one that is beginning to cause a little frustration. Like the OP said, there are many levels to this game and our five year old is having a hard time getting past that first level of play. She can only focus on one ticket at a time and only one way of solving that ticket. She has a very hard time seeing alternative routes, so she'll keep searching for whites for that most direct route even though she already has the cards to solve the same ticket in a little more round-about way. It's fun to have a game simple enough to empower her with the ability to play with no help, and yet deep enough for her to grow into. And my wife and I genuinely enjoy playing it as well. Kudos to Mr. Moon!
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E D
United States
wilton
New York
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leungd wrote:
He's only 4 and a half years old, so I do feel that by the time he turns 6, he should have a good grasp on the complete game.


i kind of suspect a 6 year old (and parent) after playing this for 1.5 years, will be bored of this game and wish they were playing the real game!
 
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Chris Bailey
United States
Broomfield
Colorado
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How old do your kids have to be before this is to light for them? I ask because I have a 9 and a 12 year old and I was thinking of springing the original Ticket to Ride on them over the holiday.
 
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Chris Schumann
United States
Saint Paul
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I've been a gamer for a long time, and I still enjoy this.

I'm fully aware that all the tickets are valued at 1, and there's more luck. But to me, if I go in knowing that, it's all OK. Yes, sometimes the 6 year-old wins with lucky draws. How awesome!

Yes, sometimes my 86 year-old mom wins too, and that's great!

If I value this for the social experience, then I'm good with another play, and another, and another.

When I want to get competitive, I get another game out.

So, kids of 9 and 12 should enjoy at least a couple games just to learn it, and more if they know the game can sometimes make it easy for the young ones to win.
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E D
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wilton
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ixnay66 wrote:
How old do your kids have to be before this is to light for them? I ask because I have a 9 and a 12 year old and I was thinking of springing the original Ticket to Ride on them over the holiday.


Original for sure, especially if you already have!
 
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Mike Bialecki
United States
Costa Mesa
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ixnay66 wrote:
How old do your kids have to be before this is to light for them? I ask because I have a 9 and a 12 year old and I was thinking of springing the original Ticket to Ride on them over the holiday.


I played it with a couple nine year olds and they seemed to really like it. However, these were 9 year olds from a NON-gaming family. It was the first hobby game they had played.

My wife and I are as hard core a gamer as anybody and we both enjoy the game. Although there is more luck in the game than the original, our 5 year old daughter has a very difficult time beating us. Obviously, 9 and 11 year olds will be a different story, but there *is* some skill involved in the game.
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D. Chase

Beaverton
Oregon
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jonboyjon wrote:
Awesome review.

Imagine if there was a continent of 750 million people across the pond that were also pretty fond of boardgames...

I'm sure that there will be expansions to this as it is such a clean design. My son (6 years old) loves this game. I would love to get him a Europe version as he has been learning a lot of history.
 
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