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Ticket to Ride has quickly become a family favorite because my non-gamer wife and my kids enjoy it. I like the game, so it works out fine.
My 9 year old daughter plays as anyone would play and she is quite good at it. A few years ago when she started playing she tended to build up her cards and not start routes until she had all the cards she needed. This resulted in numerous piles of cards on her side of the board as she organized her plans. She was furious when I would cut off a route that she needed. She has learned to go ahead a lay routes and not wait until the end -and so her scores have risen.
Her younger brother recently started playing. He still doesn't handle losing well, but we've come up with a variant that allows him to compete.
Variant Kids Rules:
1. Draw three destination tickets. Unlike the regular rules, you don't lose points if you fail to complete a ticket. Instead you just score the tickets you do complete.
2. All routes open --even when we play with 2 or 3, all double routes can be used. I hated this rule, but had to implement it to avoid fighting and frustration. What I've found is that after a few games under this rule, my son is now ready to play the regular ("cutthroat") version.
3. Quick Game- My son's attention span isn't the greatest. So we've come up with quick game rules that work well for him. These also work well when we only have a half hour to play. The game ends as soon as any player completes her second ticket. We all score our routes (with no penalties for incomplete routes) and total up our scores. Obviously the person who finishes first has a huge advantage since he is the only one who will score the second route. But we've had games where the person who scored one long ticket beats the person who completes two shorter tickets.
What we have found is that we can finish in a half hour and the kids enjoy the variety of each new game. I'm slowing pushing them towards cutthroat gaming, but their mom resists and so I have to move with stealth and care.
Regardless, these rules have worked great for us.
Aura Lee Besse
I too use the variants above when playing with my 7 year old daughter (who I am gently trying to convert into a gamer).
Other variants we use are:
(1) Open destination tickets - At the beginning of the game we choose 3 destination cards and keep one face up on the table.
My daughter is enrolled at a Chinese immersion school and has just started learning to read in English this year so she needs a little help not only with the city names but with finding them on the board.
To facilitate route planning we place colored markers on the two destination cities. For example, she keeps New York-Atlanta so we place red markers on New York and Atlanta. I keep Duluth-El Paso so we place yellow markers on Duluth and El Paso.
I expect to eliminate this variant once her reading skills and USA geography knowledge improve. It works nicely for the present though.
(2) Keep embedded destination tickets - Once you have completed your first destination ticket you may choose three more and keep one. If, however, one or more of the destination tickets you choose is already complete you may keep it/them. I have found that this is a great way for her to understand the idea of embedding routes to maximize points or getting the most steam for your engines.
My daughter is not a gamer at heart, unfortunately, but I hope to cultivate an appreciation for Eurogames so when she's older we can game together ... with these two variants she has actually asked to play T2R which thrills me to no end.
I played with my 7 and 5 year old using similar rules. Basically had two destination and all cards were open. Placed train station tokens at the first destination. Worked well. My 5 year old won.
As they get familiar with the game will make the cards hidden.
Ticket to Ride adapted rules for young children. Using US map version.
Here are the rules I've been using with my 4.5 year old. We've played several board games in the past 6 months (starting with Checkers and War), and he really wanted to play "the train game" that he saw his parents playing. These rules introduce more luck, but keep it competitive for others' sake. They also eliminate some need for forward-thinking, secrecy, literacy, and manual dexterity.
Points are awarded only for completing objectives.
Players work on one face-up objective at a time.
At start of play, each player gets 1 random objective which cannot be discarded. Subsequent objectives may be discarded for minus-5 points, but only once per turn.
Upon completing an objective, the player scores the number of points stated on the card, and a 1 new random objective is drawn. If the player has already completed the new card's objective, they score and draw a new random objective.
Players' train cards are stored on the table, face-up, grouped by color, and cascading. Cards are not fanned in players' hands.
Players mark the two cities of their current objective with unique markers. The "Station" pieces from the Europe version are ideal, but you could also use coins, beans, etc.
Double grey routes are always open even for 2 player games.
END OF PLAY
When one player runs out of trains, all other players get one more turn. Any player who runs out of trains gets 5 points (this encourages losing players to finish).
No points are lost for uncompleted objectives. On their last turn, a player may spend 5 points to discard/exchange their objective in the hope that they draw one they've already completed. If successful, they do not get yet another objective.
No points are awarded for longest train.
The player with the most points wins.
All other rules remain the same. E.G. drawing a face-up Wild is the only card you get. Players may spend a turn either drawing cards or laying down train routes. Getting an objective does not cost a turn.