One of the questions people ask most often, is how do you get new players into the hobby? This is followed closely by what are some good games to introduce kids to the hobby? The response for both is usually some sort of ‘gateway’ game and one of the most famous and well loved gateway games is Ticket to Ride. It possesses so many qualities that make it a perfect fit when you’re trying to hook new people in. The art and components are colourful and engaging, the ruleset is simple, and there is enough balance and innovation that people trying it for the first time will quickly see the difference that modern games offer from CLUE or Monopoly. Days of Wonder and Alan R. Moon have now made it even easier to introduce the budding nerds in your life to the world of gaming.
Ticket to Ride First Journey keeps all of the familiar elements of the original game, but simplifies them even further and cuts the play time down to a lean 15-30 minutes, the perfect length to keep young minds engaged and having fun.
In First Journey, 2-4 players are competing to be the first to complete six Tickets. Just like the original TTR, the Tickets display two cities on the board that need to be connected before you complete them, but the route you take to do so is up to you. Players have two options to do on their turn. They can either take two cards, drawing them from the top of the deck or they can claim a route. By just having you draw the cards from the deck, First Journey removes the face up line of cards and simplifies the decision making process. It leaves the results a bit more up to chance, but makes it much easier for new players to make a decision.
Claiming a route works in the same way as the original. Players discard cards of the same colour and number as the route they’re claiming, substituting wild Locomotives when they want to. They’ll place their colourful trains down to claim the route between two cities. If that results in completing a ticket they can turn it face up and claim another from the pile. When one player completes their sixth Ticket, the game ends immediately. The game can also end if one player places their last train on the board. At that point the player with the most completed Tickets is the winner.
There is a bonus Ticket that you can claim if you have a continuous route that connects cities on the East and West coast. The Coast-to-Coast Bonus works like one of your six necessary completed Tickets, but you can earn it while completing other Tickets. It’s a good way to get ahead if you can pull it off.
Ticket to Ride First Journey may be the answer to a lot of parent’s dreams. It’s a game that eases players into some more complex mechanics, without overstaying its welcome. It’s short enough that kids should be able to focus in and really enjoy the game, and simple enough that they should be able to pick up the rules and even start devising a strategy. Now, that’s not to say that First Journey can’t also be enjoyed by adults. If you’re a TTR fan, I think you’ll really enjoy the straight forward experience this offers. It takes the familiar mechanics and boils them down to almost a filler game length. Experienced players will be able to plow through rounds of the game. The board itself returns to North America, with each city represented with a big illustration showing off the personality of the town. The landscape is dotted with beautiful eye-catching scenery. The train cards are delightful, with cool engaging illustrations for each colour. Kids will have a good time just finding hidden details on their hand of cards.
TTR First Journey is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to turn the kids in your life into full time nerds. It’s a great first step.