Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a version of the traditional Ticket to Ride game, but made for children ages 6 and up. However, depending how well your children understand strategy games, it may be suitable for an even younger audience. For example, I was able to teach it to my 4 year-old by first playing a cooperative game and then she was ready to play on her own.
The game is very similar to the standard version of Ticket to Ride. There are destination tickets with routes to connect with your train pieces, train cards to draw, bonus cards (Coast-to-Coast), and a large board on which to place your trains. However, everything is enlarged for small hands and also relies heavily on artwork to make it easier to find each city.
To begin, each player is given 2 destination tickets, 4 train cards, and a set of colored trains of their choice. The youngest player goes first and can either draw 2 train cards from the deck or play train cards to claim a route. They can also opt to skip their turn and discard both destination tickets if they know they won’t be able to complete one or both of them (e.g. if all routes to a city are already claimed).
If a player has a continuous line of trains connecting a west coast city (Seattle, San Fransisco, or Los Angeles) to an east coast city (New York, Washington, or Miami), they yell “Coast-to-Coast!” and receive a Coast-to-Coast bonus ticket, which counts as a completed destination ticket.
Destinations are marked with both the text versions of the cities as well as city-related artwork to help quickly identify the locations (NYC Statue of Liberty, Dallas Star, Florida Alligator, etc.). Some cities are connected by parallel routes of differing colors. Unlike the traditional Ticket to Ride game, these routes can both be used regardless of the number of players. This makes it easier for kids to complete their tickets, as it gives them options of colored train cards to use.
Another difference is that you don’t have train cards laid out from which to choose. To draw train cards, you can only draw from the deck. This reduces some of the extra strategy involved in the standard Ticket to Ride game and puts a little more reliance on luck.
The first player to have 6 completed destination wins the game, or when a player places their last train, whoever has the most completed tickets wins the game. If there is a tie for number of completed tickets, all of those players share the victory. The winner(s) receives a Golden Ticket card as a prize.
The game itself feels well-made and doesn’t just seem like a cheap knock off of Ticket to Ride. The oversized trains are fantastic for small hands, the strategy still exists, and it plays well. Not having to keep track of the score and decide which train cars to choose keeps the gameplay simple and easier to teach. Depending on how ready you child is, you may be able to teach it to kids 4 and 5 years-old, so it’s a really nice family game.
Overall, if you’re a fan of Ticket to Ride, but your kids aren’t quite ready for it yet, definitely check out Ticket to Ride First Journey. The quality is the same, gameplay is just as fun, but it’s a lot easier for young kids to understand. If your kids are ready for more advanced strategy, you can probably move right to Ticket to Ride.