Review: Ticket to Ride: First Journey05 Oct 2017 0
Review: Ticket to Ride: First Journey
Released 27 Sep 2017
Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a new version of the classic board game, aimed specifically at a younger audience. The multi-award-winning Ticket To Ride is already firmly established as one of the finest ‘gateway’ board games on the market. It is a great way to introduce friends and family to the world of modern board games and convince them that there is life beyond Monopoly. The original app is polished until it gleams and has a range of interesting expansions that introduce new gameplay features. It is both easy to learn and quick to play, which may mean that you are left asking yourself if there is any real need for a scaled down game for children. Let’s find out.
The basics are very much in keeping with the original game. Players collect train cards and claim routes by connecting the cities shown on their tickets. On your turn, you can either draw two additional train cards or use train cards of a matching colour to claim a route between two cities. If you manage to complete a ticket you score a point and draw a new ticket. An extra point is up for grabs if you manage to develop a connection running between a city on the east coast and one on the west. If you are not happy with your choice of tickets because the routes are blocked then you can spend a turn to discard them and draw two new ones. The first player to reach six points is declared the winner.
Ticket To Ride: First Journey has been simplified in several ways. Rewarding each completed ticket with a single point tightens the focus as it means that players know exactly what they need to achieve. The map has fewer routes and consequently, players have fewer trains to place, which leads to a shorter playing time. The ticket routes are generally shorter and less demanding to complete, and the use of symbols to represent the cities means that even those who have not mastered the finer arts of reading can still join in the fun. Finally, train cards are now drawn randomly rather than chosen from a selection of face-up cards. Overall, the new rules do a good job of making things easier whilst still maintaining the feel of a Ticket to Ride game. There is still the race to claim routes before other players, and forethought is still needed to construct the most efficient networks.
The changes do tend to make this version more dependent on lucky card draws. It could be argued that this is a good thing as it helps level out the skills gap between players of different ages. However, things may still end in tears when younger players have their planned routes blocked. Also, the game can end quite abruptly which feels like a real anticlimax. In one game I managed to win by scoring three of the required six points in a single turn.
The graphics are big, bold and colourful. The train cards and player illustrations are great fun and the font is nice and clear. The landscape is rendered in stylized 3D graphics, with each city having its own representative symbol; there are Russian dolls in Moscow and a Saxophone to signify New Orleans. Every time a ticket is completed, these graphics burst into animated life, accompanied by a cacophony of bells and whistles. It certainly increases the appeal for younger players, but these effects do grow a bit tiresome after a few games and there is no option to turn them off. The music is also very repetitive and soon becomes irritating.
Unfortunately, the map does appear rather cluttered and overly busy, this is compounded by the fact that extra bits of scenery are added as rewards for playing. There is a lot of blue sea on the American map, which I’m sure could have been put to better use. The overall feeling is a messy and rather cramped mish-mash. Even more annoying is the zooming map that makes dragging and placing your trains a little hit and miss, far from ideal for kids. Other aspects of the interface have been carried over directly from the tried and tested original, and work well.
As well as playing on the United States map you can also gain access to the European map by signing in to your Asmodee account or by creating a new one. It is a little disappointing that, unlike the additional maps released for the original version, there are no new rules or features. Even with younger players, it would have been nice to have the option to progress on to something a little more involving.
The game can be played by up to four players, any of which can be computer controlled and set to one of three difficulty levels. On the hardest level the competition is quite tough. Thankfully, there is an option to speed up the animations when the AI is taking a turn. There is no online play, as befitting of a family game you will have to play this huddled around your tablet.
Ticket to Ride: First Journey is recommended for children from the age of six, but I can see it appealing to new players at both ends of the age spectrum. The digital version has the added bonus of no small plastic pieces to swallow, so you can safely leave Grandma to play unattended.
Although the board game makes great efforts to create a fun and enjoyable experience for younger players, the app falls a little short of these design sensibilities. Ticket to Ride: First Journey manages to be a great introduction to the series and an ideal first step. However, look beyond the colourful and flashy exterior and you will find an interface that feels rather cramped, fiddly, and not at all suited to its target audience.