My 8-year-old received a Ticket to Ride board game over the holidays. He loves it so much, we’ve played it almost daily since he received it. Some days we’ve even played it more than once.
The game looks complicated at first. It gives you several different things to think about and manage as you play. But once you’ve played through a game and see how it all comes together, it’s fairly straightforward.
The object of the game is to collect trains in order to claim routes across the board. The particular routes you need to claim are determined by the random cards you are dealt at the beginning of the game. (You receive three route cards and must keep at least two, so you do have some ability to eliminate an unwanted route). You may also draw more route cards later and complete them as a way to earn more points. Routes vary considerably in length, but also in the points you earn for completing them. Balancing points earned with difficulty of completion is great for building kids problem solving skills.
Once you know which routes you need to cover, you start collecting the trains to claim them. You also want to keep in mind that there are bonus points for whoever claims the longest contiguous route. You need dynamic thinking skills when someone else claims a track segment that you planned to use and you must readjust your route. Further, there’s the competitive quandary of whether to claim a route you think someone else might need simply to impede his progress. And, finally, the important questions of whether you’ll have enough trains or enough time to complete the routes you’ve selected.
You earn points for each set of tracks you claim on the board. The game ends with everybody getting one last turn after one person has used all but 2 or fewer trains. You then tally the final scores: adding points for each route completed, subtracting points for each route left unfinished, and assigning the longest-route bonus.
Ticket to Ride is really entertaining. The game tends to shift back and forth quickly, so it also feels exciting and a bit unpredictable. I’ve really enjoyed playing with my 8-year-old. My 4-year-old is not ready for the strategy involved as well as the multiple items he would need to keep straight in this game. The game is designed for 2 to 5 players. The creators recommend ages 8 and up. We played with an almost-7 year old, and he did okay, but – as always – age appropriateness depends on the child.
When my son and I play Ticket to Ride with just the two of us, the game lasts about 30 minutes. It took closer to 50 minutes when we played with 4 people. So this is not a quick game. But we all enjoy it. In addition, the need to plan ahead, to budget your trains, to adjust on the fly to unexpected road blocks, and how it’s sometimes helpful to take a risk are critical skills to learn and important ideas to experiment with. Giving a child a safe and entertaining way to work with these concepts in the low risk environment of a game can help them hone some of the abilities they’ll need when these same general principles are required of them in a real-world context. Plus, it’s good family fun.
You can pick up your own copy of Ticket to Ride HERE.