Ticket To Ride: First Journey

Amazon Product Name (APN): Ticket to Ride: First Journey

Manufacturer: Days of Wonder

Our Rating: 10,000,000 out of 5 stars

Review by: Robby

What I like about Ticket to Ride: First Journey:

It’s all about trains! It’s even more fun than regular Ticket to Ride. I like the bigger cards because they’re easier to hold than regular Ticket to Ride. The cards are all circus cars which makes me smile.

I love winning the golden ticket!

You can find Ticket to Ride: First Journeys on Amazon here.

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Ticket To Ride: First Journey

Amazon Product Name (APN): Ticket To Ride: First Journey

Manufacturer: Days of Wonder

Review by: Mom

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’ve played any of the Ticket to Ride games during family game night, you may have found that small children gravitate to the gaming table when the trains come out. That’s how it is at our house, with young railroad barons itching to play.

As simple as the original Ticket to Ride is to play, it’s still a little bit beyond the reach of kids who aren’t quite able to read maps and keep the small train cars in a line on the map.

Ticket to Ride: First Journey solves almost every problem that our six-year-old has playing the standard game (and expansions). The rules are somehow made even more simple, the train cars are larger and easier to manage, and the destination cities have colorful pictures that are easy to see both on the board and on the route cards. Days of Wonder have managed to do all of that while retaining the fun of game play.

Although I’m not really into model railroading like Papa and Robby are, Ticket to Ride has been one of my favorite game franchises. I love the variety of maps, the strategy, and the cutthroat deviousness that being a railroad baron brings.

When we found the First Journey version of the game, it was a no-brainer. We had to have it! Now, we can set up young gamers with this fun game and they can battle it out at the kid’s table while we play an adult game of Ticket to Ride Europe.

My only complaint is that the instructions remind kids to keep their cards to themselves, but as anyone who plays games with kids knows, it can be really difficult for small hands to manage more than a few cards at a time. We implemented a house rule that players under age 10 can lay their cards on the table in front of them, face up. Although this makes it easier for other players to cut someone’s route off, it’s the only way our kiddo was able to keep track of his colored railroad car game cards and routes.

If you have kids who want to play board games just like the grown-ups, I highly recommend this game for your next family game night. Not only is there a Ticket to Ride: First Journeys in the USA, but there’s also Ticket to Ride: Europe First Journeys, too!

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Tsuro

Amazon Product Name (APN): Calliope Tsuro

Manufacturer: Calliope Games

Review by: Dad

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tsuro by Calliope Games is a wonderfully delightful tile laying game for two to eight players, easy to play for ages eight and up. In Tsuro, you are an ancient dragon flying a path through the skies.  The tiles have twisting lines representing these paths, and you lay them down one at a time to move your dragon through the skies.

The tiles can be placed in any orientation, but must be put down in the path of your dragon.  If your path takes you off the board or runs you into another dragon, you are eliminated. Players take turns laying tiles, moving the dragons until all tiles have been placed or only one dragon remains on the board.

Tsuro is very fun, easy to learn, and quick to play even with a full eight players sitting around the gaming table. Its attractive Asian theme is beautiful and consistent throughout the box and game pieces.

As easy as the board game is to play, there is ample opportunity for strategy as well. It pays to be careful reviewing the tiles in your hand, choosing the one that will keep you alive while eliminating another player.

Another strategy is to isolate your dragon in one section of the board, doing your best to stay away from other player’s tile influence in hopes that you can survive longer than anyone else.  This strategy has obvious diminishing returns with a higher number of players in the game.  But, there is still room for the gaming group to experience high level play if everyone chooses to be competitive and cutthroat.

Tsuro is a staple of our family game night and travels with us on camping trips, along with other great portable games like Qwirkle and Zombie Dice. In fact, we love Tsuro so much that it made it on our Top 10 Board Games list, which you can read here.

Calliope also makes another version of Tsuro called Tsuro of the Seas (pictured above) where you are a ship captain sailing the seas, avoiding the dangers the lurk both above and below the waves.  Both games make great inclusions to your gaming collection. If you want to add Tsuro to your family game night, look for it on Amazon here.

Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

Qwirkle

Amazon Product Name (APN): Qwirkle Board Game

Manufacturer: MindWare

Review by: Dad

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Qwirkle by MindWare is an easy to learn and accessible color and shape based tile laying game for ages six plus, and all levels of gamers.

Qwirkle’s rules are simple: shuffle 108 wooden tiles into a bag, and every player draws six of them.  The player who goes first is the one who can place the longest line of tiles of either matching shapes or colors. The next players add onto the beginning line, matching colors or shapes as appropriate. Each player lays tiles matching what is already on the board by either extending the line already there or starting a new one, similar to how words are place in Scrabble. Play continues with each player refilling their hand from the bag of tiles, scoring the tiles they’ve played at the end of each turn. 

Scoring is simple; one point per tile laid, and twelve points for a completed six tile line called getting a Qwirkle!  The rules allow for some crazy combo scoring once the board starts getting built up, which causes game play to get progressively more strategic.

Qwirkle is definitely a game that is easy to learn, but hard to master.  There are advanced strategies that can be used to block other players from getting Qwirkles, saving key tiles to ensure you get Qwirkles, etc. Qwirkle is an extremely fun tile laying board game that is perfect for families since it is accessible for all age ranges from six plus (but our son started playing at three years old) and the rules are easy to explain and learn quickly.

Our family has had games with ages ranges from four years old to eighty-five!  Qwirkle is available both in a standard edition and a travel edition, as well as Qwirkle Cubes which adds a dice rolling component to this classic matching game. Pick from any of the editions on Mindware’s Amazon listings that work best for you and add Qwirkle to your collection today!

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Munchkin

Amazon Product Name (APN): Munchkin Deluxe

Manufacturer: Steve Jackson Games

Review by: Dad

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games is an amazing card game for three to six players. In Munchkin, like in other high fantasy role playing games, you are an adventurer defeating monsters and gathering sweet, sweet loot while backstabbing your friends.

Although the base Munchkin game is plenty fine on its own, we recommend getting the Deluxe edition of the game as it includes a game board, standies, and player cards to make keeping track of your score easier. The Deluxe edition also makes it more apparent to everyone who needs a good stabbing to stop them from winning.

Munchkin’s cards and humor are where this card game really shines.  Using long established role playing game tropes, Steve Jackson gives our love of high fantasy a modern twist that every gamer can appreciate.

Afraid of dragons? Not me, sir. I’m more afraid of the Insurance Salesman.

Building up your character throughout a game is rewarding, and there are many opportunities for meta gaming, alliances, trades and backstabbing. Once you get going, Munchkin is a fast-playing and silly card game with tons of replay value. But, should you get bored, more expansions and alternate themed versions are available than just about any other game out there.

So, if a full traditional pen and paper RPG theme isn’t for you,  check out  Munchkin Zombies or Munchkin Marvel Edition instead.  Munchkin is a fantastic inclusion for your family game nights and is recommended for players age ten and up, although our six year old has played and had a fun time with some help.

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Castle Panic

Amazon Product Name (APN): Fireside Games Castle Panic

Manufacturer: Fireside Games

Review by: Dad

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Castle Panic by Fireside Games is a high fantasy themed board game where players work together to defeat an invading army of orc, goblins, trolls, giant boulders and boss monsters intent on laying waste to their castle.

Castle Panic is an accessible and easy to learn board game with rules for different difficulty modes, competitive scoring for up to a six player game. But fear not, single player gamers: Fireside Games has thought of you, too. Castle Panic is one of the very few board games that includes rules for solo play.

In the base rules of Castle Panic, players work together trading cards drawn from the Castle Deck. The cards allow players to hit monsters, rebuild walls, enhance or change damage types and just generally do cool things to keep the castle alive against the enemies trying to destroy it.  Player’s turns can include trading Castle Cards with others to make the most effective use of drawn cards, playing those cards to do damage to enemies, or buff the castle.

But be warned, at the end of each turn, two new monster tokens emerge from the monster bag. 

That brings us to the real RNG (random number generator) of Castle Panic and why no two games are the same: the tokens.  The tokens in the monster bag may be monsters, boss monsters, giant boulders that destroy monsters and parts of the castle, and some tokens that cause you to draw more monsters, or cause a plague to befall your heroes. The order beasts and plagues come out of the monster bag can turn an easy game into hard mode at the drop of a hat.

Castle Panic is extremely fun to play and accessible by players of different board game experience. It’s one of those must-buy games for your gaming collection and family game nights (We love it so much, it made it to our Top 10 Board Games list here).

At the time of writing this article, there are three expansions for Castle Panic adding tougher monsters and new mechanics.  The Wizard’s Tower, Engines of War and Dark Titan expansions increase the game’s already high replay value, and add even more variety to Castle Panic than the already diverse base-rules provide. Our family has collected all of them because we love this game so much.

We may need to buy a second copy of the base game soon because our game board and tokens are starting to get worn out from how much we play it.  It is always popular on our family game nights and camping trips and I’m sure it will be for you as well. Get your copy of Castle Panic on Amazon here.

Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

Zombie Dice

Amazon Product Name (APN): Zombie Dice

Manufacturer: Steve Jackson Games (SJG)

Review by: Dad

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Zombie Dice is a fun and quick zombie themed dice rolling game by Steve Jackson Games. The base game includes a Zombie Dice themed dice cup, thirteen dice and the instructions.  Zombie Dice is fairly quick to play at about fifteen – twenty minutes a game with two – fourish players. (Note: We say “fourish” because we’ve played with many, many more than four people.) 

Each player is a brain eating zombie, and the dice are the survivors.  Each player takes turns loading up the dice into the cup, giving it a good shake and then removing and rolling three dice. Brains are points, feet are the survivors running away and can be rerolled (if the player continues), and gunshots are damage to the player.

Three gunshots rolled, and you’re dead!

For example, on their turn, a player pulls three dice and rolls three brains. They can immediately shake the cup, pull three more dice and keep rolling until they either stop and bank their earned brains, or three gunshots are rolled. It’s a game that’s half chance, half strategy, and all fun.

If player gets lucky enough to empty the cup and not roll three gunshots, they can keep going by placing all dice except the shots back in the cup, permanently banking what they’ve already earned, and continue rolling.  It’s up to each player on their turn to see how far they push their chances while playing Zombie dice.

The game ends when one player exceeds thirteen banked brains. Every other player is then given one more turn to try to improve their score before the game fully ends, and the person with the highest final score wins.

Zombie Dice is a fun and thematic game that is quick and easy to play, if a little more mature in theme.  Zombie Dice is still a fantastic game for families as it easy to learn, portable, and fun. We love Zombie Dice so much that it ended up on Our Top 10 Board Games list! Check it out here.

Want to pick up a set of Zombie Dice for your next family game night? You can find it on Amazon right here.

Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

Board Games as a Family Hobby

A Family Game Night How-To Article

By Dad

Gaming is one of oldest forms of entertainment. Game pieces have been found in archaeological digs around the world, dating back to some of the oldest civilizations on the planet. In modern times, Board Games have become one of the most diverse and interesting pastimes available to us.  There are so many different types of board games, card games, and miniature games available today that no matter who you are, there is a game out there that you and your family can enjoy.

Family game night has become a staple in households around the world, and for good reason.  Playing tabletop games together gives your family a reason to get unplugged from screens and interact with each other. Board games tighten much-needed family bonds and encourage families to spend time together. For kids, family game night provides an opportunity for new experiences and can be used as learning opportunity to reinforce basic math, vocabulary, reading and writing skills.

Cooperative games like Castle Panic and Pandemic help families learn to work together, problem solve and overcome challenges together. In contrast, competitive games like Munchkin, Ticket to Ride or Small Worldcan teach conflict resolution, critical thinking and problem solving. Games like Hi Ho Cherry-O or Jenga can help kids practice basic math skills, manual dexterity or other educational skills.  The multitude of games on the market today make it possible to find a game that is right for your family game nights, no matter what your family gaming goals are.

Setting up family game night is easy! Pick one evening a week to play a couple of games as a family instead of watching TV or playing video games.  Let each member of the family have a turn picking the game to play so everyone has a chance to play the games they want.

Make time to check out your local game store and shop for games together. Boardgame stores can be great resources to learn about new games and some will even let you play them before you buy.  I’m lucky that gamestores near me feature open play areas where we can go and play games outside of the house, providing a change of scenery. Playing games in a store play room is also great if you don’t have space at home for games that require more room.

If you don’t have a local game store near you to help you choose the game right for your family, check out Youtube or a review website like OurFamilyGameReviews.com to find out what other people are saying about games they love to play.

Game Night Rules:

We have a rule for our family game nights banning electronics from the table when playing board games or role playing games. It’s too easy for the entire family to get sucked into their individual screens, causing us to interact with each other less than we should. Setting up a time where the whole family can come together that doesn’t include electronics is a much needed break for everyone. All it takes is commitment by the whole family to show up for that weekly evening to play games.

Be aware that you need to give yourself permission to adjust your rules as needed. As an example, my father enjoys playing miniature games, but because of his poor eyesight he needs a tablet with zoom to read rules and warscrolls for Warhammer Age of Sigmar. We make exceptions where it makes sense.  The main goal of our “no electronics” rule is to keep us from getting distracted from playing the game.  This rule may not work for every family, but it has served us well to keep everyone focused and having fun.

Our family has built years of amazing memories playing games on family game night. It has helped our family bonds grow tighter.  Countless game nights and camping trips, hauling our game collection along, have taught us that the family that plays together, stays together, and you don’t have to be staring at an LCD screen to have some serious fun.

Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.

Jenga

Amazon Product Name (APN): Jenga Classic Game

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review by: Robby

Jenga is a fun game to play on family game night, especially if you love things that crash! It can be hard sometimes to follow the rules because I want to hold the tower on my turn to make sure it falls over, but Mom says no! So, we try to follow the rules and if the tower crashes, that’s okay.

Jenga is cool because it isn’t like a regular board game. You build a tower of blocks and then try to take parts of the tower out without making the tower fall. It’s super hard!

When I’m not playing the Jenga game, I like using the blocks to build things. When I’m playing the game, it’s fun to stack the blocks when we set the game up. It’s so hard to get the blocks out without crashing the tower!

I don’t like losing. My mom is very good at this game. It’s more fun to play when someone else is playing so I can win more often. I think Jenga is good for building blocks for kids 3 and up, and good for following the rules to play the game for kids 6 and up. If you want to get Jenga to play on family game night, or to use as building blocks, you can find it on Amazon here.

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