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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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.

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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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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.

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Lego Batman the Videogame (Nintendo Wii)

Amazon Product Name: Lego Batman – Nintendo Wii

Our Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review by: Robby

I like fighting crime on Lego Batman the Videogame. I play Lego Batman on the Wii. I like the animation of coming back to life after I die. It’s flashy and cool. When you die, it isn’t game over, because it’s Lego. It starts you at the last place you were playing. Playing this game with a friend makes it more fun than playing single player. I prefer being Batman instead of being Robin.

The actions with the wii remote is pretty good. You use both the wii remote and the nunchuck to make the characters move. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which buttons to push, but keep doing it and you’ll figure it out.

One thing I don’t like about Lego Batman on Wii is I can’t complete the levels unless I’m playing with a friend because it’s kind of hard to figure out what to do. I don’t like getting stuck. It’s so frustrating! I don’t like when it’s hard to unlock new characters, and I don’t like when new characters are unlocked and I can’t figure out how to use their special powers.

Sometimes, Mom looks up game walk-throughs online so we can figure out what to do next. Fighting the boss criminals is super hard. It’s a good game for 6 year olds, but it’s more fun if they have help. If you want to play Lego Batman with your kids, you can find it on Amazon here.

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Minecraft the Video Game (Xbox 360)

Amazon Product Name (APN): Minecraft (Xbox 360)

Our Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review by: Robby

I like playing in creative mode on Minecraft the video game. Creative mode is where you can do everything, and don’t have to worry about dying from monsters. I hate creepers!

I like to build trains with Minecraft blocks, and I like going to Halloween World on Xbox Live and riding the roller coaster. Staying in creative mode in the Minecraft video game makes it a lot less scary when you’re playing in Halloween World, and on regular maps, too. I love playing co-op mode with Mom and Dad. Sometimes we can build villages together. Sometimes we clear the blocks so we can make trains.

What I don’t like: I don’t like playing in Survival Mode. I die a lot. I hate creepers! Creative mode on Minecraft the video game is a lot like the Minecraft card game. (You can read my review of the Minecraft card game here.)

I have been playing Minecraft the video game since I was 4 years old. It’s good for ages 4, 5, 6 and up. Adults can play this game, too. If you want to try playing Minecraft the video game with your kids, you can find it on Amazon here.

Want to see more? Check out some of our other articles and reviews below.

Sorry! 2013 Edition Game Review

Amazon Product Name (APN): Sorry! 2013 Edition Game

Our Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review by: Dad

On a cold winter family game night, we sat down to play Sorry! If you aren’t familiar with the original Sorry! board game, it’s a classic game from Hasbro designed for two to four players. The rules are simple, and fun to play for kids (and adults) ages six and up.  In Sorry! the goal is to get all three of your pawns from the Start Zone to your Home zone. This is done by drawing Sorry! board game cards, moving your pieces according to the card’s directions, and trying to get the pawns around the tabletop game board. No two pawns can stay on the same space, and we had fun bumping our opponents pawns back to the start. There are slide spaces on the board that allow you to move several extra spaces if you land exactly at the start of it (Similar to the chutes in Chutes & Ladders).

Each turn, a player draws a Sorry! board game card to discover if it will allow you to move one of your pawns, swap with another piece on the board or move either the Fire or Ice power-ups, a new mechanic added in the 2013 Edition of Sorry! 

We loved the Fire power-up! It allows the pawn that wears it a free move to the next fire space in the four corners of the board.  It also allows you to bring a second pawn Home from anywhere on the board, if you get the pawn with the fire power-up Home.

As much as we all enjoyed the Fire power-up, the Ice power-up is frustrating for anyone unlucky enough to have it. The Ice power-up stops a pawn from moving for any reason, and effectively locks a pawn in place.  It can still be bumped back to start if another pawn lands on the same space, and getting stuck in the Start position with an ice power-up is no fun. The only way to remove it is to draw another Ice power-up card form the Sorry! board game cards, allowing the player to move the ice power-up onto an opponent’s pawn.

One thing we learned early on: make sure to shuffle those Sorry! board playing cards well! There is a ton of randomness created by the deck (as long as you’ve shuffled well), and sometimes games are decided by who draws the right card next.  This is honestly my only complaint, there isn’t much control over what you draw unless you play strategic mode allowing everyone to have a hand of three cards, drawing a new one every turn.  Because this mode of play is a little more complicated, I don’t recommend a three-hand rule set when playing with young kids, as it can give them too much choice and distraction. But, as always, use your best judgement with your family when deciding how to play your games.

Sorry! Is a great game for the whole family.  With rules that are easy for the little ones to understand, and enough strategy and random craziness to keep it interesting for the older kids and adults, it’s easy to see how the classic 1972 Sorry! board game has stood the test of time.

You can pick up a copy of Sorry! for your family here. Just remember: if you send someone’s pawn back to start, don’t forget to say Sorry!

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