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Players from the Basildon area and as old as myself, plus train enthusiasts of course, will remember the thrill of seeing the steam and hearing the chug-a-chug of the great rolling stock while on a cold, damp Pitsea (or Laindon) Railway Station waiting to catch a train to London Fenchurch Street or Southend on Sea Central. So what could be better than TICKET to RIDE (1st Journey) on STEAM ?

If you haven't had the pleasure of playing TICKET to RIDE the 1st JOURNEY or any TICKET to RIDE editions of the boardgame then you are in for a treat with this fun version for the home computer. This electronic game plays just the same as the boardgame for one to four players, playing with friends or solo against 1, 2 or 3 computer A.I. opponents. Personally if you are going to play with local friends I would suggest you purchase the board game version and play that sociably on a table, but if you are flying solo then the board game alone is a sad affair, even if you set up dummy players you still control what they do, and this is where the PC version comes into it's own.


Like many games you have the opportunity to play/work-through a tutorial which is in this case simplified to the Nth degree, plus once you begin to play you have the choice of Normal or Fast speed of play and Easy, Normal or Expert degrees of difficulty. Being an experienced games player of boardgames and computer games I began on Expert and despite my brilliance as a TICKET to RIDE player my butt got severely kicked time over until the luck of the draw finally turned my way.


TICKET to RIDE 1st JOURNEY is played on a map of either the USA (North America) or Europe on Steam. You may have up to four players, Humans or Robots, who are given "birth" names of Lily, Henry, Arthur and Alice, though you may change these with ease by deleting and then writing in the name box; each name being associated to a colour. The card deck is automatically shuffled and players dealt a hand of cards as well as being given ownership of a set number of carriages in their chosen colour. The cards represent the colours of the tracks on the board, the carriages represent each person's train journey. Between each City on the board there are one, two or three track spaces of the same colour usually, but not always, alongside a similar number of a different colour. To own a track line between cities on your turn you must play enough cards of the required colour to complete the journey in one hit, it not being allowed to lay claim to a track by placing a single piece on it (unless it only requires a single piece) and only one colour can ever occupy a line - thankfully Railway Engines count as any colour. Players are also given two Journey cards; London to Berlin for example of a journey.


When it is your turn you have the choice of playing cards out and placing carriages or you may draw 2 cards, this is the random part of the game which seems to work better for A.I. computer players than it usually does for Human players. You will also see on your turn the cities where you have to reach according to your cards are animated; this being jolly helpful as there are no names on the board. Each time you complete a journey your marker moves one space up the ladder - you need six completed journeys to win the Golden Ticket and thus the game - and you are given another journey card. If you have aready completed the new journey during play then you immediately score that card and obtain another. You obviously should always attempt to complete Journeys but there are times when you feel like simply adding a carriage or more to the board, thus building track for the future. You do not have to place carriages against previously laid carriages although it can be advantageous as if you manage to link both sides of the board with your carriages it gains you a reward and counts as one of your journeys.


Another way of ending the game is for one player to run out of carriages, then the game stops after a complete Round has been played and all players score the points currently on the ladder. This ending usually occurs if a player has spent continually on the longer Routes.


Onscreen this is a bright, colourful, bouncy, family strategy game which is both fun and entertaining, plus there are also the beautiful animations and amusing sound effects; though I would suggest turning the Muzak off as after a few minutes it gets very annoying. There is another aspect to the game and this is the Geography lesson you get when you play, discovering or remembering, where cities are in respect to each other on the maps.


The PC STEAM version is every bit as good as the boardgame version and plays in exactly the same way as TICKET to RIDE the 1st JOURNEY. It is a card driven tactical and strategic challenge with forethought of planning, some devious play possibilities and a little luck being the main ingredients. In 4 player games especially it is possible to prevent players from completing their goals and so it is vital to complete each Journey you can as soon as possible. Collecting and holding cards only helps occasionally as does not using Jokers (Engines) in the hope that you'll pick up a card of the necessary colour. While you are hesitating other players can and will steal the tracks along what you want to be your routes; playing an aggressive game can sometimes bring good results but only if the right Journeys drop in your lap. 


I've only played this for a couple of hours and it feels like it is a game I have played for years. It is very easy to learn as well as being an enjoyable game to play solo. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys light but challenging games and especially to fans of railway games. It costs just under £7.00 for the original game or you can pay around £23.00 for a selective bundle of maps as well as the original game.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021