Saturday, September 01, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 30

My Mum (Grandma to our kids) dropped by for her regular Saturday morning chat and gaming session. We chatted and had a cup of tea while 19-month-old Georgia played on the floor. It wasn't long after that my wife Deb and our elder daughter Maddie (6) arrived home from their visit to some early morning garage sales.

"Daddy we got a game and it only cost $2.00!" exclaimed Maddie, "can we play it?"

"It's over 40 years old." commented Deb.

It was Railroader, a Waddington game from 1963. It is a race between rival pioneering railway companies to lay a track and run the first train from Junction City to Buffalo Creek. The box was huge, measuring 36cm x 51cm and in surprisingly good shape considering its age. I opened it and was instantly intrigued by the little plastic trains and tracks. The board folded out to reveal a beautiful map of plains, rivers, lakes and mountains.

So Grandma, Maddie and I sat down and counted all the components. All 104 pieces of curved and straight track were present. All the plastic train pieces were present as well. The only missing piece was one of the 20 dynamite tokens which does not affect game play at all. After we'd checked all the pieces I separated them and put them into ziplock bags.

We decided to play a game with Maddie choosing yellow, Grandma blue and myself green. On your turn you make a choice of either laying track or moving your train. Each piece of plastic track is either straight, a left curve or a right curve. The board designates where each player lays their track. Each track piece is 4 spaces long. Spaces are classed as the space between the sleepers.

If you choose to lay track you roll a d6; 1-2 allows you to lay 1 track, a 3-4 allows you to lay 2 tracks and a 5-6 allows you to lay 3 tracks. Each track has a small peg on its base which locks it into a hole on the board. If you choose to move your train you roll 2d6 and move that many spaces. Trains are composed of three separate pieces that can be linked together; 1 engine, 1 coach and 1 caboose.

There is a constant management of the balance between laying track and moving your train. If you lay too much track in front of your train you will open up more chances for other players to sabotage your track. If you move your train too close to the end of your line you will face the possibility of derailing.

There are coloured points along each player's route that signify the possibility of some sort of action when the train engine ends its turn on them. Probably the most important are the blue points where your track crosses a river. When your engine comes to a halt over a blue point adjacent to a river you may send a saboteur along the river to another player's track and place a box of dynamite on it. The cool part is that all rivers join so you can reach any river crossing ahead of an opponent's train.

Other points are hazards where you draw from a deck of hazard cards and follow the instructions and ambush points where Indians attack and you are forced to detach your engine and send it back to the nearest garrison post for a relief party.

There is obviously a bit of luck involved in this game but the leading player can always be targeted for sabotage by the other players. The box of dynamite on your track prevents you from laying further track and reduces your movement from 2d6 to 1d6 until your train reaches that point to clear it.

We chose to sabotage randomly to spare Maddie's feelings of being purposely targeted when she was leading. The luck was with her with Grandma and I mostly placing dynamite on each other's tracks. This allowed Maddie to develop and maintain a decent lead. Maddie went on to win with Grandma and I racing neck and neck for second place. I ended up coming second but Grandma was only one roll behind me for third place.

Railroader is not a challenging game by any means but the beautiful board and cool plastic trains and tracks make it fun. I found it quite enjoyable actually physically laying the tracks and then moving my train along them.

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