Monday, July 10, 2017

The Train Travels From Afar

Trains have fascinated me ever since I was a child. Growing up in the American Midwest, I often counted freight cars while we waited at crossings in our small town. My parents gave me a starter model railroad set for a Christmas present when I was 6, and my father and I worked on it together well into my teenage years. When I moved to Germany after University, I was able to renew my love for trains with my own sons, whether riding the high speed rail across the country, or visiting Berlin’s Transportation Museum or Hamburg’s Miniature Wonderland model railroad.  I even bought them wooden train sets while they were still babies, in anticipation of the time they would be old enough to build elaborate tracks covering our living room floor.

It is not surprising, then, that I have worked on many different game designs with this theme. The core idea for “The Train Travels From Afar” originated from the fun of watching model trains, and guessing where they would go next by following the tracks ahead of them. And the twisting tracks that form the completed board at the end of the game also resemble our apartment floor after building wooden train tracks with my sons all afternoon.

The game was developed while my family spent one year in the United States. We enjoy living in Berlin, and my sons were born here, but we do miss our families who still live in America. This was a rare opportunity for all of us to spend Christmas together.

For my two nieces, I would often send them German board games as Christmas presents, and sometimes I designed games especially for them.  This time I decided I wanted to develop my train game for them.

After 6 months of development, I finished the prototype. My nieces opened the gift on Christmas Day, and we played the game constantly for the rest of the holidays. They even offered some tips on how to make the game better.

Naturally, I added the game to my portfolio of game designs which I offer to publishers, including Polish book publisher Nasza Księgarnia.  It is exciting for me to have a new publishing partnership with NK, and, of course, to see the game professionally produced. I can’t wait to give the new game to my nieces.

In the game, players compete to be the first one to get their trains to the most valuable stations, while also scoring for long, looping routes. Each player has her own “frame” game board and a set of tiles with tracks. In every round, you draw one tile, place it in your play area and move all trains that are connected to the new track. Be careful not to crash them! You score 1 point for every tile crossed by each train, and looping through tiles multiple times can help your score. Additionally, the farthest stations are the most valuable--until the first trains arrive. Each delivery decreases the value of a station, so you may have to change your plans in the middle of your journey if an opponent reaches you initial destination first!

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