Stop the Train!

Updated: May 19

This is a 4-6 player hidden role/traitor game with a novel difference. The premise is that you're all on a train speeding to Paris. Stashed on board, tho', is a bomb. You each have a hidden role with two mission objectives: for most of the players, the first objective is to Stop the Train!; but one of the players is the Saboteur and they win if the train crashes...


The standout feature of this game is that it's played using a physical track and a model train that advances along the track every turn. The distance it travels is regulated by the speed: one sleeper space for every 30km/h that the speed is travelling, up to a maximum of 180km/h (6 spaces). The physicality of a track with a train advancing along it gives this game a real boost of adrenaline: players feel the growing tension as the runaway train 'hurtles' seemingly inexorably along the track to their doom.



Every turn, players will play a card that affects the speed of the train, and the selection of the card to play will be the principal way in which players try to identify which of them is the Saboteur. The selection itself mirrors that used in Secret Hitler (Goat Wolf & Cabbage): a player draws three cards, discards one and hands on the other two to the active player; the active player then discards one of those cards and plays the other. This offers scope for much accusation and probably some lying. There will be accusatory cries of 'why did you increase the train's speed?', to which the active player will protest that they had no choice because both the cards they were handed were accelerators. The person who passed the cards will confirm or deny this, and explain too that they originally drew three cards that all served to pile on the speed.


In the preview prototype we've been playing at Board's Eye View, there was such a preponderance of acceleration and maximum speed cards (only 10 of the 60 cards allowed for any braking) that all too often players would be telling the truth when they protested that none of the cards they'd drawn could reduce the train's speed. Designer, Brendan Mills is tweaking the balance of cards to remedy this, and the game that comes to Kickstarter a few days from now will give players the option of varying the balance of cards to make it harder or easier for the Saboteur.



It's each character's second objective that ensures more subtlety to play so that speed vs brake may not be a simple binary choice. If, for example, you are the Speedster, you want the train to stop but you also want to break the rail speed record. In what is admittedly something of a thematic disconnect, players vote on which route the train should take when it reaches the signal box. If I'm the Prisoner of War, I want the train to stop but I also need it to take the fastest track... Of course, that may make other players suspicious that I am the Saboteur...


When the train is on a bridge or viaduct, players get to decide (vote) on whether to throw someone off. Some players will have secret objectives to get a particular character (not just the Saboteur) thrown off the train. If you're the Stuntman, for example, your objective is that you need to get yourself thrown off. Some players will have objectives that a particular character must not be thrown off. The MI6 Agent has to stop the train but only wins if the Saboteur is still on board. Being thrown off the train takes you out of play but doesn't necessarily mean you lose the game: if the passengers throw the Saboteur off the train, the Saboteur still wins if the passengers don't succeed in bringing the train to a halt. And roles aren't declared until the game ends...


Players each have Intervention cards that they can play to apply a special effect. Some of these are quite situational, so you could find you are playing with two very useful cards or two cards that are barely worth having. Tho' even if you end up with Intervention cards that are of little direct use to your character, you might still benefit from playing them to sow confusion over your identity or to flush other characters out. Often key to the game are the rare Permits to Travel which pass between players. You'll find there's a musical chairs game going on in the background as players play cards to steal these from each other. The Permits can prove critically important because, for some (not all) characters, their possession at the end of the game can be substituted as an alternative secondary win condition. For example, the Photographer needs to stop the train but also needs the train to take the scenic route. If the Photographer ends the game with a Permit to Travel, they still need the train to stop but they can ignore the requirement for the train to have taken the scenic route. However, to collect or steal a Permit using one of the cards handed to you will require you to choose to increase the speed of the train...


We've had a lot of fun with Stop the Train! - including playing this social deduction game with non-gamers during the social isolation of Coronavirus lockdown. The 10 different characters in our preview prototype include a couple whose victory conditions make them especially difficult to play. And if you play with the Kamikaze as well as the Saboteur, then the chance of other players actually being able to Stop the Train! must be close to zero!


Stop the Train! is now live on Kickstarter. You can check it out for yourself and back the game by clicking here.


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