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Runaway Train

Page history last edited by robbway@comcast.net 11 years, 11 months ago

LEVEL  1 LESSON:  Make a Game in 15 Minutes.


Players: 1-4

Time: 20-30 minutes


Object:  The goal is to beat the train down the tracks and hit all of the emergency brakes on the tracks.



  1. Place one switch marker per player at each designated square (see Alternate Rules for more)
  2. Place all of the player tokens, little hand cars, at the "START" at the top of the mountain.


How to Win:  The goal is to hit all of the brake switches and get the the "FINISH" by exact count on the die or dice.



  1. The first player is chosen and play proceeds clockwise around the table.
  2. A pair of dice is rolled.
  3. The player than moves his or her cart forward or back the number shown either die roll or the sum of both. 
  4. If doubles were rolled, a player may choose to roll again for his or herself or move another player.  The decision must be made prior to the bonus roll.
  5. In bonus rolls, move according to the number shown on either die roll or the sum of both.
  6. If you roll doubles on a bonus roll, there are no more bonus rolls, and will cancel a decision to move the opponent.
  7. One die moves the train.
  8. Winner throws all the switches and makes it to the end.


Alternate Rule:  Ignore the predesignated switch squares and take turns deciding where the switches will go.


LEVEL  2 LESSON:    Test, Evaluate, and Change at Least One Rule.


I made a paper prototype:

  1. I used Microsoft Powerpoint on Vista and it worked very well.  I borrowed from a basic Chutes and Ladders on a checkerboard.  I added two cliparts and decorated with a track that shows the game's path.
  2. The train spot is the start, the sawhorse is the end, and the purple squares are the switches.  The dots are places to put your switch markers on.




  1. I  created two players, represented by pennies, Heads and Tails.  (using USA currency)
  2. Dimes represented the switches, one for Heads and one for Tails, on each purple switch square.
  3. I used a nickel for the train.
  4. I decided to give each player a single strategy:  Heads tried to get as close to his next target switch and Tails tried to be 7 squares away from his target switch.
  5. I then played the game.  The train moved too fast from the start, making it too easy for both players to lose.
  6. I decided that implicit to the rules (which should be changed to match), players and train can occupy the same square without penalty or bonus.
  7. I changed my first rule:  Roll a 3-sided die (using Dicenomicon on iPhone) to move the train ahead 1, 2, or 3 spaces.  It slowed the train down sufficiently.
  8. I discovered this game has actual strategy.  First, I  made the Tails strategy to try and be 6 squares away (to increase the odds of exact roll).  Second, I determined the Trivial Pursuit strategy, to be between 2 target squares, improved the players' odds.
  9. Because it was possible to be passed by the train, I implemented one final rule:  if at least one player grabbed the switch by the time the train arrives, the train effectively slows down.  The other player must still gather the switch marker to win.  This rule was derived from the theme of the game, to slow down a train.



Summary of Rule Changes:


  1. Role a d3 to move the train (if you roll a regular die, 1 or 4--advance 1 square, 2 or 5--advance 2 squares, 3 or 6--3 squares).
  2. The players and the train can all occupy the same square without consequence.
  3. If neither player captures a switch before the train arrives, you both lose.  If one player captures a particular switch when the train arrives, the game continues, but the other player must still collect all 10 switches to win.



Final Notes:


  1. The rule about moving the other player with the bonus roll turned out to be near useless.  I'd probably remove it.
  2. The game took about 20 minutes to finish for 2 players.
  3. The game speeds up near the end, which also seems to match the theme.








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