It’s about twenty past seven in the evening. I am hiding in a train toilet on the outskirts of Paris. Outside there is an angry mob who have all voted that I should be thrown off the train. You see the train has been sabotaged and while I have been working tirelessly to stop the train from impending disaster the mob think that the saboteur is me. As a result I have locked myself in the toilet.
I’m fine as long as I stay locked inside… but wait what is this? Oh no! The ticket conductor is opening the lavatory door… I didn’t know he could do that. This is looking bad and I am regretting pulling my trousers down around my ankles to imitate going to the toilet. In a move of pure brilliance as I’m pushed out of the doors, I manage to grab hold of the train and cling on for my life. However, just as the train is passing over a viaduct I am pushed again and this time I fall down to my grizzly death. The irony is, I was only on the train as an engineer to examine the viaduct – just not from below!
So how have I survived to tell the tale? Well, as it happens, it is about twenty past seven in the evening, but I am in a basement of a pub in Hove with a rather wonderful prototype of the game ‘Stop the Train!’. The table consists of a group of people I have never met. I am beside the game’s lead designer Brendan Mills and his colleague Jango. Two other fine gentleman have joined the table to play this game on one of its stops throughout the UK. For legal reasons I have changed their names to Tarquin and Bob as I forgot to ask permission if they would mind me using their real first names in this preview.
Can you tell me more about the game?
Stop the Train! is a semi co-operative game of hidden roles, social deduction and bluffing for 3-6 players. Based in the 1940s and centred around the 19.05 train to Paris. The locomotive is unfortunately armed with a bomb. What’s more, it is hurtling towards Paris at a startling rate. Players will be armed with two missions, the first is to Stop the Train! The second is character specific and reflects the unique skillset of one of the ten characters in the game.
As you will have gathered from my long-winded introduction there is a saboteur in your midst who will be doing their best to not stop the train and see it crash at the end of its journey in the most spectacular fashion. Other players need to work out who they are and eject them from the carriage.
The game is played along a train track board. The prototype is plastic which you see in the photographs but the finished version will be cardboard. The concept for the final version does look superb I must say and can be seen on their Instagram here.
The train chuffs along through tunnels and down hills before the track splits in three and the game ramps up a bit more. Next is a bridge where, if the train stops on it, you can hold an emergency meeting. During this meeting you all chat about who the saboteur could possibly be and after a democratic vote eject them off the train in a very uncivilised fashion. You will then still be hurtling towards Paris and will still need to stop the train by exhausting the card deck.
Who is behind Stop the Train!
Brendan Mills is the project creator with a small team around him. Brendan has had several diverse careers but more recently has settled in the world of escape rooms. His company, Escape Plan, have rooms in Shoreditch and near Elephant and Castle. They are all set in the 1940s, but Brendan believes he has put a particularly unique twist on the Kennington experience – I will angle for an invite and let you know at a future date hopefully! These rooms being set during the Second World War gave this board game its era too.
When chatting to Brendan, he said he had only really got into board games in a more serious way over the last couple of years. In fact, Stop the Train! was originally intended as a secret Santa gift for a relative. It started off as a social deduction trivia game along a similar theme. His main drive when evolving the game was his desire to mess with the format and add increasing chaos to the game.
He admits the game I was lucky enough to play, was only 90-ish percent finished and after my three games we had a little chat about what tweaks were likely to be made. I agreed with all his suggestions and can see how the final tinkering will ultimately define the game.
The experience felt familiar enough to enable me to be confident in what I was doing. Passing cards is a bit like Sushi Go Party or 7 Wonders. The social deduction is obviously comparable with things like One Night Werewolf or Secret Hitler. It was a quick game to learn. I know I was being taught by the designer but limited actions meant you couldn’t go far wrong (despite Bob’s best efforts to do so).
Now, I am not sure if it was because I was in a dingy basement in a pub in Hove, but the theme was immersive. Perhaps this reflects the Escape Room background of the designer. The game took up a fair bit of room on the table it must be said. Yet even though it was a prototype it had real table presence. The exciting part is, this will only be improved upon when the concept art of the final designs goes into production.
I had a pretty sleepless night over my ejection from the toilet and train I must say. The only way I could comfortably join the land of nod was to remember the stunning victory I had as a saboteur in the final game.
Stop the Train! left me wanting to play more, and that is certainly not a bad thing! I wanted to try all the characters to see how differently they play. I can see myself playing this regularly, especially with those new to the board game hobby. I believe this game has the potential to establish itself as a great entry level social deduction game. I can certainly see it being set up on the table after dinner with friends for some light hearted bluffing fun.
The only downside is I will have to wait until its official Kickstarter launch on 31st March 2020 to secure my copy and then wait patiently even longer for it to be delivered to my door!
Please note all images are © Stop the Game! and are used here with kind permission.