24th April 2014

The Research Express

The Boardgamizer Challenge went well yesterday, so I decided to give it another go today.  This one felt a lot more difficult.  I really struggled to come up with something, and to be honest, I’m not as pleased with this as I was with yesterday’s effort.  However, as this is an exercise in ‘turning up’ for work (as Woody Allen would have it ) the important thing is to have turned out something, anything – rather than waiting for perfection or for the inspiration or perfect set of working conditions to strike.  Today’s challenge was as follows.

  • Mechanic  – Storytelling
  • Theme – Trains
  • Victory – Place all your pieces
  • Constraint – Can be played on a plane

I initially liked the theme – it links well with the idea that the game should be playable on a plane.  I was also very happy with the victory condition because it almost immediately made me think of the game Beetle, and then Hangman and Yahtzee – all of which use compact and easily found equipment.  Having come up with these initial ideas, I also felt that the storytelling mechanism fitted well, because a story can be seen as a ‘train of events’ and is made up of a beginning, middle and end – like a train –or the head, thorax and abdomen of a beetle.

My initial optimism soon gave way to frustration as I really struggled with the theme.  If you really want to, you can read the rambling stream of consciousness in the other blog post for today, where I tried to instill some ‘traininess’ into the game.

I still feel the theme is the weakest part of the game.  But I have set myself the challenge of completing each game within a day (‘turning up to work’), so here it is.

The Research Express – A game for a smallish number of players who are old enough to read

Players compete to be the first to complete a ‘train’ of pre-decided information, using only the materials available to them within the train / plane / automobile in which they are travelling.


  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • In-flight magazine or similar – any other information readily available in the travelling space

Set up

Players decide how long the ‘train’ will be.  For example, 1 engine, 4 carriages and a guard’s van.  Each player has a piece of paper and a pencil.  Artistically inclined players may want to draw an actual train, with spaces in the parts to write their answers.  Those who do not wish to draw could just create a numbered list to represent their train – in the above example this would be a six item list.

Players decide on the theme and any other constraints.  Examples might be:

  • France- items of food
  • European Capital cities
  • Film Actors

A more complex version could be played by being more specific about what information must be found for each train part.  Example:

  • Engine – Capital City
  • Carriage 1 – foodstuff
  • Carriage 2 – a famous landmark
  • Carriage 3 – a famous artiste
  • Carriage 4 –  an event
  • Guard’s van – a brand name

In this case the game could be played with or without an overriding theme.

How to play

Players compete to be the first to complete their train, by finding and writing the answers in their train parts.  The answers must be found in the in-flight magazine or readily available info they can get to without moving.  It is important to note that this is not a general knowledge quiz.  Players will need to be able to show where they have found their information – so it will be a good idea for them to write page references as well as the answers – for easy checking of the winning answers.  Players should declare their winning answers in the form of an entertaining story and will gain extra plaudits from other players for coherence, plot and funny jokes.


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