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The Grand Trunk Journey - Terminal 2 : Operating your train

Claude Sirois
Quebec City
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Microbadge: Spielworxx fanMicrobadge: The Grand Trunk Journey fan!Microbadge: I play with red!Microbadge: The Smoky ValleyMicrobadge: Age of Industry fan
From gallery of Klode

The Grand Trunk Journey is a pick up and deliver train game where players are operators of their own railway, trying to be as efficient as possible delivering goods to cities and ports using their cards consisting of rail equipment and locations. The game features Hand Management, Time Track, Point to Point Movement and Pick up and Deliver mechanics.

From gallery of Klode
Author : Claude Sirois / Development : Uli Blennemann and Henning Kröpke / Graphics : Harald Lieske

You want to know more about The Grand Trunk Journey that will be published by Spielworxx in March 2020?

Just stop a few minutes at the next 5 Terminals where I will present the main features of the game.

Terminal 2
Operating your train

From gallery of Klode

If you haven't visited the Terminal 1 which talk about the Storyline, you can do it right away before to read this post!

As indicated in the previous post, the game features 12 eastern Canadian and US cities and 4 ports demanding and providing coal, iron, wood and steel. The heart of the game consists of delivering goods to those cities and ports to get VP. To do so, you will use the cards you have in your personal deck composed of locations (C1), locomotives (A1) and railcars (B). Each Location card also features a railcar or a special action (C2). When using such a card, you can use it for its location OR its railcar/special action.
From gallery of Klode
Player cards (image from the rulebook)

In your personal deck you have 18 cards, plus 2 double-sided locomotive cards, for a total of 20 cards of your color. At the beginning of the game, you will have 10 cards in your personal deck, including 4 locations cards representing the 4 terminals you can reach to pick up and deliver goods. During the game, up to 8 location cards will be added to your deck, so new terminals will be accessible. Even though you can add cards of your color in your deck, this is not a deck building game per se because the cards you can add to your deck are pre-determined.

The turn sequence is quite simple. You have 5 cards in hand, you play as many cards as you want or can and replenish your hand to 5 from your personal deck.

Composition of your train

Your train is composed, from left to right, of a City card indicating the location of the train, a locomotive card, and 1 to 4 railcars moving goods.
From gallery of Klode
This train is in Burlington and moving an iron cube (image from the rulebook)

Moving your train around, delivering goods

From gallery of Klode

From gallery of Klode

From gallery of Klode
The heart of the game consists of moving your train from a Terminal in one City to another City’s Terminal or to a Port, delivering Goods to get Victory Points.

To move your train, you must discard the City or Port card that is in front of your Locomotive and replace it with another City or Port card coming from your hand, representing the Location where you want to move your Train.

In the example on the right, your train is in Burlington loaded with iron. To move your train to Watertown, (A) discard the Burlington card and (B) replace it with the Watertown card coming from your hand. Then, move your train token on the board to Watertown.

The movement of your train is recorded on a Time track, which indicates how many days you have spent so far to move your train (and to accomplish other actions that will be explained in a future post). Each rail link traveled cost 1 day. In this example, moving your train between Burlington and Watertown costs 1 day because both cities are directly connected. The more efficient you are delivering goods over shorter distances, the more deliveries you can accomplish.

Managing your railcars

When you move Goods with your train, you must respect a certain number of rules. In order to understand the scope of those rules, you must keep in mind that each city only demands 1 type of good and provides 1 or 2. Ports only demands steel and provide 1 type of goods. I'll give more details regarding the demand and supply of cities and ports in the next post.

The number of Railcar symbols in the top center area of the Locomotive card indicates the number of Railcars this Locomotive can move. This is the Force of the Locomotive. In the example above, that train can move a maximum of 1 railcar. It will be possible to increase the Force of your Locomotive up to 4 during the game.

From gallery of Klode
The color of the Goods shown on each Railcar card represents the types of Goods this Railcar can move. It means that to load a certain good, you must have the right railcar, empty, in your train.

Hopper Car : Coal (black) or Iron (blue)
Flat Car : Wood (green)
Boxcar : Steel (white)

The player can only load one Good cube in a Railcar.

The Train cannot move empty Railcars and the player cannot finish their turn with an empty Railcar in their train. This is an important constraint that leads many decisions during the game (see the Design Notes below).

For example, you can't deliver steel to the port of Portland and move the boxcar empty to Québec to pick up another steel next turn. You will have to remove that boxcar from your train and discard it because you can't move it empty. So managing your hand in optimizing the cycling of your railcars is part of the game!

I'll talk more about the Supply and Demand system at the next Terminal.

Design Notes:

All the movement system based on the location cards was the first mechanic to arise in the design of the game. So it's there since the beginning. This system was inspired by A Few Acres of Snow, a great game, very clever! If you remember, you had locations card that you could play with mean of transport cards to settle a new location or develop an existing one.

In the first few iterations of the game, Locations, Locomotives and Railcars were all shuffled in your personal deck, so it was quite difficult to get the right Location-Locomotive-Railcar combination. So I decided that the Locomotive would stay in play all the time and would be removed from the deck. You now "only" have to match locations and railcars, which is easier (but not always optimal).

The train movement system makes the game more tactic than strategic and allows to plan a couple of moves ahead. The goal of the game is not to find the BEST way to deliver those goods without constraints, but rather to optimize your moves using the cards you have in hands, which doesn't necessarily allow you to accomplish the BEST move. Are you going to be limited in your moves? Yes! Will you be able to move your train where you want, when you want? No. And that's the fun part of the game, to solve this puzzle the best you can! Even though there are some randomness regarding the order in which you draw cards, it is always possible to do something with your hand.

In the early versions of the game, you could have 2 trains to manage at the same time, which was quite challenging believe me!

Not be allowed to move empty railcars in your train and the obligation to put them back in your deck is an important (and interesting) constraint. It simulates the availability of railcars and the fact that railcars are necessary to other subsidiary companies as well, so you can't keep them in your train, not bringing profit. The way you manage your deck will have an impact on the availability of those railcars. You have to note that you can't discard cards for free, you must use them or take a Maintenance actions (at the cost of 1 day) to discard cards (during which you won't be allowed to move your train).

The Time Track to record the train movement (and the other actions players can do) appeared very late in the design process, and I will talk about it more at the nest Terminal about Delivering Goods. Before to implement that mechanic, to move your train you had to pay 1 Diesel per rail link traveled (remember the game was in 1970's at that time). To get Diesel, you had to move Oil. Each cube of Oil was providing you 1 Diesel to move your train. I think the Time Track system is easier to manage and allows interesting stuffs such as the Special Delivery, that I will talk about in the next article.

Next steps

At the next Terminal I will explain how works the pick up and deliver system in the game!

To preorder the game : https://www.spielworxx.de/produkte-shop/
In US the game should be available at the BGG Store.

The Rulebook is available in the file section of the game page or at : https://www.spielworxx.de/downloads-regeln/

Thanks for reading!

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