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Subject: A 'Rail Game Review rss

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Steven Packard
United States
Palmdale
California
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BACKGROUND:

This game was recently re-released as part of Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration. It's supposed to be a faithful reproduction (and I assume that it is) of the original game sold in the park in the early 1960s.

I bought it out of curiousity and out of nostalgia. I especially liked the retro art on the cover, and it also brought with it a strong feeling of a half-remembered memory. I originally thought that I had owned it as a young child, but now that I've had a chance to play it, I think that's not the case. However, since I was at Disneyland many times between 1962 and 1966 (at which time I was 5), I think it's much more likely that I have some long-buried recollection of seeing the game on store shelves at that time, hence my urge to buy it now, over 40 years later. (Mom and Dad won't say no, now. Although I did have to run it past my wife for her OK....)

BRIEF DESCRIPTION:

This game is for 2 to 4 players (arguably it can also be played solitaire -- the lone player facing off against Casey Jr.) and is a roll and move game. There's no getting around that. There's a few things that make it a little different from the standard roll and move, which is what prompted me to write a review on it.

TWO TRACKS:

First of all there are 2 tracks in use on the board, one of which the players technically don't use. There is a figure 8 track in the center which represents the monorail track that goes through Disneyland, and that's the one which the players use to move their pawns. There is also a circular track running around the perimeter of the board, which represents the track that Casey Jr., the railroad train that circles the boundaries of the Disneyland park, uses. Casey is kind of an NPC before we knew what Non Player Characters were. He moves along his track as the players move along the monorail track, each trying to get to his own station first.

GAMEPLAY:

The game comes with 2 standard six-sided dice: one white, one red. On a player's turn, he rolls both dice. He looks at the white die and moves his token that number of spaces along the monorail track (if that space is taken, then he puts his pawn behind that spot, on the first available space). Then he looks at the red die and moves Casey Jr.'s token that many spaces on the outer, circular track.

There are no "special" spaces on the figure 8 monorail track, but some of the spaces on Casey's track have special instructions (e.g., go forward 3 spaces, go back 5 spaces, move 1 space in front of the leader, etc.). If Casey lands on an instruction space, then the player moves his monorail token accordingly.

Since Casey moves on every player's turn, he will keep making his circuit around the park throughout the game. The players, however, just make one trip around the figure 8. At the top of the board, each track has a station. The players are each trying to be the first one to get to the station by exact count. If they roll too high, then they stay in place, but still move Casey, Jr., according to the red die roll.

TWIST:

If Casey Jr. arrives at his station by exact count, and at least one player's monorail token is within 6 spaces of the monorail station, then Casey wins, and none of the people playing wins. If he arrives at his station and no one is within 6 spots of the monorail station, then Casey continues around his track for another circuit.

Note that there can be no ties, since the player always moves his token before the Casey token is moved. If the dice come up such that both would arrive on the same turn, then the player wins.

THE GOOD:

I believe that this is a faithful reproduction of the original game. As such, it has cool retro graphics on the cover and on the board, and it gives me the warm fuzzies of nostalgia from my childhood.

I like that there's an "NPC" that can win the game. It actually produces some tension to the game when you're only a few spots away from winning, but Casey is approaching his station as well. Can you roll the right number before Casey gets there?

Also, I like that Casey has to land on a special space for the player's pawn to be moved forward or back in addition to the white die roll. This means that there's not a "good" or "bad" section of the track for the player, the way that there typically is on a standard children's roll-and-move track.

THE BAD:

Well, it's a roll and move. That doesn't make it bad all by itself, because there are some roll and move games which require a lot of decision making on the part of the player. However, unlike those games, this game prohibits any decisions whatsoever.

That's not quite true. You get to decide if you're going to be Green, Blue, Yellow, or White. (Casey, Jr. is always red, as per the rules. If you want to be a rebel, I suppose you could allow a player to be red, and Casey then would be another color. But I haven't playtested this variant yet, so I don't know if it would break the game.) Once the players choose their pawn color, then there are no further decisions to be made.

Even allowing for this being a children's game, this no-decision aspect is a difficult one to get past. There are plenty of wonderful children's games out there which allow them to make even simple choices. That's a good thing.

I also didn't like an aspect of the packaging. There is the cool artwork on the cover, which I mentioned. The bottom of the box is completely, blankly white. There is absolutely nothing on the cellophane-wrapped box to tell you about what the game is like, what the board looks like, etc. Perhaps this was staying true to the original packaging, but if that's the case, they could have put a piece of paper on the bottom of the box (but still sealed in the cellophane) which showed the game set up and gave a brief description. It's not good to sell a game completely blind to the customer.

THE UGLY:

Since this is a children's game, I can picture a child getting very frustrated with not having any choices and being stuck with bad die rolls. Heck, plenty of people who I must assume are adults get pretty cranky in BGG forum posts regarding games that they claim have victimized them with poor dice rolls. Additionally, a child might have a problem playing a game in which no one wins (i.e., one in which Casey Jr. wins).

I don't see this as a big drawback. This is the kind of thing that allows a parent to teach children to be a better sport. That's a good thing.

CONCLUSION:

If someone described this game to me as a mindless roll and move children's game, I would have no interest in it. I'd expect to give it a solid 2 for a rating, primarily for the no-decisions aspect of it.

But I'm surprised to say that there's something about this game that I enjoy. The nostalgia definitely is a factor here. In addition to that, I really like having Casey there to mix things up a bit. (I'll ignore questions like why an old train engine can go around the park several times when the sleek, ultra-modern monorail can only make one trip in the same time period.) Casey Jr. adds a neat little twist on what would otherwise be an extremely dull game.

So while the Disneyland Monorail Game will never, ever be on my Top Ten List, I know I'll actually want to play it every now and then when I'm wanting something ultra simple with a bit of warm fuzzy nostalgia thrown in. Therefore, I'll give it a 4. I thought about a 5, but even I, pushover that I am, couldn't quite justify that.
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