Wednesday, 25 July 2012

I've got a ticket to ride...

but I don't care.

Really. Train games do nothing for me. Preussische Ostbahn, Age of Steam, 18XX and Stephenson's Rocket leave me cold. And I'm not even talking about Transamerica. All train games I had, I've given away at some point. Most of these games become boring optimalisation exercises. The 18XX games just become huge stock speculations. It doesn't move me.

What surprises me most is that the games keep on coming. In evergrowing mutations of the last hit, and replacing the map of Great Britain with that of Germany, or Italy, or the U.S. Yes, I know, I have been telling people not to just stress the lack of innovation in gaming but to see the sunny side, look for a hidden gem. I'm sorry, I can't always live up to that myself. I don't find the theme appealing enough to sift through the shitpile to reach it.

But I can tell you what I would like, and maybe you will even tell me that that game already exists, although I doubt that my grail train game can exist as a competitive multiplayer game.

Six years ago, as I visited my brother in Vancouver, we made a roundtrip to the Rockies. And as we returned we came across places like Rogers' Pass, Revelstoke, Craigellachie and through the Fraser canyons. Inspired by the rugged terrain and the stories of the railway, I picked up Pierre Berton's The Last Spike, a gripping story of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in only four years. It has it all.

As the railway started out, the owners had no idea what the exact route would be. Routes through the Rockies and the mountain ranges further west still had to be surveyed. This led to the exiting story of Captain Rogers finding his way through the Selkirk Mountains, more terrifying than the Rockies in appearance, with a gradient that would hamstring trains going up for years while under threat from numerous avalanches.

In summer, the area is pestered with Devil's Club a plant truly deserving of the name. I experienced the ordeal of Rogers and all those working on that part of the rail line as I climbed up to Glacier Peak. And while the view up there is of breath taking beauty (once you've recovered it from the the steep climb), it is still awe inspiring.

From the west the building had to follow the Fraser River valley, so treacherous in places that (mostly Chinese) labourers died in droves from falling rock, avalanches, slippery tracks, cold and dynamite. And if they weren't dying they protested their meagre wages or appalling working and living conditions.

The insecurity about the exact trace of the railway line also led to ridiculous land speculation in the prairy as the the building moved slowly, then more rapidly, west. In the first years plots of land around potential sites for stations multiplied many times in value only to drop after the final choice was made. Poor men became rich and destitute overnight.

And although the railway was racing to the Rockies, thanks to the brilliant organisation of Andrew Onderdonk, at several times all seemed lost as money ran out and shady political deals were necessary to lend the required sums for investment.

A game which could portray that kind of excitement, of political dealings, rail building, operations, land speculation, rebellion and near bankruptcy I would play. Does it exist? Could it exist?

This post was published earlier on Fortress Ameritrash

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