The Thomas the Tank Engine Game is for two to four players with ages from five to eleven. At a mere £4.95 from Waddingtons it represents a very acceptable way to introduce children to gaming. It has no military element but encourages tactical thinking and, most importantly, the huge popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine includes girls as well as boys in the potential market.
The game is played on a board about a foot square. The four engines start at the sheds and must get to the station around the various lines and branch lines. There are three principle junctions and here may stand (in imposing black) the ample figure of The Fat Controller (the worthy Sir Topham Hatt). Engines may not go down the line blocked by The Fat Controller. However, a player whose engine lands on a yellow space (of which there are a number) must move The Fat Controller to another junction. Coming at a strategic moment this can send one's opponents off around a loop-line. There are also a number of spaces with special effects; 'Throw Again' and (very popular this one) 'Send any engine back to shed' are examples. Movement is regulated by a dice roll. Engines may pass each other but may not occupy the same space.
Undoubtedly a popular feature of Thomas the Tank Engine is the four little engine models executed in excellent detail in the predominant colour. The wheel arrangements are correct although it must be remarked that James The Red Engine (who is, you will remember, a Mixed Goods engine) lacks his tender. The four engines provided are Thomas, Percy, James and Toby, and the only complaint among my nephews was that there was no Gordon, Henry or Edward (I'm a Troublesome Truck man myself). Naturally I had to point out that the game board dipslayed Thomas' branch line, not the main line where extremely important engines would operate. I felt there was a ground swell here for an expansion kit.
Among its intended market the game is a great success but it is too simple other than for tinkering with by older gamers. Although, having said that, I have noticed it is a popular game for visitors to take down and play about with.
Charles Vasey. Reprinted from Games International Issue 9.
Sumo - Mike Siggins