Canal Mania: 2nd Edition Design Notes
It’s over eighteen months since Canal Mania e-mailed its way from the computers of Ragnar Brothers to those of the design team at One Stop Games. Inevitably the design of the game has moved on since then, partly as a result of our continued playing of the game and partly in response to the advice and criticism of the thousands who have played the game since it went on sale.
The commercial success of Canal Mania has made it possible to produce more copies, and rather than just printing a re-run we have decided to incorporate a significant number of changes. This means we have incurred some extra costs, but this has been off-set by moving production to China. Indeed we have been able to reduce the game’s RRP.
Here then are the changes:
· Narrowboats: not barges and not tugboats
For the purists, the English canal system used barges mainly on only the larger navigations (rivers). The canals themselves were the domain of the narrowboat. Ludofact couldn’t find a barge in plastic let alone a narrowboat, so we had to settle for the tugboats found in the 1st. edition. We have worked with Geraldine O’Reilly to use her skills to sculpt a more appropriate playing piece.
· The introduction of ‘The Trent Navigation’:
The River Trent was one of the most important commercial waterways of England. It linked the midland towns of Nottingham, Burton and Stoke to the estuary town of Goole (and thereby to the North Sea) via the town of Newark. In terms of Canal Mania, the Trent Navigation opens up the eastern side of the map and provides an alternative route to the northern canals.
In order to include this new contract we have had to remove an existing one, as Parliament demands contracts in multiples of five. We chose the Llangollen canal - a sad loss, as the majestic Llangollen was the inspiration to the game. Still, there were good reasons for its choice.
(1) Within the game, particularly bad congestion can occur in the vicinity of Stoke and Chester; almost inevitably, the player drawing the Llangollen seemed to struggle to make the construction. (2) The aficionados will know that its second terminus was Nantwich, not Stoke. (3) It is the only ‘non-English’ canal in the game.
· The introduction of Junction contracts:
Although there were significant and subtle choices in route building in the 1st Edition, the introduction of Junction contracts adds considerably more options and flexibility to the game. Each player receives a Junction contract in game set-up and can subsequently choose to ‘draw’ it instead of drawing from Parliament. A Junction contract allows a player to build a 2-point canal between any two towns on the map. Thus connections can be made between closely located canals, e.g. Bishop Stortford and Cambridge. Historically Junction canals fulfilled precisely this role (just for interest’s sake, the ‘Grand Union’ was originally called the ‘Grand Junction’). As a result players can make longer and more dynamic networks, and all the canals that previously remained isolated can now be connected.
A second benefit of their introduction is that players can now make a delay when drawing from Parliament. For example, a player might have completed two canals in the South and does not want to build the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which is the last contract remaining in Parliament. Instead of drawing the Leeds-Liverpool, he might choose to draw his Junction contract, which could then be used to improve his network in the South.
It is also worth noting that a Junction contract can often be built in the same turn it is drawn. This can make it particularly useful in the final turns of the game.
· The 2- player option:
Soon after the 1st Edition went on sale, we realised that many players were playing Canal Mania as a 2-player game. Ragnar Brothers historically have tended to design for three or more players, and we felt Canal Mania was no different. However, there were requests for 2-player rules and the introduction of Junction contracts presented an opportunity for a simple solution to the over-riding problem, i.e. the possibility of only one player being able to make a strong network. Having one Junction contract reduced that possibility, whereas two such contracts would virtually eliminate it completely.
· Map changes:
The removal of Llangollen and introduction of Newark meant that the town colour-coding needed an overhaul. There are several ‘set’ parameters for this, e.g. that an individual canal does not include two towns of the same colour. In addition, we have tried to ensure key historic routes are possible, e.g. London to the midlands via the Thames Navigation and Oxford Canal. We have tried to make some good options for Junctions, some of which are again historical e.g. Gloucester can now reach Bristol via the Sharpness Canal (Junction). Junction contracts do throw up the possibility of ‘loops’ so we have had to be careful to avoid colour problems where these might occur. Finally (for those of you who are particularly observant), we have moved York, a herculean task but worth it to make more use of this beautiful area of the country.
· The Loop rule:
It was possible in the 1st Edition to make a loop and essentially we (and, to my knowledge, no-one else) had picked up on it. For example, the towns of Birmingham, Worcester, Gloucester, Oxford, Coventry (and back to Birmingham) can be joined if a player is so fortunate a to pick up the necessary five contracts! The anomaly then is that a goods token can be sent form Birmingham to Coventry via the ‘long’ route earning six points (whereas only an 18th century imbecile would have done this, rather than sending it just a few miles). Moreover, it wouldn’t matter where goods started in the loop - each and every one would be worth six points.
The possibility of loops increases dramatically with the introduction of Junction contracts. Hence, we have had to write an extra rule outlawing the use of the ‘long’ route.
· The removal of goods removal:
One of the ironies of the 1st Edition (and I hope someone out there noticed this) was that instead of there being fifteen goods tokens (as stated in the rules) the manufacturers had included twenty. Of course this was our fault, having failed to amend an earlier production specification. Even playing with fifteen goods tokens, there are precious few times when goods need to be removed, and of course with twenty this diminishes still further. On reflection we felt that only a small gaming value was being added to the game at the cost of quite a lot of extra rules and (when it happened) quite a bit of downtime. Hence, the removal rule was removed.
· Scoring the value of the contract:
This is a ‘Why didn’t we think of this in the first place?’ amendment. Just scoring for the building of locks, aqueducts and tunnels did NOT deliver the right balance between the constructing side of the game and the goods moving side. By also adding on the value of the contract when completing a canal the points for canal building and for goods movement becomes more balanced. It also has the added benefit of making the positions on the score-track less congested and more dynamic.
· Re-positioning of triggers:
With the increase in scoring (see above) the trigger points needed adjusting. We decided to use a counter to mark this so that players had the option to raise or lower the trigger point as they might wish. The Stephenson’s Rocket icon is just a reminder of why the trigger ‘happened’.
· Victory point tally:
Much as we liked the ‘most prolific’ constructor moment in the game, we felt it to be superfluous once we introduced the scoring of contract values. It also felt like something of a duplication. However, we have retained it as a tie-breaker.
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