Recently I had a chance to talk with Grant Dalgliesh from Columbia Games about the up coming game The Last Spike, which is currently available to back over on Kickstarter. Here is that interview.
Jonathan: Where did you come up with the idea for The Last Spike? What was your influence?
Grant: The Last Spike (2015) is a re-boot of the 1976 game by the same designer. The new edition has been completely re-thought and now plays better – there is more strategy and less luck.
The 1976 idea was conceived around the centennial of the Canadian Last Spike. That edition was Canadian, with cities spanning Canada from Montreal to Vancouver.
Jonathan: I know that Columbia Games produces some of the best war games available. With games like Ticket to Ride and the myriad of other train games available, why make a game about Trains? Aren’t there enough games like that out there?
Grant: Train gamers would say there are never enough train games, just as war gamers are always eager for a new title, even on the same subject that has been gamed before like Gettysburg or Stalingrad. It never seems to get old.
Over 45 years in business, we have produced a variety of game genres but the best ones involve history in some way or another – The Last Spike gets its flavor from history, the game play wouldn’t be the same without it.
Jonathan: Will we be seeing those trademarked wooden tiles in this game or do you plan on going the cardboard route this time?
Grant: The Last Spike uses wooden blocks for track tiles. Its practical for us and great for the game because the blocks stand up on their end, allowing them to be hidden from the other players without any need for a stand or prop.
Jonathan: I looked over the rules and it seemed like playing tracks and buying deeds are the main concepts of the game. Do you feel that the game might be too simple or is there a deeper level to the game than just that?
Grant: Simple on the surface is good. It may be simple to play a track and buy a deed, but there is more to it. Players MUST play a track every turn and pay for it. There are some hard choices both in the short-term of which track tile to play (of the 4 you have to choose from). Cash flow and strategy may conflict. Players MAY buy a deed each turn, but which one? There is urgency, scarcity, competition and cooperation in that choice. Or sometimes you buy none, holding your cash for the future.
The depth of play is also enhanced by the interaction with the other players. To win the game you usually need to co-operate with players to get your goals met. Its a fascinating balance between competition and cooperation.
Jonathan: I noticed that the game is playable by anywhere from 2 to 6 players. Do you feel that the game plays better with more players or would you say that fewer is the way to go?
Grant: 3-5 is sweet spot. The interaction is more involved with more players and the game plays quicker.
Jonathan: Looking at the board, I noticed that you didn’t go with a normal layout like with most games. Is there some special reason behind the decision to go with a more abstract layout?
Grant: What’s Normal? We arranged the map layout with equidistant cities and route lengths for play balance. The geography is pretty good for abstract. The locations of the rivers and mountains are reasonable.
Jonathan: The last time I looked at the Kickstarter, you weren’t that far from reaching your goal. Do you plan on including any stretch goals if the pledges exceed the goal?
Grant: We do have at least one stretch goal coming. It’ll be a deluxe cloth draw bag for players to draw track tiles from.
Jonathan: With the Kickstarter almost completed, what are your plans for the future after this game is published?
Grant: This project will keep us busy all Summer and the next game topic is not decided. We always have several irons in the fire, mainly wooden block war-games.
Jonathan: I would expect nothing less. Is there anything else that you’d like the readers to know about The Last Spike?
Grant: The Last Spike is a unique game experience, great for all ages. You’ll be playing within 5 minutes and no two games will end up alike.
Jonathan: Grant, thanks SO much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me. I really appreciate it and I wish you the best with the new game.
Grant: A pleasure.
The Last Spike is currently open for backing on Kickstarter right now. Please give your support and help fund it by visiting the site below.
You can also check out Columbia Games at their website for more information.