So often I find myself wondering how (and why) someone came up with a particular theme or subject for a board game. Motorway is a game about, rather obviously, travelling along a motorway. It’s incredibly educational, but I’m intrigued to know what made someone decide that it was worthy of a board game.
I’d been on the look out for this game for a while, after reading about it online, and was therefore delighted when it was amongst the haul that I picked up when we visited Vintage 72 when we were down in Cornwall earlier in the year. It was a bit of a surprise to then two weeks ago find a second copy in a local charity shop – I snapped it up on both occasions, and after checking both sets it seems that was exactly the right thing to do!
What is the aim of Motorway?
The aim of Motorway is actually relatively simple – to complete a journey along a motorway. On the way though there are various obstacles that you may encounter. Everything from lanes closed due to an accident, through to breakdowns and people needing to stop at the services for a wee!
The educational angle of the game comes from the fact that it is intent on making sure that you follow the rules of the road whist on the motorway, and also it teaches you about the various things that you may encounter on a real life motorway journey.
How to play
Game play is relatively simple in motorway. Players roll dice (one or two depending on where you are on the board) and move forwards accordingly. There are some rules of the road that need to be taken into account. In particular you must stay in the left hand lane at all times unless overtaking. And when you do overtake you need to do so safely, leaving sufficient space both behind and in front of the vehicle you are passing. Definitely no sitting in the middle lane or cutting in front of people in this game!
Along the journey you can pick up hazard cards which can slow you down, or in very sever circumstances end your game completely! As Bonn found out after racing ahead one time.
There are also Bonus cards to pick up which allow you the opportunity to move forwards additional spaces – but only if you can answer a question about the Highway Code correctly.
One thing that is really apparent with Motorway is the educational element of the game. It’s only very recently that learner drivers were allowed on motorways here in the UK, but before that drivers were supposed to know all about the rules of the road on a motorway and the things that they could encounter there when they sat their driving test. This game actually provides a brilliant way of learning about all these in a fun manner.
Normal gameplay teaches players the basics about lanes and keeping your distance, but the additional bonus cards really test a player’s knowledge of the Highway Code around motorway driving and even as experienced drivers we found that they still provided some great talking points around motorway driving.
Real life situations
What really made me smile when playing Motorway was just how like real life it can be. In my first game I ended up having to stop at all three sets of services on the board, and it so reminded me of some long car journeys with the kids where one of them needing the loo means you ended up stopping at every service station you pass.
I also liked the small touch of how for the last few squares on the board you have to slow down, much as you have to do when you have the yellow lines at the end of a motorway or dual carriage way as it approaches a roundabout or similar. For this portion of the boards you are only allowed to throw one die instead of the usual two, to illustrate that slowing down that you have in real life.
There’s also the chance in the game that you will suffer a breakdown and have to wait for a recovery vehicle to reach you. There’s a little twist in that whilst you’re waiting for the recovery team to reach you, you use your turns to throw the dice to move the recovery vehicle along the motorway. It’s a nice twist, and far more interesting for a player than just missing a number of turns.
I love the retro appeal of the game Motorway. I know motorway signage itself hasn’t changed much at all since the 80s when this game was published, but it still manages to have a very 1980s feel about the game. Especially when you look at some of the advertising in the motorway services. Why did Holiday Inn ever think that brown was a good logo colour?
Now being the proud owner of two versions of Motorway I had initially assumed that they were exactly the same. And they very nearly are. Apart from one small thing. Both games are produced by Campus Martin Limited, yet one says on it that the word “Motorway” (written as it is in the game’s title) is a trade mark of the Motorway Publishing Company and is Copyright them 1978, where as the other says that the word “Motorway” is instead trademark of Campus Martin Limited and the copyright is attributed to Don Hughes 1980.
Inside the two games are identical. I know that there was a second edition published by Campus Martin with a totally different box cover design. I’ve also seen on eBay a few versions of the game with what looks like a red glow around the circular motorway aerial view. The geek that I am is intrigued to find out more about all these different versions and to understand the changes and what caused them. I guess this means that I’ll keep looking out for further copies of Motorway! Google hasn’t given me the answers so far.
I also realised the benefits of having two versions when I realised that neither had the complete set of hazard or bonus cards. One was also missing a rescue vehicle and one of the cars. Combining the two games I was able to come up with a complete set, but the exercise of checking and double checking has given me a few ideas for something we may do on the run up to Christmas. Watch this space…
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