Most of the games I design, start with a theme first, not with a game concept. I got the inspiration for the SmartGame “RoadBlock” during a bicycle ride on a dark evening on an island (called Terschelling) off the Netherlands a few years ago. The lights were on in some houses, illuminating the windows. You could see shadows in the rooms beyond, because for some reason people in the Netherlands never close their curtains, like we do here in Belgium. It all looked quite fascinating.
The game concept followed almost automatically. Sometimes you can work for years before you get a concept to work, but sometimes you get lucky and your first version works. In this case I was lucky, although I needed a second version to figure out the right shape of all the puzzle tiles, to make enough interesting challenges.
GAME OF THE YEAR
In 2008 “RoadBlock” won the “Game of the Year” award in the Netherlands. This was a special experience because the news also made headlines in the Belgian media, probably because one newspaper wrote: ‘Belgian designer wins game award in the Netherlands.’ During the following few days I was interviewed by several radio stations, newspapers and a regional TV station. What made this special was that it changed the way my family looked at my work. Although I had been a designer for many years and I had won quite a few game awards prior to this, what I was doing never became real to them until they read about it in their own newspapers. For me, the biggest reward is not a formal award but the fact that people buy a second or third game because they are so pleased with the first one they bought.
GET THE GANGSTER
In RoadBlock, you start a challenge by placing the buildings and the red car according to the positions shown in the booklet. The object is two-fold: to place all the puzzle pieces with police cars on the game board AND to place them in such a way that all escape routes for the red car are blocked off. Sometimes there are more than 60 ways to place all the pieces on the game board, but only one will make sure that the gangster in the red car can't escape. So although there is also a red car in this game like there is in Rush Hour from ThinkFun (invented by Nob Yoshigahara), the object is the opposite. And of course it’s a completely different concept, because it’s a tiling puzzle and not a sliding puzzle.
Last year (2010) we introduced a booster pack for this game with an extra puzzle tile and 60 new challenges. This time around you need to block in 2 cars. The position of the red one is still given, but the player has to find the right location for the green car.
THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS
Because of the theme, I had a big city like New York in mind, having seen (too) many American police movies. But skyscrapers would have made the game unplayable and expensive, and setting it in the States would have meant the cars were excessively big. So I changed the setting to a bad neighbourhood of an average city instead. But the lights illuminating the windows, where it all started, are still there.
The updated 2016 version (new line look) now includes 80 instead of 60 challenges! The starter level of this new version shows hints about the position of some police cars.
example of a junior challenge/solution of RoadBlock
GAME RULES ROADBLOCK
1) Choose a challenge. Position the red car and the building pieces on the game board to match the starting layout shown on the card. Those pieces are now fixed - you must not move them at all during the challenge. Starter challenges give extra hints about the position of some police cars.
2) Carefully position the 6 police car pieces on the game board to block in the stolen red car so it cannot escape.
• The red car cannot escape over any police car or building pieces.
• The red car cannot escape by moving diagonally.
• You have to place all police car pieces on the game board, even when they are not all needed to block in the red car.
3) Think you’ve cracked it? Flip to the key at the back of your challenge book and check your solution. There is only one correct answer.
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