Trial By Trolley Review

Published: February 11, 2020 12:00 PM /

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Trial By Trolley Preview Image

Cyanide and Happiness's new board game Trial by Trolley puts one player in the conductor's seat as everyone else teams up to create the best or worst train track to go down. The Trolley Problem is a now 50-year-old thought problem that many people would have heard of even if they don't know it by name.

What comes in the Trial by Trolley box?

Trial by Trolley Game Contents
Depending on whether you're buying at retail, or kickstarted the project you'll get some or all of the above

When it was first introduced in 1967 by Phillipa Foot it stated that a Trolley was barreling down a track. You could either do nothing and it would kill 5 people, or you could throw the switch and it would only kill one. Its purpose is to drive you to think, would it be more moral to do nothing and keep your hands somewhat clean or get involved knowing that your actions led to someone's death. What if it wasn't 5 people vs 1 though?

Set up for the game is simple. The players will always get divided into three groupings. The conductor for the Trolley for the turn will be on his own, making the decisions. The rest of the players will get split into two teams; players to the left of the conductor and the players to the right. There will be times that these teams aren't even but as long as it's consistent then it shouldn't cause an issue.

What kind of cards will you see in Trial by Trolley?

Trial by Trolley Card Examples
The good cards can be really good, the same can not be said for the bad ones...

Each team will get to draw three of the good cards, three bad cards, and three modifier cards. For each player you have on a team over 3 you can also draw three more modifier cards for them. This will mean at minimum each team will play three cards per turn, but when the teams are bigger you'll be able to change the situation more and more. While you draw three of each of the cards you'll only be selecting the best of them to play.

The round will begin when each team plays down a good card on their own track. These cards attempt to dissuade the Trolley driver from wanting to roll down your path. These will be something loveable like a kitten on its way to the adoption center, or Disneyland. The bad cards will then get played on your opponent's track, you'll have to make sure you pick something that is especially despicable. Finally, teams will take it in turns to place down their modifiers. These can get played on either side of the track and can make something good worse, or make something bad better.

How to play Trial by Trolley?

Trial By Trolley Good Card
Surely they wouldn't want to run into every fish in the sea... right?

It's then down to each team to debate and try to convince the trolley driver to run over your opponent's track. You can use whatever means you like to make sure that your track doesn't look like the best one to roll a trolley through. This level of the debate really livens the game. While it plays similarly to black/white card games like Cards Against Humanity or What Do You Meme because the player doesn't need to conceal their identity players can get more involved. Opinions can get raised and you can spend as much time trying to reason with the opposition rather than the conductor.

After the conductor decides which of the tracks they're going to go down all the members of that team will get given a single death token. Then the conductor's place will shift to the next person. This will also mean that the places of the teams will rotate around. Whoever is one your team one round, might be the hardest one to argue against in the next round. Once all players have had a chance to play as the conductor you'll then tally up your death tokens. Whoever has the lowest numbers is the winner of the game.

What kind of tracks will you see in Trial by Trolley?

Trial By Trolley Example
Do I want to kill me, that isn't me, that is actually Jack the Ripper? or stop Robo-Hitler?

Trial by Trolley is a simple game but with the kinds of crazy cards that were created by the Cyanide and Happiness people players are all sure to have a laugh. Its simple nature also lends itself to quick modifications of the rules. In the rules, it's already suggested to try allowing the player with the most deaths to remain as a conductor. This creates a form of rubberbanding to keep all players around the same number of deaths. In a large group, you could also decide to add more good or bad cards, increase the number of player rotations until the game ends, or even allow each player their own modifier to create ludicrous combinations.

The Bottom Line:

Trial by Trolley takes an age-old concept and uses it to create a competitive environment. Paired with the outlandish and comedic art of Cyanide and Happiness is the perfect storm of comedy. There is a lot of fun that needs to be drawn out of the game by the players themselves, coming up with good combinations and arguments, but with so much to work from your party is always going to end up having a laugh at this game.

Get this game if: 

- You're a fan of debating absurdity

- You're a fan of Cyanide and Happiness

- You're a fan of moral thought exercises

Avoid this game if: 

- You're tired of the White/Black Card style tabletop games

- You don't enjoy off-color humor

Trial By Trolley was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the publisher

Review Summary

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| Senior Content Manager

Andrew has written Video Game and Entertainment news, reviews, and guides for 10+ years. As Senior Content Manager, he assists in creating and editing… More about Andrew