The trolley problem has been around for decades. Many variations of it have been used throughout the years but it all boils down to a moral dilemma. If there was a trolley/train barrelling out of control heading towards a group of workers, would you pull the lever to change track? But doing so would force the trolley to hit a single worker instead. This is the fundamental dilemma that Trial By Trolley takes and rolls it to the extreme.
Sacrifice the life of one so that a few will survive? And in doing so, are you willing to accept that an innocent person has died by your hands? Could you live with yourself after making such a hefty decision?
The choice is obvious at first, or is it? That group of people over there get to go on living if just this one person here takes the fall. But, then what if that one person was a young, blind child cuddling a litter of newly born kittens? Or what if amongst the group of people there was a Hitler reincarnate? What if they were both on the same side of the track whilst on the other side was a drug dealer who targets kids standing next to the person who will grow up to cure cancer? WHAT WOULD YOU DO THEN!? HUH!? HUUUHH!?
The Utilitarian Perspective
This perspective relates to the part of our brain that believes the best outcome of a situation is the result that will benefit the greatest amount of people. This is the rational part of our decision-making noggin. This is not to say it is all about numbers. For example, if there were a thousand people on one side of the track, but they were all going to die this very day regardless, then the utilitarian in you would side with saving the ten teenagers on the other.
The Deontological Perspective
This perspective is the inherent goody-two-shoes part of your think tank. This is the one that uses emotions to dictate your actions. It tells you that taking a life is morally and unobjectively wrong. It makes you feel bad for even considering changing the direction of the trolley because in doing so, it is YOU who would have killed that worker.
The Moral High Ground
Trial By Trolley straps you into the driver’s seat in this dilemma and revs it up to the max. Not only will you be deciding on what track to drive down, but the tracks will be populated by two separate teams of people trying to convince you what track to choose.
On each side of the track, there will be two innocent cards and a guilty card. There will also be modifiers out that give characters (or even inanimate objects) thoughts. These can be both good and bad and can help swing the outcome in one way or another. Or just straight-up make it torture for the conductor to decide whilst you smile maliciously and cackle like a blood starved beast. ‘What evs’. I do not judge.
Trial By Trolley is a remarkably simple game. Like, criminally simple. As in, you could have set up and played a few rounds instead of reading this review.
Everyone is going to have the opportunity to be the conductor at least once. And everyone who sits to their left is in one team, everyone on the right is going to be the other team. It makes no difference if there is an uneven amount of people in each team! The teams change every single turn and will even out over the course of the game.
Each side of the track starts with a random innocent card on it. One person on each team draws three innocent cards, another person draws three guilty cards and then each subsequent person draws three modifier cards. Each team then plays an innocent card on their tracks and a guilty card on the opponent’s side. Then everyone who drew modifier cards gets to play a card to add flavour text to the situation at hand.
The person who is the conductor then chooses who they will murder in cold blood, and the steering wheel, paddle, baton (?) gets passed to the next player. (I do not know how trains work).
In this little box, you will find 500 cards, death tokens, and a flimsy starting track map. The cards are the main focal point of course and I am glad that there have been no cut corners when it comes to them. They are robust, plastic, and waterproof. This was a great choice in design as (with many games of its ilk), Trial By Trolley is best played over a few drinks where spillages may occur.
The map and tokens would not survive such spillages though. And they really are the spike in the tracks that stop this game from having an overall perfect component quality score.
500 cards may seem like a lot, but there are clearly cards that will always win a situation. ‘A school bus full of children' will always have more sway than ‘Helen Keller’. (I do not even know who she is). ‘An open gateway to hell that will close if hit by a trolley’ will always be chosen over ‘an obnoxious teenage couple making out’.
There are also very Americanised cards. For example: ‘The New England Patriots starting line up’. I know not who this American football team are, or why they are on a guilty card. They simply mean nothing to me. Along with whoever Helen Keller is, and why she is on an innocent card.
Why is she innocent but the football team are not? These are not the questions I want to be asking when all I want to do is have some silly fun with a card game.
Murdering people is fun. As a game. A card game! Not like an ‘oooh who can murder the most people’ kind of game. Of course. Act natural Dan, act natural!
This game says that it can play with 3-13 people. And that just seems a bit random to me. Playing with 3 people is possible, but it is also boring. The best moments in this game comes from giggling with your teammates over what cards to choose and arguing with the other team about why your side clearly deserves to live more. This is heightened tremendously if you have had a cheeky tipple or two beforehand. That kind of dynamic can not be achieved with only 3 people.
The tokens are used for keeping track (no pun intended) of the score, yet nobody is playing this kind of game to win.
The modifier cards are the icing on the cake for me, as it gives you the chance to give anyone (or anything) a bit of a backstory. Having Santa Claus on the opponent’s track would be a real stinger if you did not add ‘is controlled by an alien brain parasite that could enslave humanity’.
What was originally founded in a social experiment to highlight our approach to moral dilemmas, has inevitably evolved into a fun and whacky party game. I expect this is what Darwin originally envisioned for the future when he cited his thoughts on evolution. If you are a fan of Joking Hazard, then this game will keep you entertained for a good while. If you enjoy having a tipple whilst gaming with friends, then you could do far worse than Trial by Trolley!