My name is Sean McDonald, I’m a 32 year-old bricklayer, stone mason, and part-time boardgame designer and self-publisher. I got into boardgames many years ago when the amazing face-to-face social dynamic of “couch multi-player” in video games was lost over time with the popularity of online gaming. Boardgames filled the void and then some! I’m married to an amazingly supportive wife, after I had proven I can actually make money designing boardgames. We love and own a wide variety of boardgames, from Scythe to Patchwork to Saboteur, but Pandemic Legacy and Captain Sonar have left the biggest impact on us because they both offer something special we feel video games have not.
When I started work on Train Heist in 2012 I was a huge fan of racing boardgames. I felt they were the most refined version of what all boardgames are, a race to a certain goal. I just loved how racing boardgames were still, all in all, a boardgame, but due to the theme have an underlying feeling of speed to them. So when I decided to make a game, I wanted to make something that hasn’t been made before, a racing co-op game. I figured a train robbery would be an awesome theme to attach to this premise, and work began.
Research indicated that the train robbery theme hadn’t been used since the 70s in a boardgame at that time. I spent a year of my spare time working on the game, blabbing about it on online design forums, etc. and released a version of it on the print-on-demand website thegamecrafter.com. As great as the website is you sell only marginal copies in their store front and the quality was lacking that of a game you’d find at the store, and I felt I was cheating my game of greater things by using it, so eventually it was removed. I decided to continue to tweak and refine this game, and self-publish it myself after learning of the many successes of Kickstarter.
Low and behold, years later as I continued to fiddle with the design among other projects, Colt Express was released in 2014, stealing some wind from my sails as my game suddenly felt less unique. I almost gave up on it due to this but later convinced myself that my game was very very different and offered a completely different experience.
The game Train Heist was successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter in April of 2015, however only in an extremely limited amount (only 1000 units were ever manufactured). The game released a month ahead of schedule in October and 700+ were sent out to Kickstarter backers and the remaining were sold to local FLGS in my own city.
I was shocked to discover with little to no fanfare or word of mouth that Train Heist was a top seller during the 2015 holiday season in all three stores that had graciously taken a chance on me in Edmonton, Alberta, even reaching the top 10 in sales alongside games like Pandemic Legacy and Patchwork. When one local shop owner asked if I was doing a second print run I had told him ‘no’ as I don’t have the bankroll and made little profit due to the small print run.
Naturally he was disappointed due to the sales he was getting, so he offered to take my game to the NY Toy Fair that he was attending in order to find a publisher for the game on my behalf to take the reigns. I did research on who was attending, and wrote out my story and a sale sheet custom to each publisher I felt might take interest. Months passed and I forgot about it, until a large publisher contacting me stated they loved my game and my story and were very interested in acquiring the rights of the game, and I’m pleased to announce as of last week I have signed with this large publisher, will have a rapid release and is aiming for a very early 2017 release.
This was an experiment for me, one more successful than anticipated. And I’m looking forward to Train Heist’s larger release and continue to work on three new designs for future release!
Get Train Heist here on Amazon.